Legendary Classic Hollywood actress Olivia de Havilland turned 100 years old yesterday and gave a rare interview to People Magazine. She said that she was going to celebrate the milestone with dinner and drinks with “dear, dear” friends. Adding that she is “content with the role that life has given me – a centenarian!”.
Olivia is now one of the last stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, a title she says she’s ‘honored’ to have. Still, when she was asked what advice she would give her younger self, she replied: “Take a long leave of absence from the Warner contract and go to Mills College, where the scholarship I had won in 1934 is still waiting for me!”.
Aside from her impressive résumé, Olivia is known for two things: her feud with sister Joan Fontaine and her lawsuit against Warner Bros. For her 100th birthday interview she talked about those controversial topics as well. About her sister she said: “On my part, it was always loving, but sometimes estranged and, in the later years, severed. … ‘Dragon Lady,’ as I eventually decided to call her, was a brilliant, multi-talented person, but with an astigmatism in her perception of people and events which often caused her to react in an unfair and even injurious way”.
Asked what she would say if her sister were alive for her birthday she responded, “Out of self-protection I would maintain my silence!”
Her Warner Bros. lawsuit still has an impact today. Long before anyone coined the phrase “gender equality,” de Havilland was a pioneer who took on and beat the studio system. She is, in fact, one of a very few who can claim having both a star on Hollywood Boulevard and a California law (Labor Code Section 2855) named for them. After she challenged Warner Bros. over the terms of her contract, the 1944 de Havilland Decision, “made it clear that California law limits to seven years the time an employer can enforce a contract with an employee.” The decision still has an impact on artists. Jared Leto even contacted Olivia in 2010. “I was more than surprised to hear from Jared Leto,” she says: “I was enchanted! He came to my house to thank me for the de Havilland Decision, which he and his band, 30 Seconds to Mars, had utilized victoriously in a similar contractual dispute. It’s wonderful knowing that the Decision continues to be useful to artists and other professionals these many years later.”