Olivia de Havilland - The Woman Who Changed Hollywood

‘I wanted respect for serious work. I wanted to play real characters of many dimensions’ - Olivia de Havilland

De Havilland brought all kinds of women to life on screen: fiery independent dames, gutsy fairy-tale beauties, love-starved daughters, single mothers, genteel small-towners and conniving psychopaths. But she had to fight for these diverse roles. Her employer Warner Brothers saw her as just a pretty face. Like many Hollywood actresses today, she was frustrated with the narrow range of parts she was offered; ‘I had quite different ideas about my career’ she told audiences at the BFI in 1971. ‘I wanted to play a real human being instead of a delightful romantic heroine.’ When in 1943 Warners refused to acknowledge that her seven-year contract had expired, she took them to court and won, forever changing the studio system by weakening its control over actors. She went on to pick roles in some of the most acclaimed films in Hollywood’s history.

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