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cooperroks

Olivia or Joan?

33 posts in this topic

Who was the better actress? Had the better looks? Had the better career? Which one do you just like more?

I haven't seen ALL their movies, but I was just wondering what others thought about them. I really don't have much of an opinion. Olivia was the first one I ever saw, though. She seems to have more of the sweet nature, while Joan seems to be more timid.

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I like both actresses, but I believe that Olivia was the bigger star and had the bigger career.

Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine share a few similarities, particularly in the looks department. Their doe-like eyes and a seemingly meek disposition connect the two, but the resemblance ends there. In actual fact, the two sisters couldn't be more different.

 

Olivia was the feisty, older sister, unwilling to take anyone's guff. She made history by taking on her studio, Warner Brothers, when she refused to accept the roles that Jack Warner was thrusting upon her. After one too many refusals, he suspended her for six months and extended her contract for seven more years. De Havilland fought back, this time in court, and much to her surprise, she won. The judge handed down what would go on record as The de Havilland Decision, which gave actors a say in the roles that they played. The decision would be the first step toward the destruction of the studio system, that would change Hollywood forever.

Joan, meanwhile, was unwittingly becoming a victim of the very thing that Olivia was rallying against. After her win for Best Actress, Joan's name meant more money for the studios, but she didn't see a penny of it. Instead, she played the game and did as she was told, accepting roles as they were offered. The studio also insisted that she behave like the star that she was, which meant buying expensive property, and living beyond her means.

The film roles that the women chose seemed to fit their real life traits. Melanie in Gone With the Wind, seemed sweet and virginal, and was typical role for Olivia to play. While Melanie takes a lot of guff from Scarlett, she is no wimp, and she holds her own when she has to. In romance, Olivia's characters are sought after, and she accepts her men for their failings, but she doesn't sacrifice herself in the process.

Sister Joan, meanwhile, took on roles of meek and mousy women, who were often tormented by the love interest. It was rumored that Alfred Hitchcock treated Joan like hell, in an effort to bring out the terrified character he was looking for. Whether she is courting Laurence Olivier in Rebecca, or Cary Grant in Suspicion, the men have a dark mystery about them that sister Olivia might be tempted to simply pass on. Joan accepts these men, and considers herself to be the inferior one, even in the end when the truth about the men erupts into a violent climax.

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Miss Fontaine had a subscription to the San Francisco Opera and was often seen at the Opera House. I'm acquainted with someone who worked in the Opera House and he would talk about her enthusiasm for the art form and gracious behavior with the staff. But I'll admit, it's been awhile since I've heard of a sighting there...

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Hands down, for my money, Olivia. While I like Joan, especially in her earlier movies, she's...okay... Dunno. Just like her sis better.

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In my opinion Olivia was the better actress, She was so Beautiful in, " A Midsummers Night Dream", and very, very, beautiful in, "The Adventures Of Robin Hood". In fact she was very beautiful in all her movies.

Dwayne

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She's living in Carmel, not too far from Monterey. I called the city of Carmel and they say that she is doing fine

 

Did the whole town get on the phone?

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Lol, no the representive at the town office said so. She also said Doris Day was good, too. I wonder if Joan and Doris have lunch together or do they ever get visits from former mayor, Clint Eastwood???

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Speaking of Ms. Day, who's my absolute favorite all around triple threat performer--My partner and I had the pleasure of staying in her lovely hotel-the Cypress Inn -in Carmel-several years ago.I left her a card telling her how much she meant to me. Just listening to her sing or seeing any of her films always lifted my spirits!!! I asked the hotel manager if he could give the card to her. He said he would.I received a beautiful reply from her WITHIN THE WEEK !!-saying how much she liked the card and how SORRY she was that she hadn't met my partner and myself during our hotel stay. I've since framed that card and I proudly show it to everyone I know!! A truly classic and classy star--one of a kind. They don't make 'em like that anymore!

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I really like them both - and think they were both fine actresses, but I think Olivia was the prettier of the two. It took me a long time to warm up to Olivia, after GWTW. I thought she was soooooooooooooo incredibly 'sucky' as Melanie (who I also took a long time to warm up to). People, in real life, just aren't as good as Melanie in GWTW, so I disliked Melanie for a long time, but grew out of it. Once I did warm up to Olivia, she became one of my very favorite actresses, if not my favorite. I think my favorite Olivia role is, believe it or not, in The Strawberry Blonde which is one of my favorite movies - but I love her in almost anything. Rebecca is also one of my favorite movies. Watching Fontaine as the SOTM a few months back makes me think that the reason she wasn't bigger/better was because she didn't have that many 'dynamite' roles. Which I think was a shame. Prior to watching her SOTM, I would have said Olivia was the better actor - but now I'm not so sure, and feel bad that Fontaine wasn't offered better roles, by people other than Hitchcock, who obviously saw what others didn't. I think the 'feud' is such a shame - maybe because my sister and I are much the same as the deHavilland sisters.

 

 

Scarlett

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Hi,

 

I liked them both equally.

I like their more evil, bitchy roles --

"Ivy" and "Serenade" for Joan.....

"Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte" and "My Cousin Rachel" for Olivia. I haven't seen "The Dark Mirror", but Olivia plays a bad twin in that......

 

I've heard from a friend that Joan was spotted in a restaurant a few months ago, and looked very good.

 

Larry

 

Message was edited by:

vecchiolarry

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Olivia was evil in My Cousin Rachel. She definately deservede to die. I wonder how Greta Garbo would've played the role since she was the first person offered the film. I also love Joan Fontaine in Born To Be Bad and she was so manipulative and deceitful, but still at the same time you still feel kind of sympatheic for her.

