Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Test your knowledge of the legendary actress based on costumes from 10 of her most memorable films.
Spoiler alert: These are the answers to “Olivia de Havilland’s Onscreen Style.” To take the quiz, click here.
Question #1: In this first pairing of the nine films Olivia de Havilland starred in with Errol Flynn, she wears 17th-century costumes by Milo Anderson:
Answer: Captain Blood. Directed by Michael Curtiz, Captain Blood was only the fourth film Olivia de Havilland made, and her first pairing with Errol Flynn. Neither was a star at the time Captain Blood was in production, which made the film a gamble at Warner Bros., but the chance the studio took paid off: Both Flynn and de Havilland were rising stars, and their status was sealed by the time this swashbuckling film premiered. The chemistry between the two stars also was evident, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair them up again; the result was 1936’s The Charge of the Light Brigade.
Question #2: Milo Anderson also designed the costumes for the 1938 film seen here, perhaps the most famous pairing of de Havilland and Flynn:
Answer: The Adventures of Robin Hood. Again directed by Michael Curtiz — to the dismay of Errol Flynn, who did not get along with the director — The Adventures of Robin Hood was the biggest film Warner Bros. produced to date from a budget standpoint, costing $2 million. Milo Anderson’s costumes also convey the film’s luxe level, especially in the silks and satins he used to create Olivia de Havilland’s bias-cut gowns. Also, watch the film to see that de Havilland’s head is uncovered in only one scene.
Question #3: Who was the costume designer who created de Havilland’s looks as Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind?
Answer: Walter Plunkett. Born in Oakland, California, in 1902, Plunkett studied law at the University of California before deciding he would rather take part in the school’s theatrical group. While Plunkett could design across many eras and genres, he proved to be exceedingly adept at pre-1900 period costumes, including Little Women (both the 1933 and 1949 versions) and 1936’s Mary of Scotland. Plunkett reportedly designed more than 5,000 wardrobe pieces for Gone With the Wind, and for de Havilland and other actresses, that included details down to their unseen corsets and petticoats.
Question #4: In costumes by Orry-Kelly, de Havilland competes with a flighty Bette Davis for the attentions of George Brent in this 1942 film:
Answer: In This Our Life. This is the third of six films that Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland made together, and costume designer Orry-Kelly does a terrific job conveying subtle differences between the two actresses, who play sisters, via their fashion. Davis, as the more impetuous sister Stanley, wears graphic, look-at-me prints and flirty, feminine details, while de Havilland, as her more grounded, serious sister Roy, is seen in more tailored looks and solid colors.
Question #5: Orry-Kelly also created the costumes for this 1943 romantic comedy co-starring Robert Cummings, with de Havilland playing a woman traveling incognito.
Answer: Princess O’Rourke. By 1942 de Havilland was growing increasingly dissatisfied by the types of parts Warner Bros. was offering her, but when she turned down a script, the studio would put her on suspension, tacking additional time onto the end of her seven-year contract. De Havilland decided to take Warner Bros. to court to challenge this common practice in the studio system. In December 1944 a three-judge panel ruled in her favor and effectively ended studios’ ability to punish actors with contract-extending suspensions for turning down parts they didn’t want to play. The lawsuit caused the release of Princess O’Rourke to be delayed for a year, but de Havilland forever impacted the rights of actors; officially designated California Labor Code Section 2855, it’s also known as “the de Havilland Law.”
Question #6: Edith Head designed the costumes for this 1946 potboiler story of an unwed mother; de Havilland won her first of two Academy Awards for this role.
Answer: To Each His Own. Following her lawsuit with Warner Bros., de Havilland was labeled “difficult” and had trouble finding work. To Each His Own, made at Paramount, was her first role in three years. But de Havilland was rewarded for her persistence in wanting better scripts: While she previously had been nominated twice for an Academy Award — as Best Supporting Actress in 1939’s Gone With the Wind and as Best Actress for 1942’s Hold Back the Dawn — she would win the Best Actress Oscar for her role as Jody in To Each His Own.
Question #7: Olivia de Havilland was nominated for an Oscar five times; her second win was for this 1949 film co-starring Montgomery Clift, also with costumes by Edith Head:
Answer: The Heiress. Based on a Broadway play by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, which in itself was based on the novel Washington Square by Henry James, The Heiress ranks high among fans as their favorite de Havilland films. De Havilland saw the play on Broadway and wanted to make the film version; she approached William Wyler, who agreed to direct and convinced Paramount Pictures to purchase the screen rights. The Goetzes also wrote the script for the film, which ultimately would be nominated for eight Academy Awards and would win four, including de Havilland as Best Actress and Edith Head for Best Costume Design.
Question #8: Olivia de Havilland first worked with this Paris designer in 1956’s The Ambassador’s Daughter, which reportedly included scenes shot in his atelier; who was this designer?
Answer: Christian Dior. During a trip in April 1953 to attend the Cannes Film Festival, Olivia de Havilland met Pierre Galante, executive editor of Paris Match. The couple fell in love and were married two years later, and de Havilland transported her life from Hollywood to France. As she adjusted to her new life in Paris, de Havilland also became enamored with the work of couturier Christian Dior, who already was known for his costume-design work, most notably for Marlene Dietrich in 1950’s Stage Fright, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and his work for Jennifer Jones in 1953’s Indiscretion of an American Wife, for which Dior was nominated for an Academy Award. De Havilland enlisted Dior to design the costumes for the Paris-set The Ambassador’s Daughter, which includes a fashion show reportedly filmed in the designer’s atelier. Unfortunately, the film was not successful.
Question #9: De Havilland also wore Dior in this 1962 film, which co-starred Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton:
Answer: Light in the Piazza. Olivia de Havilland remained devoted to Christian Dior, wearing his designs in 1959’s Libel, and again in 1962’s Light in the Piazza. Christian Dior had passed away unexpectedly in 1957, and by the early 1960s Marc Bohan was in charge of the house’s design duties. In Light in the Piazza, de Havilland wears at least two looks from Bohan’s haute-couture collection for Spring/Summer 1961. In September 2019 pieces from de Havilland’s Dior collection sold at a Chicago auction; the ensemble seen in this image sold for $5,500.
Question #10: Olivia de Havilland’s love of Dior also extended to this 1964 film co-starring Bette Davis and Joseph Cotten; she kept the green halter dress seen here:
Answer: Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Olivia de Havilland stepped in to replace Joan Crawford (the second time she had done so, after Lady in a Cage the same year), and with no time for costumes to be created, pieces were pulled from her personal wardrobe to play Miriam, the cousin to Bette Davis’s Charlotte. That included this green chiffon halter dress from the Christian Dior haute-couture collection by Marc Bohan for Spring/Summer 1964. This dress also sold at the September 2019 auction of de Havilland’s personal collection, with a winning bid of $8,125.