Hollywood actress Joan Fontaine, whose career was marked by a bitter rivalry with her older sister, Olivia de Havilland, passed away in her sleep on December 15, 2013 at her home in Carmel in California. She was ninety six and had been in failing health in recent days.
Among Fontaine’s most memorable movies in her Hollywood career, that spanned four decades was the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Suspicion, co-starring Cary Grant, for which she won an Academy Award in 1942, beating her sister in the competition.
Fontaine appeared coy, petite and innocent in her early movies but later carefully selected her roles and went on to play worldly, sophisticated women in such films as Born To Be Bad and Tender Is The Night.
She wrote in her 1978 autobiography, No Bed Of Roses, that her sickly condition as a child actually helped develop her acting skills. Her childhood marked the beginning of an enduring rivalry with her elder sister Olivia de Havilland as they competed for parental attention.
The competition was fiercer in 1942 when both sisters were nominated for Oscars and Joan Fontaine took home the statuette for Suspicion. It was a bittersweet moment for Fontaine. The sisters were said to have stopped speaking altogether in 1975 after their mother died of cancer.
“I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it,” Fontaine was quoted as telling the Hollywood Reporter in 1978, according to the Washington Post.
She earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for a 1980 guest spot on the television soap opera Ryan’s Hope and made her final small-screen appearance in the television movie Good King Wenceslas. British actor Brian Aherne, producer William Dozier, screenwriter-producer Collier Young and sports writer Alfred Wright Jr. were her four ex-husbands.
In her memoirs, Joan Fontaine maintained she repeatedly turned down marriage proposals from multimillionaire Howard Hughes, as well as offers to be the mistress of Joseph Kennedy and other political figures.
Joan Fontaine was known for being exceptionally gracious to fans, answering correspondence and indulging autograph requests until shortly before her death.
May her soul rest in peace.