We've reached the week I was afraid may never happen, the week of Olivia de Havilland and the unavailable DVD. Yes, when I started this project I went and checked Netflix for every single movie, even the ones I had seen, just to make sure that they were all there...and all but one were; To Each His Own. I found the film on YouTube, sent everyone the link and just prayed that that would be what we needed. But then last week happened. I get an email from a member of the panel stating that the YouTube video has been taken down! Netflix still doesn't have it! Amazon only has DVD's that do not work on US DVD players! Ebay only had ONE, and he bought it! I panicked. Thankfully two of our panel members had already seen the film, but what about the three of us who hadn't seen it and could no longer get the Ebay copy? Sati came to the rescue with a stream of the movie that worked for two, and thankfully my local library had a VHS copy, so we were able to get this one in and present to you...
Andrew from The Films the Thing
Drew from A Fistful of Films
Fritz from Fritz and the Oscars
Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle
Kevin from Speaks in Movie Lines
Sati from Cinematic Corner
Although Olivia de Havilland made a name for herself playing sweet and demure women onscreen (particularly her Oscar nominated performance as Melanie Hamilton in the epic classic Gone With the Wind), it was her determination and strength of character that contributed most to her eventual first win for the Best Actress Oscar for 1946’s To Each His Own. But those attributes hardly describe the woman she actually plays in the film, who is another of de Havilland’s amiable but bland creations, but about de Havilland herself. After being under contract for Warner Bros for 7 years, she was finally able to break free from the studio system where she felt she hadn’t been offered the kind of roles and opportunities she desired. (Even her most memorable role in GWTW was on loan to Selznick.) But when the studio tried to extend the duration of her contract due to times when she had refused to play parts she was offered, the actress fought back and won her case. But because she had stood her ground, the other studios, influenced by Warner Bros, blacklisted her from working. To Each His Own marked de Havilland’s return to the big screen after over a 2 year absence and that hiatus had built up admiration for de Havilland within the film community (particularly her fellow actors), with the Academy obviously sharing in the esteem. As Jody Norris, de Havilland plays a small-town girl that gives birth to a son out of wedlock during WWI. After a series of events separates the young mother from her child, she is reunited years later when he is fighting in WWII. Although de Havilland has cited the role as one of her favorites, truthfully, the part is rather passive and the actress doesn’t dig very deeply into the different aspects of this mother’s grief, often choosing the most obvious choice. When we initially meet Jody as a middle-aged former business woman, it’s surprising to see de Havilland playing something other than her doe-eyed innocence, but she lets the age make-up do most of the work. And as the flashbacks begin, de Havilland settles back into familiar territory, her Jody an embodiment of wholesomeness and kindness even when the circumstances around her call for a little more grit. I haven’t seen any of the other performances nominated that year (I know a lot of people have affection for Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter), but I can’t imagine de Havilland’s performance was the best of that year especially because the best performance of 1946 (Ingrid Bergman in Notorious) didn’t even receive a nomination.
My Grade: C-
So, when we started this project I just assumed that de Havilland’s first win was for The Snake Pit and I was kind of upset because I really didn’t like that movie much and found her performance to be the worst kind of Oscar baiting. Then I was relieved that she didn’t win for that but won for an entirely different film, and one that I hadn’t seen. Then…I was terrified because that movie, To Each His Own, was one of the hardest films I’ve ever tried to get ahold of, and the fact that I aired on TCM a few months ago, was actually recorded onto my DVR and then…DELETED because I was running out of space really upset me. Like, I literally deleted it KNOWING that I was going to be starting this project but unaware that that was the film I would need to watch and I KEPT The Snake Pit and watched that instead.
Well, thanks to a local library carrying a VHS tape…and thanks to my father still being a dinosaur and owning a VHS player, I was able to watch this the other night with the wife and the parents.
This was kind of awful.
Story-wise, its fine, but the execution of this film is dreadful. The direction is amateur and the film’s ensemble, outside of the lead, is atrociously dull and stiff. It literally felt like a movie star had stooped to starring in a high school stage production with a bunch of understudies thrust onto stage on opening night when the real stars of the play came down with the flu. The acting here, aside from de Havilland, made me cringe.
