Two Performances from Olivia de Havilland

         When I was twelve years old I decided to read Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. I had never seen the movie, only heard that it was an amazing book that I would love. After reading for two weeks straight, I decided to reward myself by watching the movie. I loved the movie, directed in 1939 by Victor Fleming, just as much as the book, especially Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland). I thought both actresses did a wonderful job. It was not until I saw The Heiress, directed in 1949 by William Wyler that I watched Olivia de Havilland again. This time, I was absolutely blown away by her work. In both movies she is amazing, but in The Heiress she really outdid herself!

         Olivia De Havilland plays a shy, loving wife to Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) in the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind. It was one of those parts where one feels sorry for her almost because she is too nice. Scarlett always tries to take advantage of her and their friendship. In this movie, I really felt for Melanie Hamilton. De Havilland did a great job, even getting herself nominated for an Oscar.

         In The Heiress, Olivia de Havilland plays Catherine Sloper, an introverted, homely daughter of a wealthy doctor in New York around 1850. Her father (Ralph Richardson) lost her mother when Catherine was born so he never really loved her as a daughter. When a handsome man named Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) begins to court her, Dr. Townsend is suspicious of his motives. Olivia de Havilland does an amazing job of playing a shy little girl that is falling in love with a passionate man. Yet that is not all she does in this movie. When Catherine realizes that Morris is only marrying her for her money, which her arrogant father had suspected all along, de Havilland turns the character into a fierce woman that has learned her lesson. Catherine is no longer innocent and shy; she has lost that innocence because it was taken by Morris as well as her father, who has rubbed her disillusionment in her face. Unlike her more gentle counterpart in James's book, who is closer to Melanie's character, she is revengeful and clever, and in the end she gets that revenge by having the maid, Maria (Vanessa Brown) bolt the door when Morris comes back for her. This reenacts the elopement that he had thwarted before by abandoning her. In this movie, Olivia de Havilland first makes one want to feel sorry for her but by the end applaud her. She does an amazing job, worth the Oscar she won for Best Actress.

         Gone with the Wind and The Heiress are two fantastic movies. Next time you watch them, notice the performance that Olivia de Havilland gives. You will not be let down. At least I know I was not! Now I am anxious to see one of the other fifty-three movies that she has done in her lifetime, even if they are half as good as these two!

Amber Lyles

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