Field of Streams says Farewell to Olivia

We pay tribute to a Hollywood trailblazer with some of her best streaming titles

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The film world got a little less dazzling last month with the passing of one of the longest-lived remainders of classic Hollywood when Olivia de Havilland died in Paris at the age of 104. The last surviving cast member of Gone with the Wind and a universally beloved woman, de Havilland made her name as an actress beginning in the 30s, starring in a collection of memorable film roles which offered up portrayals of ladylike womanhood mixed with a courage and fearlessness that made whatever character she played, impossible to dismiss. Besides the aforementioned classic, there was The Snake Pit (harrowing as a mental patient), To Each His Own, The Heiress (both of which earned her Oscars) and My Cousin Rachel (outstanding in an ambiguously villainous role), among a host of others before retiring from acting in the late 80s after a 50+ year career.

The actress’ life off the set was just as fascinating as any of her film roles. Born to British parents in Japan who later emigrated to America, she grew up reading Shakespeare at the dinner table, was both a star athlete and newspaper editor in high school and was encouraged by both parents to follow her own endeavors. It seemed de Havilland’s life couldn’t help but continuously generate headlines. As a major movie star, she toured hospitals in the midst of WW2, making countless visits to returning soldiers and her supposed rivalry with sister Joan Fontaine (herself an Oscar-winning A-list actress) was legendary, though largely fabricated by a gossip-hungry press. Meanwhile her landmark court victory against Warner Bros., who suspended her without pay and unlawfully tried to extend her contract, changed the tenor of the level of restrictive holds major corporations were allowed to have on their employees.

Still feisty and active into her 90s and 100s, de Havilland took part in documentaries about subjects such as Alzheimer’s disease, exchanged emails with Jared Leto (offering up advice when he came to her in the midst of his own legal battles with his band’s record label), famously took producer Ryan Murphy to court over Catherine Zeta-Jones’ unflattering portrayal of her in the producer’s mini-series Feud: Bette and Joan and collected numerous awards and honors from around the world, including the National Medal of Arts from George W. Bush, the Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur from Nicholas Sarkozy and was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

In honor of her passing and in celebration of her life, Field of Streams pays tribute to this groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind artist with a collection of some of her best work; all of which are available via your favorite streaming services and all of which show just how remarkable an actress Olivia de Havilland was.


Gone with the Wind is the movie most associate with de Havilland during this period, but it’s The Adventures of Robin Hood which made her a bona fide movie star. The film remains the most beloved interpretation of the classic hero and his adventures thanks to its action, production design and technicolor wonder. The radiant de Havilland stars opposite Errol Flynn in one of their many screen pairings and The Adventures of Robin Hood sizzles with romance as much as it does with action and heart, cementing their standing as one of the movies’ greatest couples.

Flynn makes the perfect Robin Hood, but it’s de Havilland as Maid Marian who very nearly steals the movie thanks to a natural openness in front of the camera which made her positively luminous. Even though it was a studio assignment, the role contains many of the hallmarks which would define most of de Havilland’s future characters; grace, intelligence, will and bravery. Marian doesn’t escape the damsel in distress label, but in de Havilland’s hands, she imbues her with characteristics which makes her just as heroic as the title character. Others have played the iconic role in the years since, from Audrey Hepburn to Cate Blanchett. For many however, de Havilland remains the quintessential Maid Marian. Our crew paid tribute to this incredible film in a recent edition of Two Cents film club.


It’s true that de Havilland didn’t always get the credit she deserved for stretching as an actress, with some claiming she was the victim of typecasting. While she often played proper ladies who managed to rise above the standard damsel role, producers weren’t always ready and willing to put her in anything which wasn’t a weepy drama. Occasionally however, de Havilland managed to break away from the formula. One great example is her foray into film noir in 1946’s The Dark Mirror. Directed by genre favorite Robert Siodmak, the plot deals with a doctor who ends up murdered and a pair of twins named Terry and Ruth (both played by de Havilland) who emerge as the prime suspects.

The Dark Mirror is entertaining (if standard) noir fare and features enough twists and turns within the intriguing premise to make it worth a fan’s time. The real highlight though is de Havilland and her ability to create two well-rounded characters among the mystery and suspense. Watching her act opposite herself as one sister who is scared and timid and another bold and brash, shows how skilled and versatile of an actress she really was. In what could’ve seemed like a gimmick at the time, The Dark Mirror is not only a fun tale of romantic suspense, but also perhaps one of the best showcases an actress like de Havilland ever could’ve asked for.


