Posts Tagged ‘Olivia de Havilland’

Hollywood Bondage

Posted in General on May 17th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 8 Comments

My wife would like to send a sympathy card to Olivia de Havilland.  Last Saturday while we were playing television roulette with the remote, we alighted upon “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”  Karen had never seen the Errol Flynn classic before.  (You don’t ask a guy if he ever seen it; you ask how many times?  In my case, six or seven times.)  When Karen learned that the film was made shortly before “Gone With the Wind”, she felt such pity for Miss de Havilland, “Going from Errol Flynn to Leslie Howard.” 

Yes, on face value (and Flynn’s gorgeous face in particular) it would seem that de Havilland had a dismaying descent.  Imagine Maid Marion running off with Isaac of York.  However, Olivia was under contract, and in the Golden Age of Hollywood that contract was a gilded yoke.  She was expected to do whatever the studio ordered.  A musical comedy with Mussolini?  If that is what Jack Warner wanted….   

Between 1938 and 1939, Olivia de Havilland appeared in nine movies.  Four were with Errol Flynn; Warners Bros. knew a winning combination.  In addition to “…Robin Hood” and a trifle of  a comedy called “Four’s A Crowd”   together they won the West in “Dodge City” and she caught his lopped head in “Elizabeth and Essex.”  Miss de Havilland also made the  crime caper “Raffles” with a pleasant but still unknown British actor named David Niven.  And lest Katherine Hepburn have a monopoly on madcap heiress roles, Miss de Havilland played one in “Hard to Get” opposite the aging male ingenue Dick Powell.  (Powell hated his typecasting, and he actually looked forward to losing his looks and becoming middle-aged.)

She also costarred in two films with George Brent.  Mr. Brent was a popular leading man of the Thirties, and we have been wondering why ever since.  He has no allure or charisma, no dramatic depth.  Brent simply seems like a well-spoken middle-aged dullard.  You can imagine him playing a doctor in a Lipator commercial, but not as a romantic lead.  Today he is best remembered as Bette Davis’ costar in “Dark Victory.”  In that film, Davis passes up a charming rogue (Humphrey Bogart) and an adorable playboy (Ronald Reagan when he was still a Democrat) for this well-spoken, middle-aged drip.  Of course, her character was supposed to have brain tumor and it evidently effected her libido. 

And Miss de Havilland got to be in two films with him!

Suddenly, Leslie Howard doesn’t seem that bad.