Joan Fontaine (born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland; October 22, 1917 – December 15, 2013) was a British-American actress best known for her starring roles in Hollywood film s. Fontaine appeared in more than 45 feature film s in a career that spanned five decades. She was the younger sister of actress Olivia de Havilland.
Born in Tokyo to British parents, Fontaine moved to California with her mother, Lillian Fontaine, and sister, the actress Olivia de Havilland, following her parents’ divorce. She was anaemic as a child, and her childhood was consequently marred by poor health, but she had improved by her teen years. After living in Japan and attending school there for a short while, she began her stage career in 1935, signing a film contract with RKO Pictures. Fontaine received her first major role in The Man Who Found Himself (1937); however, she failed to make a significant impression and her contract was not renewed.
Her career prospects improved greatly after her starring role in the Alfred Hitchcock-directed Rebecca (1940), for which she received the first of what would be three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress ; the following year, she won for her role in Suspicion (1941). A third Oscar nomination came with the film The Constant Nymph. She appeared mostly in drama film s through the 1940s —including Letter from an Unknown Woman, which is now considered a classic . In the next decade, her career began to decline and she moved into stage and television roles. She appeared in fewer film s into the 1960s, her final feature film being The Witches (1966).
Married four times, she had one child by birth and one child by adoption, from whom she was later estranged. Her relationship with her sister was long known to be acrimonious, and included long periods of estrangement, especially in later life.
Fontaine and her sister, Olivia de Havilland, are the only set of siblings to have won lead acting Academy Awards. Olivia was the first to become an actress ; when Fontaine tried to follow her lead, their mother, who allegedly favored Olivia, refused to let Joan use the family name. Subsequently, Fontaine had to invent a name, taking first Joan Burfield, and later Joan Fontaine. Biographer Charles Higham records that the sisters had an uneasy relationship from early childhood, when Olivia would rip up the clothes Joan had to wear as hand-me-downs, forcing Joan to sew them back together. A large part of the friction between the sisters allegedly stemmed from Fontaine’s belief that Olivia was their mother’s favorite child.
On December 15, 2013, Fontaine died in her sleep of natural causes at the age of 96 in her Carmel Highlands home. Her longtime friend Noel Beutel said, “She had been fading in recent days and died peacefully.” Her Academy Award for Best Actress in Suspicion was initially going to be sold at an animal rights auction; however, the Academy threatened to sue since it was not offered back to them for $1. After Fontaine’s death , de Havilland released a statement saying she was “shocked and saddened” by the news. Fontaine was cremated.
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland (22nd October 1917 – 15th December 2013), known professionally as Joan Fontaine, was an English-American actress . Fontaine …