Now, here is where a true star can shine, because de Havilland, despite all the film’s obvious limitations thrust on her, was able to make a real serious impact. She was just luminous here, and the way she gave us such a soulful and complete performance (you see every layer of this woman, and not just because she ages) is remarkable. Unlike Streep’s Iron Lady, who became a non-character thanks to the awful film, de Havilland is at least handed a full character. The film around her and the people next to her may drop the ball, but she is at least handed something to work with, and she WORKS WITH IT. I can’t say I’d give her an Oscar for this, especially not in a field that included Celia Johnson’s brilliant performance in A Brief Encounter, but her win isn’t surprising given how endearing she makes Jody.
My Grade: B
Sorry, I am lying in bed and have fever, so I am not really able to write today…so I will just provide a short review: Olivia de Havilland follows the tradition of the noble and suffering mothers, she ages from a young girl to a middle-aged business woman and carries the movie on her shoulders. It’s not surprising that she won but I am not always in the mood for movies like this. Today, I am somewhat in the middle. Olivia de Havilland has to work with awful material but she gets a lot out of it and her portrayal of the older character is surprisingly effective.
My Grade: C
De Havilland won her first Best Actress Oscar for playing Jody Norris, a pregnant woman whose scheme to adopt her illegitimate son backfires. While Jody does well in business, her character endures many painful years without being able to be with her son. This feels like tried-and-true Oscar bait, but de Havilland really is exceptional in the role. She conveys the anguish Jody feels by using her face to show what she's going through. With subtle facial expressions and mannerisms, de Havilland seamlessly devours this role. Instead of overacting, she plays Jody with real, natural emotion, and the simple, unfailing love of a mother shines through her wonderful performance. I shudder to think what an actress like Bette Davis or Joan Crawford would've done with the role. It was perfect for de Havilland, and she deserved the praise she received.
Did De Havilland deserve to win?
She easily deserved a nomination, but Celia Johnson should've won for her devastating performance in Brief Encounter.
My Mom would love this movie. I knew it from the moment Olivia de Havilland spoke in that classic, natural screen actress way. I imagine watching this one on TV randomly one day with my Mom glued to it. Me, in the background, scoffing. What a pompous jerk I was! Now that I'm older, I get my Mom's taste a bit better. This one's for you, Mom.
As Jody Norris in Mitchell Leisen's "To Each His Own," Olivia de Havilland pretty much is the movie, which, in my opinion, hurts her performance. There is no one for her to play with. To start, I found this movie a bit lifeless. Jody is obviously, from the start, a serious woman as evidenced from the earliest scenes in London with Desham (Roland Culver). For me, though, these early scenes of her playing the older, colder Jody didn't work.
However, when the flashback began, I changed my tune. I actually fell in love with de Havilland. There seems to be a lot of talk out there about her smile. She certainly has that. She is a natural actress and strangely beautiful. She has a matter-of-factness about her, especially in the early parts of the flashback scenes that is just charming. As she reluctantly falls in love with the handsome visiting WWI pilot, Cpt. Cosgrove (John Lund), I just bought it. As the movie went on and the decades passed, it lost a lot of steam for me, though. Yet, as far as the tear-jerking inevitable conclusion goes, well, it's the only movie that comes close to being a mother-son equivalent to "Field of Dreams" (one of my all-time favorites).
"To Each His Own" seemed cheesy at times, but de Havilland's performance is so classically good, it is easy to understand why she was a contender. However, I do have trouble believing this was the best performance of that year.
The Scene That Won It: For me, it's the early dance scene with Cpt. Cosgrove. You can see the love in her eyes and this look of half fear, half elation. And that aside! …"What's come over you, Jody Norris?" My Mom would've melted.
My Grade: B-
First of all that premise was ridiculous. A woman tells a nurse to leave her new born baby in a basket in front of the house so that people in the town wouldn't know it's hers and think she is a whore. Of course someone else swoops in and takes the kid. She ends up watching the baby grow up without telling him she is his mother.
I am really exhausted so I was slipping in and out of consciousness watching these movies, but even for me the recklessness and the silliness of that event was astounding. Thankfully de Havilland, whom I haven't seen in anything prior to this, was really excellent and very authentic in spite of the script's shortcomings. I was also very impressed how they conveyed her character aging - in the beginning she really looks much older than in the flashbacks scenes. I haven't seen any other nominees, but that was the performance worthy of an Oscar, even if some elements were lacking - for example I never really felt that child was all she had as she claimed. But she is particularly wonderful in the last 20 minutes of the film, when her character desperately wants to connect to her lost son.
