“Gone with the Wind” actress Olivia de Havilland, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 104, and her sister, Joan Fontaine, had a fractured relationship for most of their lives.
De Havilland earned accolades for playing the sweet Melanie in the 1939 classic, “Gone with the Wind.” But de Havilland’s relationship with Fontaine, who died in 2013, was said to have been frosty until the very end.
Their uneasy relationship was apparent even in childhood, with People noting that de Havilland would scare Fontaine “with dramatic readings of the Bible’s crucifixion scene” when they were young. Fontaine, who was 15 months younger than de Havilland, would retaliate by “mimicking” her sister.
Describing the sisters’ relationship, a Life magazine profile said that their hatred was so bad that Fontaine, an accomplished actress, once planned to kill de Havilland.
“At the age of 9, Joan decided she would kill her sister,” the profile read (via Entertainment Weekly). “She thought it all out carefully: she would let Olivia hit her once, and then again, in silence. But after the third blow, she would plug Olivia between the eyes.”
The apparent cause of their hatred, according to the New York Post, was Fontaine’s closeness with her stepfather, George Fontaine, whom de Havilland did not like. Fontaine, in her 1978 autobiography “No Bed of Roses,” also said de Havilland resented sharing her parents with a sibling.
Later, as adults, the two sisters clashed on the professional front as well. De Havilland’s role in “Gone with the Wind” earned her an Academy Award nomination, but it was her sister who got the Oscar glory first, winning in 1941 for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion.”
“Oh, my God,” de Havilland reportedly thought after Fontaine was announced the winner, the New York Post reported. “I’ve lost prestige with my own sister. And it was true — she was haughty to me after that.”
Fontaine revealed in her book, “My paralysis was total. I felt Olivia would spring across the table and grab me by the hair.”
De Havilland eventually won an Oscar in 1946 for “To Each His Own.” When her sister tried to congratulate her, she was rebuffed.
De Havilland quit Hollywood and moved to France in the 1950s, and her relationship with Fontaine reportedly only became worse in 1975 when their mother died.
De Havilland is said to have tried blocking Fontaine from attending their mother’s memorial service. But Fontaine eventually attended and the sisters ignored each other during the service.
Their spats are well-documented, but Fontaine once told The Hollywood Reporter that they had never had a rough patch.
“Let me just say, Olivia and I have never had a quarrel,” she told the publication in 2013. “We have never had any dissatisfaction. We have never had hard words. And all this is press.”