Although de Havilland rarely got a chance to exercise her funny bone, she proved she was adept enough to headline a comedy, which she did so marvelously with 1956’s The Ambassador’s Daughter. Shot on location in Paris (where de Havilland would move to the following decade and live for the rest of her life), the film casts the actress as Joan Fisk, the daughter of a diplomat who ends up falling for an American soldier (John Forsythe) after waging a bet about whether or not U.S. servicemen are honorable. One of the few rom-coms de Havilland ever did, The Ambassador’s Daughter has its share of misunderstandings and near-misses as most films of this kind do.

But the movie rises above such tropes and spends long stretches of time following the couple as they wander around Paris exploring the city and each other. There’s a real dreaminess to the whole affair thanks to Forsythe’s charisma and de Havilland’s natural serenity that still doesn’t come around too often in romantic comedies. Classic actors including Myrna Loy and Adolphe Menjou enjoy colorful supporting roles and even though The Ambassador’s Daughter does opt for a more conventional (albeit tongue-in-cheek) ending, it’s a lovely and winning one just the same.


The “hagsploitation” sub-genre, that 60s/70s boom of horror films which cast older well-known actresses, was alive and well when 1964’s Lady in a Cage came along. After Joan Crawford dropped out, de Havilland stepped into the role of Mrs. Cornelia Hilyard, a wealthy woman who becomes stuck in the home elevator she has been using following a hip injury. When a group of thieves (Ann Sothern, Jennifer Billingsley, Rafael Campos, Jeff Corey and James Caan) invade her home, she finds herself fighting for her life and her sanity. Lady in a Cage is more brash 60s thriller than the kind of cheap, gimmicky horror de Havilland’s contemporaries were settling for.

There’s a real brutality to the film that makes an upfront statement about the hotbed of culture clashes and various societal issues of the mid-1960s. The film also represents Caan’s feature debut and sees the actor create a more than credible villain. He’s nothing compared to de Havilland though, who embraces the psychology of the piece complete with a rather surreal interior monologue. Seeing the actress go from out-of-touch socialite to a point where she’s using her animalistic instincts to survive is breathtaking. Some complained that Lady in a Cage went a bit too far in terms of its violence, but its subversive nature, Sorry, Wrong Number-like setup and de Havilland’s outstanding turn make the film relentlessly compelling.

AIRPORT ’77 (Hulu)

Disaster movies were all the rage in the 1970s thanks to mega-spectacles like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. Movies of that sort offered well-known stars fighting for survival while thrilling action pieces played out alongside a serviceable-enough story. When de Havilland signed on to appear in Airport ’77, the genre was still flying high, pun very much intended. Starring alongside Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Joseph Cotten, Brenda Vacarro and Christopher Lee, among various others, de Havilland plays a wealthy widow who discovers that the uber-luxury plane she and her fellow passengers are on has been hijacked by art thieves. When the plan goes awry, the aircraft is plunged into the Bermuda triangle, leaving everyone fighting for their lives.

Disaster movies weren’t taken all that seriously beyond the aforementioned titles, but while some would eventually be seen as almost totally laughable, Airport ’77 still manages enough decent action set pieces and moments where actual acting is involved that helps to understand why people loved these kinds of movies to begin with. As Emily Livingston, de Havilland gives the movie a definite air of dignity and the skilled actress naturally managed to sneak in genuine moments of humanity simply through warm looks and gestures in what was an otherwise big-budget actioner.


By the time the 80s came around, de Havilland was content to follow in the footsteps of many of her colleagues from golden era Hollywood who began to focus more on taking it easy while accepting the occasional TV gig. The medium was good for de Havilland, who played an Agatha Christie suspect, a Chief civil war Nurse and even The Queen Mother in various TV movies. But it was her memorable turn as the Dowager Empress Maria in the 1986 mini-series Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, which gave the actress her best small screen role. The mini-series is the kind of sprawling, lavish production that was the standard of the time, with top set designs and a starry cast to match.

Starring Amy Irving in the title role of a woman suffering from amnesia who comes to believe she is a long-lost member of the famed Romanov family, The Mystery of Anna also featured Rex Harrison, Omar Sharif, Claire Bloom, Susan Lucci and a young Christian Bale. The centerpiece however is de Havilland who gives a grand, moving turn as the Imperial Highness; a woman mourning all that she’s lost while clinging to both pride and strength. It’s a show-stopping piece of work befitting an actress of de Havilland’s stature for which she earned a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination in what would be her penultimate performance.

There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? And, as always, if you’ve got thoughts on titles we’re missing out on or new services to check out, leave a comment below.

Check out Cinapse’s other streaming content in the meantime, but till next week… stream on, stream away.

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