My Grade: B+
In the film that brought de Havilland her second Best Actress Oscar, William Wyler’s 1949 production of The Heiress, she doesn’t give just one great performance but a second extraordinary performance all within the same film! The first as the painfully shy, socially awkward Catherine Sloper, the titular heiress set to inherit a fortune, de Havilland finds nuance within a character that could very easily become dull or uninteresting. The second, after her would-be suitor (Montgomery Clift) fails to show up at their intended rendezvous for fear that she has been disinherited by her father (Ralph Richardson) - who bluntly tells his true feelings for his own daughter - de Havilland, with an iron backbone and a steely voice that drops two octaves lower, is a quietly, seething tempest of resentment and betrayal. But as masterful as she is at playing both facets of Catherine, they never believably feel like they belong to the same person. Her transition is so abrupt and finite, without any hints of the previous endearing awkwardness creeping in, that it feels like we are suddenly encountering a brand new character. But de Havilland has moments of brilliance, especially in the later half of the film when she has become hard-hearted, revealing depths of pain that are only hinted at as she meticulously tends to her needlepoint - a study in steadfast stoicism. And it is impossible not to be chilled by the final scene ("Bolt the door, Maria."), in which Catherine closes herself off completely, never believing that anyone could ever love her for herself and not her money. The girl she was before is dead, although de Havilland killed off that girl completely a little too early. This is another year that I have not seen any of the other nominees (let alone heard of these films - what the hell is Pinky?), so I'll agree with the Academy's choice as The Heiress has remained one of de Havilland's best remembered films.
My Grade: B
Some films you watch based on hype and you walk away dumbfounded as to why that hype was heaped. Other films you watch based on past hype despite the barrage of naysayers trying to discredit the classic nature of the film and you walk away blindsided by a passionately positive response and wonder how anyone could think the hype unworthy.
The Heiress, as a film, is worthy of all hype. de Havilland, for this performance, is worth all the hype.
If I had to choose a Top Ten most deserving Lead Actress Oscar WINS right now, gun to head, this one would be on that list. It’s just aesthetically perfect, but it’s more than that. de Havilland created something so real and so honest and so perfected here that one can’t help but become won over by the obvious imperfections in the performance. This is a real woman, not some studio made artifact, some molded ideal. de Havilland is raw, honest and relatable. The other thing that really makes this performance work is the fact that this is one of those rare characters we actually get to see a complete 180 from. This is a full circle (I know, I just gave a ‘half circle’ example, but I’ll explain) performance. This is a COMPLETE character. We see all the shades, the full arc, the completion of themes within her eyes and soul. So, while de Havilland presents us with a woman who starts in one place and ends in a completely different place (thus, the 180 reference), she gives us a character that is whole (thus, the ‘full circle’ reference).
Naomi Watts in The Painted Veil comes to mind as another astonishing performance that fits this mold.
The way that de Havilland manages to play both sides of her character so effectively leaves us glued to her. The beauty of the shift, which appears almost suddenly (although not without reason), is that she knows how to subtly hint to her former self, creating a woman who is determined to close the door and yet painfully torn in the process.
We’ve talked a lot over the course of this project about the face of an actress, the Bette Davis eyes and the Ingrid Bergman gaze. de Havilland is right there with them.
It doesn’t hurt that her film is great or that her co-stars are marvelous (Hopkins, Richardson and a very young Clift are remarkable here), but this film is really all about de Havilland. She OWNS!
My Grade: A+
My Grade: A+
I often wonder if Olivia would have won three Oscars during her career if she had won for The Snake Pit the year before. Because when she was competing again one year later for The Heiress, she had no competition. It’s not only that her performance was so superior to everyone else but none of her co-nominees gave an Oscar-worthy performance either. Olivia had the race all to herself. And she was truly outstanding. It’s a calculated performance and the movie doesn’t do Olivia any favors by asking her to change the character so completely so quickly but Olivia avoids all traps and gives a performance for the ages.
My Grade: A+
De Havilland won her second Best Actress Oscar for playing Catherine Sloper, a naive, plain-looking heiress who meets her dream beau Morris and must fight her suspicious father to be with him. This is one of the more quiet, subtle performances - even more reserved than her other Oscar-winning performance - to win during the Golden Age of Hollywood. De Havilland has an interesting arc to make believable. At the beginning, she has to play Catherine as timid and shy, a woman who isn't happy. She has been forced to view herself in the wrong light, but slowly becomes more confident and independent as she falls in love with Morris. Still, de Havilland is able to take this emotional journey even further when Catherine becomes truly independent of both men in her life. To watch de Havilland effortlessly navigate these difficult scenes and emotions with the right amount of subtlety is amazing. Bravo.
