The last living star of the classic Gone With The Wind has died. Olivia de Havilland, a two-time Oscar winner who fundamentally changed Hollywood, died at age 1-4 in Paris over the weekend according to reports. De Havilland’s publicist shared Sunday that the actress had died of natural causes at her home in Paris, where she lived for more than six decades.
De Havilland got her first Academy Award nomination in Gone With The Wind, a movie that’s been in the headlines over the last few months as HBO Max initially pulled the film for its racist content before it was re-added to the streaming service with new videos explaining its context.
But the Hollywood classic is far from her only major film credit. She won Oscars for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heirress (1946), while also receiving nominations for Gone With The Wind in 1939, Hold Back the Dawn (1941) and The Snake Pit (1948).
As The Hollywood Reporter detailed on Sunday, her biggest impact on the industry came not from acting performances but legal action off camera that changed the way Hollywood’s studio system worked when she sued Warner Bros. in 1943 after her seven-year contract expired.
At the time, Hollywood lawyers took the position that a contract should be treated as suspended during the periods when the artist was not actually working. This interpretation meant that, in de Havilland’s case, seven years of actual service would be spread over a much longer period.
Angered when Warners tried to extend her deal after she was suspended for rejecting a series of roles she deemed were inferior, de Havilland sued the studio. In 1945, the courts ruled that not only was de Havilland free, but all artists were to be limited to the calendar terms of their deals.
‘The De Havilland Decision’, as it came to be known, changed contracts in Hollywood forever and even later in life de Havilland wasn’t afraid of legal action, famously suing FX and Ryan Murphy at age 100 for the way Catherine Zeta-Jones portrayed her in Feud: Bette and Joan.