In The News

Actress Joan Fontaine passes away

Actress Joan Fontaine passes away

THE actress Joan Fontaine has passed away in the United States. She was 96.

Ms Fontaine was one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood during the 1940s and 50s.

Born to British parents in Japan, the family name was de Havilland — her older sister is Olivia de Havilland. Their mother had then moved to California where she remarried. Joan eventually used her stepfather’s name of Fontaine when she followed her sister into acting.

The sisters were famously competitive, resulting in the belief that they had allowed their professional rivalries to spoil their personal relationship. Remarkably, the pair found themselves nominated for best actress Oscars in 1942 — Joan for her performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion (see below), Olivia for her role in Hold Back The Dawn. Joan, who had previously won a nomination for Rebecca (1940), won the Oscar, becoming the only actor to win an Academy Award for a Hitchcock movie. 

Olivia de Havilland, who is now 97 and lives in Paris, went on to win two Oscars in the 1940s — for To Each His Own and The Heiress.

Ms. Fontaine was again nominated for an Oscar in 1943 for The Constant Nymph, but was unsuccessful. 

At the height of her career, she appeared with many of the other greats in Hollywood, including Laurence Olivier, Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant and Fred Astaire.

Her film credits included Jane Eyre (1943), Ivanhoe (1952), The Bigamist (1953) and Serenade (1956), see below. When the big roles began to dry-up, she spent more time appearing in top productions on Broadway as well as working in television. Her last screen appearance was in the TV film Good King Wenceslas in 1994 when she was already in her 70s.

To see an interview, recorded in 1979, in which Ms. Fontaine talked about her role in Suspicion, click here.

To view a clip from Serenade, click here.

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