February 26, 1942, Oscar night. This year saw (for the first of two times) sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine competing for the Best Actress Oscar.
Olivia was nominated for her work in the romantic drama Hold Back the Dawn. This was her first nomination for Best Actress. Two years prior, she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the role of Melanie in Gone With the Wind.
Joan received her second consecutive nomination in the category, for her role in the Hitchcock thriller Suspicion. She was nominated the previous year for Rebecca, another Hitchcock film.
If we’re to believe Joan (the younger sister), the relationship between the two of them was never a close one. She seems to blame their rivalry on their mother, Lillian who, according to Joan, had always favored Olivia.
When Joan began acting after Olivia had already established herself at MGM, her mother (allegedly) told her that she would need to find a different studio to work for, because MGM was “Olivia’s studio.” She also had to change her last name, and decided to use the name of her step-father, George Fontaine.
When Joan’s name was announced as the winner on Oscar night, she froze remembering all the childhood fights they’d had. Olivia, who was sitting across the table from her whispered, “Get up there!” Her winning the Oscar further strained their relationship.
During an interview, Joan spoke about Olivia saying, “Olivia has always said I was the first at everything. I married first, had a child first, and won the Oscar first. If I die, she’ll be furious because, again, I’ll have got there first.”
Joan died on December 15, 2013 at the age of 96. Olivia released a statement thanking fans for their outpouring of love after hearing the news of Joan’s death.
Olivia celebrated her 100th birthday on July 1, 2016. She is the longest-lived Bes Actress Oscar winner.