Olivia de Havilland at the MFAH


Silver screen legend Olivia de Havilland turns 100 today, and to celebrate, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is screening The Adventures of Robin Hood, the first of a dozen movies personally selected by the actress to play at the museum in July and August. The celebration is fitting of the last surviving female superstar of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and it features a nice mix of popular films (Gone with the Wind, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), award-winning de Havilland performances (To Each His Own, The Snake Pit, The Heiress), and other gems that we rarely get to see on the big screen (The Dark Mirror, Light in the Piazza, Hold Back the Dawn, Princess O’Rourke, My Cousin Rachel, and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte). Select screenings will be introduced by members of the Houston Film Critics Society.

Every Frenchman Has One, de Havilland’s 1962 bestselling memoir, recounts her early years in France as a fish out of water attempting to adapt to French life, manners, and customs. It’s been out of print for decades and was recently re-released to coincide with her birthday. Now available for purchase in the MFA shop.

Check out the full schedule and purchase tickets here.

More info on the films selected by Ms. de Havilland:

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, USA, 1938, 102 min.
Friday and Saturday, July 1 and 2, 7 p.m.

This Technicolor swashbuckler is one of eight movies costarring de Havilland and Errol Flynn. The film takes place in England during the Crusades, after King Richard the Lionhearted is taken captive and his duplicitous brother Prince John seizes power. Robin Hood leads his Sherwood Forest merry men in an action-packed adventure to restore order, all while charming Lady Marian of Fitzwalter, who risks her life to help him.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, USA, 1935, 133 min.
Saturday, July 2, noon

When stage producer Max Reinhardt saw de Havilland in a local production of the Shakespeare’s romance fantasy, he insisted that she star in his screen version of the play as Hermia. The plot of the film begins with a young woman, Hermia, who is in love with Lysander and wishes to marry him, but her father has plans for her to marry another man, Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander escape to elope in the forest, where a love potion adds confusion to a pre-existing love quadrilateral. Duke Theseus of Athens then arranges a group wedding, and the lovers decide the previous night’s events were a dream.

Gone with the Wind
Directed by Victor Fleming, USA, 1939, 238 min., plus intermission
Saturday, July 9, 3 p.m.

In this epic-historical romance film, de Havilland plays Melanie Hamilton, who is engaged to be married to George Ashley Wilkes, with whom Scarlett O’Hara is secretly in love. While the story centers around Scarlett, played by Vivien Leigh, de Havilland’s performance as the gentle and moral Melanie is equally memorable. Among her most favorite roles, de Havilland claimed that the tender, compassionate Melanie “is the woman I wish I could be.”

Hold Back the Dawn
Directed by Mitchell Leisen, USA, 1941, 116 min.
Friday, July 15, 7 p.m.

De Havilland was Oscar-nominated for her role as Emmy Brown, a naive teacher wooed by Georges (Charles Boyer), a suave European stuck in Mexico who runs into an old friend (Paulette Godard) who tells him that she gained her U.S. citizenship by marrying an American and the dumping him. Georges meets and romances Emmy, convincing her to marry him. Later learning of the scheme, she has a near-fatal car accident. Georges rushes to her hospital bedside and confesses that he loves her, giving her the will to live.

Princess O’Rourke
Directed by Norman Krasna, USA, 1943, 94 min.
Saturday, July 16, 7 p.m.

European Princess Maria, played by de Havilland, is living in exile in New York during World War II. Fearing for her safety, her Uncle Holman (Charles Coburn) flies Maria to San Francisco under an assumed name, where she begins dating a pilot, Eddie O’Rourke (Robert Cummings), not revealing her identity. After many plot twists, the story culminates in a wedding that takes place in the presence of the President of the United States.

To Each His Own
Directed by Mitchell Leisen, USA, 1946, 122 min.
Friday, July 29, 7 p.m.

De Havilland won her first Academy Award in the role of Josephine Norris, a businesswoman who reflects on her past while serving as an air raid observer in London during World War II. Flashbacks reveal that as a young woman, Josephine fell in love with a dashing pilot (John Lund) and became pregnant before her lover was killed in action. To avoid scandal, she allowed her son to be adopted. Years later, her son is now a pilot like his father, and she prepares to meet him to reveal the truth.

The Dark Mirror
Directed by Robert Siodmak, USA, 1946, 85 min.
Saturday, July 30, 7 p.m.

When witnesses claim to see a woman (de Havilland) leaving a murder victim’s apartment, authorities learn that she has a twin sister. A psychologist (Lew Ayres) and a detective (Thomas Mitchell) struggle to determine which sister committed the crime. This psychological thriller follows the haunting tale of murder and mystery.

The Heiress
Directed by William Wyler, USA, 1952, 115 min.
Saturday, August 6, 7 p.m.

Based on Henry James’s novel Washington Square, de Havilland plays Catherine, the plain, reclusive daughter of the wealthy and tyrannical Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson). Montgomery Clift stars as the handsome and cunning Morris Townsend who courts Catherine, although her father considers him a fortune-seeking scoundrel. They reunite after her father dies, and the film’s final scene is chilling and memorable. This powerful, nuanced performance earned de Havilland her second Academy Award. The 35mm preservation print courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive.

The Snake Pit
Directed by Anatole Litvak, USA, 1948, 108 min.
Sunday, August 7, 5 p.m.

The Snake Pit is one of the first films to compassionately explore mental illness and its treatment. Following an emotional collapse, Virginia Cunningham (de Havilland) is placed in a mental institution by her husband and cannot remember how she got there. A sympathetic doctor tries different treatments, including psychoanalysis, to encourage her recovery. This film shows her progress and what happens to her along the way.

My Cousin Rachel
Directed by Henry Koster, USA, 1952, 98 min.
Friday, August 12, 7 p.m.

In Daphne du Maurier’s gothic romance, de Havilland is Rachel, the beautiful, enigmatic young widow returning to her husband’s mansion in 19th-century Cornwall. Her husband’s cousin Philip (Richard Burton) suspects Rachel poisoned him. But Philip soon finds himself falling in love with her, and grants Rachel a handsome allowance when he is named heir to the estate. Doubts about Rachel’s innocence continue to plague Philip and eventually lead to tragedy.

Light in the Piazza
Directed by Guy Green, USA, 1962, 102 min.
Saturday, August 13, 5 p.m.

De Havilland plays Margaret Johnson, who is on an extended holiday in Italy with her beautiful daughter Clara (Yvette Mimieux). Due to a childhood head injury, Clara is cared for by her mother. A handsome man named Florentine (George Hamilton) falls in love with Clara and wants to marry her, introducing her to his warm and welcoming family. This romantic drama film, based on a story in The New Yorker, was shot on location in Rome and Florence, including scenes in the Uffizi Gallery.

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Directed by Robert Aldrich, USA, 1964, 133 min.
Saturday, August 13, 7 p.m.

Charlotte (Bette Davis), an aging, reclusive Southern belle, finally learns the truth about her lover’s (Bruce Dern) murder when the case is reopened decades later by her cousin (de Havilland) in an elaborate scheme to drive her mad and get her money. This thriller follows a horrifying tale of murder, deceit, and greed. Longtime friends Davis and de Havilland tackled their roles with relish, giving indelible performances that made this film a cult favorite.

All films are screening at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in the Caroline Wiess Law Building / Brown Auditorium Theater on 1001 Bissonnet Street.

Happy Birthday, Olivia!!

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Salty Winters

Salty Winters once said, "Everything I learned I learned from the movies." He was quoting Audrey Hepburn.