Hollywood legend, Oscar winning “REBECCA” star JOAN FONTAINE has departed for Manderdley at age 96. She is survived by her estranged sister OLIVIA de HAVILLAND, 97 …and two daughters.
Her assistant confirmed Joan’s death of natural causes, The Hollywood Reporter said.
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland was born in Tokyo on Oct. 22, 1917.
Due to the ill health of both she and her sister, and the divorce of their parents, their mother, Lilian, relocated to Hollywood and pushed the girls into acting.
But Joan resisted initially and returned to Japan, attending the American School, returning to States at age 17. As de Havilland was already having some success as an actress, Joan took her stage name from stepfather George Fontaine and signed with RKO appearing in 1939’s "The Women” and “Gunga Din”.
But it was Alfred Hitchcock who made her star in his first American feature “Rebecca” (1940) based on the best-selling novel by Daphne DuMaurier. Joan’s perf as the unnamed heroine as the new wife of haunted hubby Max De Winter Laurence Olivier earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress.
A year later, Hitch teamed her with Cary Grant in “Suspicion”, winning the Oscar for her turn as his wife who fears the debonair star of plotting to murder her. She became the only Hitchcock actress to ever win the Oscar – beating out her own sister Olivia who was nomm’ed for “Hold Back the Dawn” at the 1942 Award ceremony which ignited a decades-old feud.
As the legend goes, as Fontaine came forward to accept her trophy, she rejected de Havilland’s attempt to congratulate her and that de Havilland was more than miffed. The competitive sisters stopped speaking to each other – their feud now sadly never resolved. De Havilland, 97, a two-time Oscar winner, lives in Paris.
Fontaine then earned a third best actress Oscar nom for her The Constant Nymph (1943).
Joan also won legions of fans for her portrayal of Charlotte Bronte's in Jane Eyre (1944) opposite Orson Welles as Rochester – the romantic thriller September Affair (1950) with Joseph Cotton; In Max Ophuls' "Letter from an Unknown Woman" (1948) and as the Lady Rowena in Ivanhoe (1952) with Robert Taylor.
As she aged, Joan moved from ingénue into more mature roles in the movies and starred on Broadway opposite Anthony Perkins in "Tea and Sympathy" in 1954 and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (1962). Her last film appearance was in horror flick "The Witches" (1966).
Joan was also a familiar face across the TV landscape appearing on games shows and episodic dramas.
Joan was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1980 for her guest-starring stint in the soaper “Ryan’s Hope”.
As The ENQUIRER reported previously, in 1978, she published her autobiography, "No Bed of Roses", which detailed her feud with de Havilland.
Among her four husbands were Batman TV show producer William Dozier and actor Brain Aherene.
Au revoir, Joan…