Happy 100th Birthday, Olivia de Havilland!

Olivia de Havilland was born Olivia Mary de Havilland 100 years ago today to British parents in Tokyo, Japan. Here are 10 OH Did-You-Knows:

  • Her mother, Lilian Fontaine, was a stage and film actress.
  • De Havilland and her sister, Joan Fontaine, were both nominated for the Best Actress Oscar in 1941. Never terribly close, the competition increased the tension between them and they never fully reconciled.
  • Since December 15, 2014, de Havilland has been the only surviving major member of the cast of Gone with the Wind. Mickey Kuhn is the only other surviving member of the cast who received a screen credit.
  • Since the 1950s, De Havilland as lived in Paris, France. In 1962, she published Every Frenchman Has One, a well-received memoir of adapting to French life.
  • De Havilland declined the role of Blanche DuBois in Elia Kazan‘s screen adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).
  • Her father, Walter Augustus de Havilland, was a patent attorney in Japan who wrote a book in 1910 about a Japanese board game called The ABC of Go. He lived for 96 years.
  • De Havilland and Fontaine were the first sisters to win Oscars and the first to be Oscar-nominated in the same year.
  • De Havilland appeared in eight movies with Errol Flynn; the pair enjoyed a mutual attraction, but no romance ever sparked between them.
  • She was named after William Shakespeare‘s romantic heroine in Twelfth Night.
  • Olivia de Havilland was awarded the 2008 American National Medal of the Arts.

Happy birthday, Ms. de Havilland, and here’s to the next hundred years!

Olivia de Havilland

Happy 112th Birthday, George Brent!

George Brent, born George Brendan Nolan 112 years today in Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland, enjoyed an odd sort of career. By any measure, he achieved great success, but outside movie-buff circles, he’s all but forgotten today. Odd, considering that when he arrived in Hollywood, he was touted as the next Clark Gable. The comparison seems almost laughable today, so low-key was Brent compared to the man once known as the King of Hollywood.

George Brent was a rebel during the Irish War of Independence, though how active he was is open to question; he acknowledged having served as a courier for IRA leader Michael Collins. In any case, the British government put a price on his head, at which point Brent (then Nolan) saw fit to hightail it to the United States.

Brent started his career in the theatre, touring in a production of Abie’s Irish Rose and acting in stock theatre around the country. In 1927, he debuted on Broadway in Love, Honor and Obey. Also in the cast? None other than Clark Gable.

Brent headed for Hollywood a couple of years later, appearing in minor roles for Universal and Fox before signing a contract with Warner Brothers in 1932. It was at Warners that Brent achieved his greatest success. Perhaps the greatest strength of his low-key (but hardly milquetoast) on-screen persona was that he was a perfect complement to strong leading women, holding his own but never overshadowing them.

George Brent

Given how little he’s remembered today, it’s remarkable to consider how often George Brent worked with some of the most iconic actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He made eleven features with Bette Davis (enjoying an offscreen romance with her as well), six with Kay Francis, five with Barbara Stanwyck, four with Ruth Chatterton (to whom he was married from 1932–1934) and two with Myrna Loy. He also played opposite Ruby Keeler, Greta Garbo, Ginger Rogers, Madeleine Carroll, Jean Arthur, Merle Oberon, Ann Sheridan (to whom he was married from 1942–1943), Joan Fontaine, Claudette Colbert, Dorothy McGuire, Loretta Young, Lucille Ball and Yvonne De Carlo. That’s a line-up of costars that any leading man might envy.

By the late 1940s, Brent was appearing in mostly B pictures, and he retired from films in 1953, though he continued to act on television for another seven years. He was married five times, and if you read some of his early interviews, it’s not hard to see why most of those marriages didn’t work out. Brent clearly had no interest in being tied down and seemed to resent the responsibilities that relationships carried with them. “No woman will ever own me,” Brent once said. “I own myself.”

But he and his fifth wife, former model and dress designer Janet Michaels, were together for 27 years until she passed away in 1974.

George Brent, who suffered in later years from emphysema, died in 1979 in Solana Beach, California.

Happy birthday, Mr. Brent, wherever you may be!