Gone With The Wind actress Olivia de Havilland turns 100

Actress Olivia de Havilland, the last surviving principal cast member of Gone With The Wind, has turned 100.

Often hailed as America's original Hollywood sweetheart, she played Melanie Wilkes in the classic American civil war film opposite Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and Leslie Howard.

Her role as the wife of Ashley Wilkes, who was played by Howard in the 1939 film, was just one of many successes in her acting career.

Olivia de Havilland starred in Gone With The Wind
Olivia de Havilland starred in Gone With The Wind (Reed Saxon/AP)

She is a double Oscar winner, having won gongs for her roles in the 1946 romantic drama To Each His Own and 1949 drama The Heiress.

The centenarian was born on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in Japan to British parents. She starred alongside Hollywood heartthrob Errol Flynn and the pair were hailed as a perfect on-screen match.

A friend, Brian Emsley, of Welwyn Garden City, recalled: "In 1997 when I worked for the University of Hertfordshire, I invited Olivia to attend the unveiling of a statue commemorating her cousin Sir Geoffrey at the campus.

"Although Prince Philip was to unveil the statue, the crowds and the media turned out to see and to applaud a woman still beautiful in her eighties."

Her younger sister Joan Fontaine followed in her acting footsteps, starring in a number of well-known films and winning an Oscar for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's 1941 thriller Suspicion.

The sisters had a notoriously strained relationship and professional rivalry led to an irreconcilable rift between them. Joan took on their stepfather's surname to eliminate any confusion between them. She died aged 96 in 2013.

Olivia de Havilland won two Academy Awards
Olivia de Havilland won two Academy Awards (AP)

De Havilland married twice, in 1946 to author Marcus Goodrich, who she divorced in 1953 and with whom she had a son. Following the divorce she made her home in Paris and in 1955 married journalist Pierre Galante and they had a daughter.

She is also well known for trailblazing a victory for her profession after she won a court battle against Hollywood film studio Warner Bros to release her early from her contract with them.

In an interview with Vanity Fair earlier this year, she spoke fondly of her Gone With The Wind character.

She said: "I didn't identify with Melanie when I first read the book. But when I read Sidney Howard's wonderful script, Melanie seemed like a totally different character.

"In the book we saw her through Scarlett's eyes, which created a negative impression. In the film the audience sees her through their own, unbiased eyes. Now, with the script, I liked her, I admired her, I loved her!"

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