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The Heiress

(Photo by Paramount Pictures. Thumbnail image: MGM, Warner Bros.)

15 Fresh Olivia de Havilland Movies

Olivia de Havilland, the enduring icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, made her big screen debut in 1935’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at age 19. Barely out of high school, de Havilland was literally doing the same play in community theater just the year before. She was quickly signed into a studio contract with Warner Bros., where she was paired with Errol Flynn, igniting one of the top on-screen romantic couplings of the era.

Released the same year as Midsummer, the first of their movies was Captain Blood, the swashbuckling classic that has excited audiences and critics for generations. De Havilland would be legally bound to Warner Bros. until 1945 after an acrimonious, lawsuit-filled split, but the 10-year triangle between she, Flynn, and Warners would produce a bounty of Fresh films, including The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, and The Adventures of Robin Hood. The latter 1938 movie was by far their most successful outing, a grand, colorful, Best Picture-nominated adventure. We called it one of the 300 Essential Movies you need to watch.

Despite the steady roles and growing fame Warner Bros. provided, she flourished most creatively whenever escaping the binding clauses. She was “loaned” out to MGM for 1939’s Gone With the Wind, where she got her first Oscar nomination as Southern belle Melanie Hamilton. Similarly, she was seen by the Academy when working with Paramount in 1941 for the political romantic drama Hold Back the Dawn. After being released by Warners in the mid-1940s, shrewd role selection got her recognized for the rest of the decade, as she won the Best Actress Oscar for 1946’s To Each His Own and 1949’s The Heiress.

1964’s Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte would be her final Fresh movie (she would appear in just five more overall before retiring by 1980). It’s a cracked-up psychological thriller starring other Golden Age legends – Bette Davis! Joseph Cotten! Agnes Moorehead! Mary Astor! – whose behind-the-scenes drama compares to the brazen madness on display. And now, we celebrate the life and career of true Hollywood royalty by presenting 15 Fresh Olivia de Havilland movies. Alex Vo

#15

The Dark Mirror (1946)
71%57%

#15
Adjusted Score: 55222%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After a doctor is murdered, Lt. Stevenson (Thomas Mitchell) questions the man's girlfriend, Terry Collins (Olivia de Havilland). Sensing that... [More]
Directed By: Robert Siodmak

#14

Elizabeth the Queen (1939)
80%64%

#14
Adjusted Score: 77207%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Queen Elizabeth (Bette Davis) secretly loves the ambitious and courageous Earl of Essex (Errol Flynn), but at the same time... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#13
Adjusted Score: 71057%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: While stationed in India during the Crimean War, Major Geoffrey Vickers (Errol Flynn) is twice betrayed. His brother, Captain Perry... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 82319%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: George Armstrong Custer (Errol Flynn) is a rebellious but ambitious soldier, eager to join the Civil War. During the war,... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Walsh

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 83664%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Forty years ago, on the night they were meant to elope, Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) found her lover decapitated during... [More]
Directed By: Robert Aldrich

#10

Santa Fe Trail (1940)
63%51%

#10
Adjusted Score: 56078%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After graduating from West Point, Jeb Stuart and George Custer are both stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Once there,... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 91894%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this classic screen adaptation of Shakespeare's fantastical play, the royal wedding plans of Theseus, the duke of Athens (Ian... [More]

#8

Gone With the Wind (1939)
90%92%

#8
Adjusted Score: 98813%
Critics Consensus: Gone with the Wind's epic grandeur and romantic allure encapsulate an era of Hollywood filmmaking -- but that can't excuse a blinkered perspective that stands on the wrong side of history.
Synopsis: Presented as originally released in 1939. Includes themes and character depictions which may be offensive and problematic to contemporary audiences.... [More]
Directed By: Victor Fleming

#7

The Snake Pit (1948)
100%84%

#7
Adjusted Score: 100197%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this psychological drama, Virginia Cunningham (Olivia de Havilland) is confused upon finding herself in a mental hospital, with no... [More]
Directed By: Anatole Litvak

#6

Hold Back the Dawn (1941)
100%77%

#6
Adjusted Score: 83934%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Impressionable teacher Emmy (Olivia de Havilland) is swept off her feet when she meets Georges (Charles Boyer) in a Mexican... [More]
Directed By: Mitchell Leisen

#5

The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
100%74%

#5
Adjusted Score: 100079%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: At the turn of the century, dentist Biff Grimes (James Cagney) recalls his association with politician Hugo Barnstead (Jack Carson).... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Walsh

#4

The Heiress (1949)
100%93%

#4
Adjusted Score: 101306%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Catherine (Olivia de Havilland), a young woman who stands to inherit her father's large fortune, falls in love when she... [More]
Directed By: William Wyler

#3

Dodge City (1939)
100%74%

#3
Adjusted Score: 56794%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In 1872, Dodge City, Kansas is the epicenter of cattle drives and lawlessness. Run by Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot), Dodge... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#2

Captain Blood (1935)
100%89%

#2
Adjusted Score: 103821%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In England in the 1600s, Dr. Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) treats the wounds of a man who had been injured... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 107549%
Critics Consensus: Errol Flynn thrills as the legendary title character, and the film embodies the type of imaginative family adventure tailor-made for the silver screen.
Synopsis: When King Richard the Lionheart is captured, his scheming brother Prince John (Claude Rains) plots to reach the throne, to... [More]