Did De Havilland deserve to win?
Again, she was an excellent choice, but I haven't seen the rest of the nominees yet.
How fitting that my Dad passed through town to stay with us on Wednesday night. It just so happened that I needed to watch an old classic with Olivia de Havilland. He was willing to oblige and watch with me. Not a minute after it started, he says, "Hey. I've seen this one before. Probably on Turner Classic Movies." "Yeah," I said." It's sure to have been on there a time or two." So, this one's for you, Dad.
As Catherine Sloper in William Wyler's just fantastic film "The Heiress," Olivia de Havilland delivers a performance that is the definition of a "Golden Age" Oscar win. I absolutely loved this movie. de Havilland's is a performance of pure face. I've found over the course of this project that the best performances are from the best movies. They contain miraculous arcs in character. They are filled with facial expression.
Catherine Sloper is an incredibly shy girl and pretty much kept that way by her powerful doctor father (Ralph Richardson). She lives in the shadow of her late mother in his eyes, and de Havilland first shines in this light. The early scenes with Morris Townsend (a downright dashing Montgomery Clift) are astounding. I was ready to give her the statue in the first half hour. The looks of surprise, happiness, confusion. The way she nervously backs away from his advances. The look in her eyes as he leans in holding the door. SO GOOD! is what I wrote in my notes. I can't even begin to describe what de Havilland's face does to me. It is just awe-inspiring.
As "The Heiress" played out, de Havilland is offered the opportunity to truly develop in a complete, fully realized arc. She gets to deliver lines like, "It is a great wonder to me that he has come into my life" and just be the cutest, most heartbreakingly naive darling one can imagine. Only to later find herself cold and embittered delivering lines like, "Don't be kind to me. It doesn't become you." Just brilliant.
At one point, my Dad said to me, "What a face!" At the end, he offered that "that was worth an Oscar!" I agree. This is an Oscar-worthy performance many times over.
The Scene That Won It: A Three-Way Tie - That look in the scene when she realizes Morris isn't coming just before her breakdown. That ferocity when she finally tells her father off. Finally, that final look as she walks up the stairs away from Morris forever.
My Grade: A+
Oh man for a second there I thought they will go all Carrie with this one. Very enjoyable movie, especially once the character's motivations are revealed. Everyone in the cast is very good and de Havilland is excellent as mousy, plain, shy girl. I remembered Jessica Chastain played that character on Broadway not that long ago. I cannot imagine her being half as good and believable as Olivia was here.
de Havilland is so different here from her work in To Each His Own - there she was so strong and driven and here she is extremely timid and adorable. What a transformation. She is so believable in everything she does - reacting to a man courting her, hearing a hurtful comment, being overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of love. It's all incredibly authentic and she avoids hitting any false notes. After Catherine becomes bitter, Olivia changes so many things in her performance, most impressively her voice, which becomes harsh and cold, disillusioned. It’s mesmerizing to see how this innocent, naïve person becomes someone who has been so hurt they gave up on hope forever. But there is still so much nuance, especially when she hears Morris’s voice after all these years. You can still see a glimpse of the person she once was there, who is now forever locked inside because of broken dreams.
It's a wonderful performance, one where the actress truly disappeared in her character.
My Grade: A
There is a number assigned to each letter grade that helps us give a score to each performance. The highest number (and A+) would be 20 points. An F would warrant 0 points (a D gives you 5). So these are the scores for each performance as well as a collective score (which will be used at the end to rank each individual actress).
Olivia de Havilland received a total of 73 points for her performance in To Each His Own.
Olivia de Havilland received a total of 111 points for her performance in The Heiress.
This is a collective total of 184 points.
As a point of reference, the highest collective score you can attain is 240.
So this closes our discussion of Olivia de Havilland. Next we'll be tackling Glenda Jackson. Do you know who she is? Many movie lovers may not have heard the name, but that would be a shame, since she's an exceptional actress. I don't know how good she is in her two Oscar winning roles, but I'll know soon!
Again, a big round of applause for the awesome bloggers sharing this series with me! You guys did some awesome work, as to be expected.