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I just found out why The Constant Nymph with Joan Fontaine can't be seen.The film is no longer available because the rights to Margaret Kennedy and Basil Dean's play, Margaret Kennedy's novel and the original film rights owned by Gaumont British all became separated at different times in the late 1950s and eventually expired. The script and screen version used in 1943 was a combination of novel and play. Separate contracts had to be negotiated at that time with both authors. The Kennedy Estate have no objection to the film being shown, but it would require expensive legal intervention to resolve the contractual situation so this is unlikely to happen.

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I love them both ... Especially Joan in Jayne Eyre..... But if I had to pick a favorite I would have to say Olivia... She has warmth and a inner strength in the characters she plays, that i much prefer to Joan's strong yet insecure martyr heroines.

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>

> prefer to Joan's strong yet insecure martyr heroines.

 

You hit the nail on the head with that line. I get so tired watching Joan, I want to stand up and yell "Say or do something you stupid jerk".

 

What I could never fathom was Olivia playing 'The Heiress". She was so lovely and even with that obnoxious hairdo she still looked amazing. Didn't she win the oscar for that? If so, that's probably why she won, the clothes and hair, were enough to make HER the martyr. That part should have been played by someone like Joan Crawford, because by the time she reached 30 she already was losing her earlier freshness.

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"That part should have been played by someone like Joan Crawford, because by the time she reached 30 she already was losing her earlier freshness."

 

Huh? Miss Crawford was 30 years old in 1934 and fresh as a Comet cleanser wielding daisy. I think it wasn't until she woke up at age 45 that she discovered she mislaid her freshness somewhere on the Warner's lot...

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Hey Jack & Anne,

 

"Comet cleaner wielding daisy" -- how appropo to compare Joan to a cleaner knowing her pentiant for cleaning!! I love it. It does present a picture.

 

And, I disagree with Joan playing the Olivia part in "The Heiress". Olivia was perfect and excellent in that role, her greatest actually.

Joan was too strong a personality to have been dominated by Ralph Richardson or Montgomery Clift. She would have sent them to clean the kitchen floor and then the bathroom!!

 

Larry

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Larry:

 

I bow to you on the 'strength of personality' thing, you are correct. My problem, and it occurs everytime I watch the movie, is Olivia is just too pretty to play a plain, pitiful, and pitiable girl as the heiress was supposed to be.

 

As to Joan Crawford, the comet cleanser wieding daisy, huh, SOS pad would be more like it.

 

Anne

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Hi Anne,

 

Yes, you are correct that Olivia was/is too pretty to play a wallflower. I understand that she wanted to be madeup homelier for the movie but the 'powers that be' vetoed that.

 

I think she was supposed to be attractive enough for Montgomery Clift to persue her but her problem was she was repressed and overshadowed by her father and aunt and later by Clift. She wasn't assertive in her own personality. And, that's the performance that was given and that I applaud.

She could have been made up to be beautiful in the movie but it's her backwardness and gauchness that is the problem.

She gets it right in the end and if you'll notice, she is attractive at the end.....

 

Larry

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I don't like comparing. I feel both Joan and Olivia had their own style, own look, own personality. Both of them had something the other could do better or couldn't do. Both were good. I say the same thing for Bette Davis and Joan Crawford when people always ask who's better. What not enjoy them both? If everyone was the same in classic movies it wouldn't be much to watch. We watch classic movies for the versatility in talent, images, and looks.

 

Olivia could play a wallflower. Take off the makeup or put some makeup on that can make you look homely, mess up your hair, assume the proper gesture and look and you can be homely just like anyone can be beautiful with the right make up artist or plastic surgeon.

 

Bette Davis could look homely, unattractive when she wanted or attractive it depended on the movie. Back in them days pretty actresses had to fight to get roles outside of being pretty because the real juicy roles were usually given to less beautiful actresses. Olivia wasn't exactly glamorous but average in The Snake Pit, proving she didn't have to be a beauty queen or glamour girl in every film. Olivia could look good or average when she wanted to like Bette Davis. Sometimes you have to be less attractive to make people notice your talent because if you look too good it will distract the audience and overshadow the acting.

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As far as who is the better looking one, i'd say they are both equal. As far as acting is concerned I'd say Olivia, she can change her roll, and Joan always seems to be the same in every one.

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I like them both equally,but in different ways.

 

 

Joan is about to be on in "Suspicion" with Cary Grant. I love her in this role. I love that he calls her "monkey face"-she was so pretty,but she did have a charming kind of "crookedness" or "quirkiness" to her face. Very charming,a kind of slanted smile or something. I love one of the bedroom scenes when she has her long hair down also,it's so pretty. I love the way she speaks in this movie. Heck,I just love her in this movie :)

 

 

I like her in "Rebecca" also,but I too want to just shake her and tell her to tell that old housekeeper to get lost. Who would put up with that mess? First she has to put up with the demanding social-climbing woman-that's more understandable,she's doing the best she can to earn a living-but to be intimidated by a housekeeper,at least after she's been mistress of the house for a while-no no no! That's Gothics for you-that characterisation in Gothic fiction is known as the "too stupid to live"-TSTL for short-heroine,LOL.

 

Message was edited by: Melanie,left two words out of a sentence

daddysprimadonna

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I love Olivia and she managed the impossible by being the unbelivably saintly Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind. In The Heiress she's magnificent. However....

 

The truth of things is that Joan looks uncannily like my mother when she was young and when I watch Joan in films I see flashes of what my mother must have looked like 40 years ago. I've even compared photographs and it's almost disturbing. Others have noticed it too, even my grandmother. My mother looks more like Joan Fonatine's sister than Olive does. For that alone, I look forward to Joan Fontaine films because, in a small way, I can see my mother when she was young and at her most beautiful.

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