The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, July 28, 2020 1:00 am

Journal Entry

Farewell, and well met

Chuck Chapman

Anyone who remembers Olivia de Havilland might know she was the last surviving major actor of “Gone with the Wind,” which won the Academy Award for best picture for 1939.

Maybe you also know that de Havilland, who died Sunday at her home in Paris at age 104, appeared in about 50 films during her fabled career, winning best actress Oscars for her roles in “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949) (my personal favorite). She also was nominated for best supporting actress in “Gone with the Wind” and nominated for best actress in “Hold Back the Dawn” (1941) and “The Snake Pit” (1948).

When I think of Olivia de Havilland, I remember all of the movies she was in that I saw (maybe 10?) and enjoyed so much. But the first thing that comes to mind is the evening of Feb. 26, 1975, when I had the honor of meeting her prior to introducing her on the Embassy Theatre stage.

De Havilland's lecture was promoted by then-WMEF (now WMEE) 97.3 FM, “Just Beautiful Music,” where I was morning-drive announcer. Days before her appearance, the station arranged for her to call me so we could tape an interview to be aired during the run-up to her appearance.

De Havilland's most frequent male co-star was Errol Flynn, who appeared in nine movies with her, including “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) and “They Died with Their Boots On” (1941).

De Havilland also was known for successfully challenging Hollywood's right to extend an actor's contract without consent in a landmark legal victory against Warner Bros. in 1945.

So, what do an “introducer” and his wife do when someone like Olivia de Havilland is done speaking and the applause ends? Why, they drive her to her hotel – in this case, the Ramada Inn, at its former location on Illinois Road.

There was no newspaper review of de Havilland's appearance at the Embassy. The recording of my radio conversation with her no longer exists – and neither does the napkin with her signature on it.

What does exist are fond memories of briefly knowing one of the world's most accomplished actresses. Like Melanie, her character in “Gone with the Wind,” she was charming, personable and graceful.

Thanks to library DVDs and Turner Classic Movies, farewell does not mean goodbye.


Chuck Chapman retired from The Journal Gazette as features clerk.

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