No disrespect intended, BUT I always assumed that neither sister was going to give the other the satisfaction of dying first. Maybe, I thought, both might live forever. Today, Joan finally, so to speak, lost. A few decades ago they were seated on that riser for the 50th Anniversary Oscarcast and perched as far away from one another as was physically possible. At least they didn’t have to work together 24/7 like soulistes Sam and Dave who also were total non-communicado.
Alas, Audrey Totter, Eleanor Parker, Fontaine, and Peter O’Toole all within a few days of one another.
In the immortal word of Noel Coward
“If your friends only last through lunch. . .”
As for speaking about Olivia, Joan once vouchsafed this
A year younger than Olivia, Joan was a great star, specializing in tremulous innocence
and Hell-bound tempestuousness
She could do just about anything — except dance.
At some point, however, her relationship with her sister shattered, and the two remained archenemies until Fontaine’s dying day.
De Havilland, at 97, continues to live in Paris. One theory about their rift is that it was caused by Fontaine’s winning the Oscar over De Havilland’s nomination for the tearjerker Hold Back the Dawn.
Neither sibling would ever provide a reason for their feud.
Many factors were of course involved but something tells me one of them was Joan’s snatching away the yummy Brian Aherne, Olivia’s co-star in Whale’s masterpiece The Great Garrick, and marring him.
It didn’t last. (People continues — )
“I regret that I remember not one act of kindness from Olivia all through my childhood,” Fonataine told PEOPLE. “One of my earliest memories is when she was 6 and I was 5. She had learned to read and, one night when we were alone, she read aloud the Crucifixion from the Bible with mounting gusto until finally I screamed. Olivia loved it. One July day in 1933 when I was 16, Olivia threw me down in a rage, jumped on top of me and fractured my collarbone.”
Pressed to explain the rivalry, Fontaine could only say, “One person called our relationship paranoid – but he didn’t say on whose part. Not mine, though I may have a persecution complex. There must be some explanation. Olivia so hated the idea of having a sibling that she wouldn’t go near my crib.”
Fontaine lived out her days in Carmel, Calif. She had two children from her four marriages. Her husbands were actor Brian Aherne, TV producer William Dozier, producer Collier Young and journalist Alfred Wright Jr.
All her marriages ended in divorce.
In her PEOPLE interview, Fontaine, who now leaves her sister as one of the last survivors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, spoke of how she wanted to die.
“At age 108,” she said, “flying around the stage in Peter Pan, as a result of my sister cutting the wires. Olivia has always said I was first at everything – I got married first, got an Academy Award first, had a child first. If I die, she’ll be furious, because again I’ll have got there first!”
Well she didn’t make it to 108, but she beat Olivia (who has of this writing yet to comment) to the grave. And that in turn is remindful of Eve Babitz’s
classic mot juste “Death is the last word in other people having fun without you.”
And so in that spirit of fun a Gershwin reprise with Greta Gerwig (the postmodern Joan) and pals.