Havilland certainly proved that there are no small parts in Hollywood. Unlike other actrresses, she did not want to play the leading role of Scarlett O’ Hara. She had her heart set on playing the role of Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind (1939). She identified herself more with Melanie who had a reserved temperament. However, Scarlett O’ Hara was the complete opposite of Melania. O’Hara was passionate and volatile.
We all saw how Havilland nailed the role of Melania, which gave her very first Acady Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She also worked very well with Vivienne Leigh who played the leading role of Scarlett O’ Hara. Even though Leigh won an Academy Award for her excceptional performance as Scarlett O’Hara, Havilland certainly deserves credit as well. She helped bring out O’Hara’s true personality through her acting creating an interesting dichotomy.
Gone with the Wind helped catapult Havilland to fame. In my estimation, the film was just as good as the novel. Every single actress and actor in the film did a wonderful job making their characters relatable. All the interesting personas also made the spirit of the old South come to life. Gone with the Wind film, just like the novel, will always be a timeless classic.
Born on July 1, 1916 in England, Havilland had inherited the acting gene from her mother, Lillian Fontaine. Lillian was a e actress. Joan Fontaine, who was Havilland’s younger sister, also was a famous actress. Before the age of six, Havilland learned to read. She also took ballet and piano lessons to develop her artistic talents even more. She loved Shakespeare and recited passages from his works.
Havilland’s knowledge of Shakespeare would certainly help her future career as an actress. She made her screen debut playing the character of Hernia in Max Reinhardt’s, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. She received rave reviews for her performance.
Since she truly took on the persona of the characters that she played, Havilland had a stellar and lasting acting career. She received two Academy Awards for Best Actress for her roles in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949).
In addition to receiving many other awards and honors, Queen Elizabeth II made Havilland a dame in 2017 just two weeks before her 101st birthday. Indeed, she was dame her entire life always carrying the dignity and values of Melanie from Gone with the Wind. She was the last surviving actress from Gone with the Wind, and she continued to bloom for 104 years.