Olivia de Havilland Biography: Life, Career, Success & Wealth

Estimated read time 5 min read
John Mathew Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Birth nameOlivia Mary de Havilland
BornJuly 1, 1916
BirthplaceTokyo, Japan
Height5’3″ (160 cm)
Years active1935–1988
Academy AwardsBest Actress for “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949)
SpousesMarcus Goodrich (1946–1953), Pierre Galante (1955–1979)
ChildrenBenjamin Goodrich and Gisèle Galante
Notable Films“Gone with the Wind” (1939), “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938), “The Snake Pit” (1948)

Olivia de Havilland was a British-American actress who rose to fame during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Born on July 1, 1916, in Tokyo, Japan, de Havilland grew up in California and attended college at Mills College in Oakland. She began acting in local theater productions before landing a contract with Warner Bros. Pictures in 1935.

De Havilland quickly became a leading lady in Hollywood, starring in films such as “Captain Blood,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” and “Gone with the Wind,” for which she earned an Academy Award nomination. She went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Actress, for her roles in “To Each His Own” and “The Heiress.”

Despite her success in Hollywood, de Havilland was often at odds with the studio system and frequently clashed with Warner Bros. over issues such as her contract and the roles she was offered. In 1943, she took the studio to court over a contract dispute, and her victory in the case helped to establish greater freedom and independence for actors in Hollywood.

De Havilland continued to act in films and television throughout the 1950s and 1960s, before largely retiring from the industry in the 1970s. In addition to her film work, she was also a successful stage actress and a respected voice in the world of literature, having written several books and essays over the course of her life.

As for her wealth, de Havilland was known to have made a considerable fortune during her career in Hollywood. Her net worth was estimated to be around $20 million at the time of her death in 2020 at the age of 104. Much of her wealth came from her successful acting career, as well as from investments and property ownership. She also received various honors and awards throughout her life, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the National Medal of Arts.

Here is a timeline of some key events in the life of Olivia de Havilland:

  • 1916: Olivia de Havilland is born on July 1 in Tokyo, Japan.
  • 1919: De Havilland’s family moves to California.
  • 1934: De Havilland begins studying drama at Mills College in Oakland.
  • 1935: De Havilland signs a contract with Warner Bros. Pictures and begins her acting career.
  • 1938: De Havilland stars in “The Adventures of Robin Hood” opposite Errol Flynn.
  • 1939: De Havilland receives an Academy Award nomination for her role in “Gone with the Wind.”
  • 1943: De Havilland wins a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over her contract, setting an important precedent for actors’ rights in Hollywood.
  • 1946: De Havilland wins her first Academy Award for Best Actress, for her role in “To Each His Own.”
  • 1949: De Havilland wins her second Academy Award for Best Actress, for her role in “The Heiress.”
  • 1953: De Havilland moves to Paris, where she lives for several years.
  • 1957: De Havilland returns to Hollywood and begins working in television.
  • 1962: De Havilland stars in the Broadway production of “A Gift of Time.”
  • 1979: De Havilland publishes her first book, “Every Frenchman Has One.”
  • 1988: De Havilland wins a Golden Globe award for her performance in the TV movie “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna.”
  • 2017: De Havilland files a lawsuit against FX Networks over her portrayal in the TV series “Feud: Bette and Joan.”
  • 2020: De Havilland dies on July 26 at the age of 104.

Here are five interesting facts and five quotes from Olivia de Havilland:

5 interesting facts:

  1. Olivia de Havilland was one of the last surviving actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age, passing away in 2020 at the age of 104.
  2. She was one of the first actresses to successfully challenge the Hollywood studio system in court, resulting in the “De Havilland Law” which limited the power of studios to enforce long-term contracts.
  3. De Havilland was a classically trained pianist and enjoyed playing the instrument throughout her life.
  4. During World War II, she took a break from her acting career to work as a nurse’s aide for the American Red Cross in Europe.
  5. De Havilland was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2017 for her contributions to the arts.


  1. “I like life. It’s something to do.”
  2. “I didn’t want to be a Hollywood actress who every so often does a Broadway play. I wanted to be a Broadway actress who every so often does a movie.”
  3. “I don’t think that there are any limits to how excellent we could make life seem.”
  4. “In time, everybody gets what they deserve.”
  5. “One of the main things about being successful is that I stopped being afraid of dying. Once you’re a star, you’re dead already. You’re embalmed.”

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