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Classic Hollywood Feuds: Olivia de Havilland vs. Joan Fontaine

Sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland

They were the sisters who turned sibling rivalry into a Hollywood blood sport. Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine were pitted against each other from the start by their manipulative stage mother, and when the vicious, old lady died, the girls fought over her ashes. How charming!

While baby-sitting for Joan as a child, Olivia once threw her sister to the floor and jumped on her so hard it broke her collarbone. Though she was the older sister and the better actor, Olivia felt she was constantly being upstaged by Joan, who was the first to lose her virginity, the first married and the first to win an Academy Award. At the 1941 Academy Awards, where de Havilland was expected to win Best Actress for Hold Back the Dawn, they were seated across from each other at a table. When Joan’s name was announced for Hitchcock’s Suspicion, Olivia nearly choked.

Sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia deHavilland

Olivia gets the edge as the more famous sister because she played Melanie in Gone with the Wind–after Fontaine had angrily turned the part down. But Olivia’s jealousy prevented her from enjoying her own success. Even in old age, she couldn’t stop trying to one-up her sister, who, frankly, didn’t seem to give a damn.





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