Joan Fontaine Olivia de Havilland

Joan Fontaine — Olivia de Havilland


  by Albert H. Morehead

Cosmopolitan, September 1949


Daphne du Maurier wrote a book, and the book made a motion picture. The picture reprieved a discouraged young actress, who had tried and failed and given up: It lifted her from defeat to success, to an ultimate Academy award, and to that coveted spot on the  pinnacle of stardom where she perches serenely today.

The name of the actress was Joan Fontaine, who, as you and fifty million others will remember, was born Joan de Havilland and has a sister, also a motion-picture actress, named Olivia de Havilland.

The name of the picture was "Rebecca," but the picture wasn't about Rebecca at all. It was about a different character, played by Miss Joan Fontaine, and Rebecca herself never actually appeared. Yet Rebecca was always there, in the background. Without her, there would have been no story.

So I should call this story Olivia. It isn't the story of Olivia; it is the story of Joan—yet, as you will see, Olivia is always there, in the background. Try as you will, you can't keep her out, for without her there would be no story.

Both sisters have tried. Some years ago a writer-photographer team from a big magazine, a man and a woman, approached Miss Fontaine on a special assignment. |

"We're going to do a magazine story about you,” the man announced.

"Do you mean about me?" asked Joan suspiciously, "or do you mean about us?”

"About you," said the man, ambiguously.

”I know," sighed Joan with the resignation born of long experience. "You'll do it about us, and you'll call it something like 'Sister Act.'"

"Well, and what's wrong with that?" he asked.

"Only this—" said Joan, who has a logical, well-organized mind that she sometimes can't suppress— "'Sister Act' sounds like vaudeville, and were never in vaudeville. It sounds as if we act together, and we never did. It sounds as if you can't write about one of us without writing about the other.”

"All right," promised the poor, bewildered man, "then we won't call it 'Sister Act.'"

So he wrote his story, and in due course the magazine published it and called it "Sister Act."

At that, it wasn't the title that offended Joan so much as the tenor of his report. His article said that she and Olivia weren't friends.

If you have kept yourself au courant with the latest Hollywood gossip, off and on for these eleven years you have heard that de Havilland sisters are locked in a mortal feud. Most of the gossip has been just that—press-office plants, based on the principle that scandal will get printed, but friendly news will be spiked. (When Joan married Brian Aherne, in 1939, reporters made page one with a story that ''Little sister steals Olivia's boyfriend," though, in fact, Olivia and Aherne had never even had a date.) A standard way of publicizing any picture is to start a gossip-column feud between two actresses.

But in the last two years the rumors have tripled, and with reason, for now there is solid evidence, visual evidence, to support them. We must examine this evidence, in the course of our story about Joan Fontaine, and then we will see how true they are.

Or will we?

"The trouble," complained a Hollywood news­paperman, an old-fashioned objective reporter, "is that whichever one you meet you'll fall in love with her—and then you can't write an unbiased story."

"And if I meet them both?" I asked.

"You'll fall in love with both," he replied.

That, at least, would make a fair verdict—biased in favor of both sides.

Professionally, it is true, the sisters have gone their independent ways. But go further back and their adventure-packed private histories are inseparably intertwined, and of such private histories the present Joan Fontaine is the end product.

A most appealing product she is. "You've never met her?" exclaimed the producer of one of her pictures. “My boy, you’ve quite an experience in store for you!" It is the experience of meeting a sprightly sprite, who never walks when she can run, talks with voluble candor, bubbles with energy through a sixty-hour working week.

Take Joan's word for the vital sta­tistics; you may as well, you can't talk her out of them. She says she's five-feet-four, and will stand on her toes to prove it. She says she weighs 108, and eats four hearty meals a day to make the claim come true (you can hear the other stars gnash their hungry teeth throughout diet-conscious Hollywood). She says her eyes are hazel, and to prove this one she has invented a private definition of her own (though the dictionary says hazel eyes are reddish-brown, Joan's are an iridescent gray). She says her hair is "a dirty ash-blonde," and that she is "stoop-shouldered, freckle-faced,  and no glamour-puss."

If this is modesty, make the most of it. Joan has.

Once, just returned from a long auto­mobile trip and too hungry to wait, she sat in a restaurant without make-up, hair unkempt, suit wrinkled. Edmund Goulding came in and sat down to chat.

They talked about their troubles.

"What a casting problem I've got," said Goulding. "Next week I have to start shooting, and I still need a star—under­weight, sickly, flat-chested, unglamorous, but young-looking.”

"That's me!" exclaimed Joan.

Goulding invested one startled glance. "Ohmigodyes!" he cried, and Joan had the lead in "The Constant Nymph," one of her most successful pictures.

"I wish, though." she mourns, "that he hadn't said it quite so fast."

Stardom, of course, is a mystic attribute,

composed of complex ingredients. Not beauty; in Hollywood that's just another commodity, and—since the sup­ply exceeds the demand — not a very valuable one. The ingredients of Joan's stardom, they say, are the timbre of her voice and the expressiveness of her face.

The voice, deep and resonant, was never trained and never had to be. God gave it to her; she can't sing with it, but she can wring emotions with it. But Joan always had the voice, and somehow she failed anyway. What about the face?

Sometime in 1939, when "Rebecca" had been filmed but not yet released, Artur Rubinstein, the pianist, and his wife visited Hollywood. He met the stars, and he was disappointed.

"They are pretty, yes." he told his wife, "but they are shallow; if they have souls, as you say, why do they not show through?"

Then, having lunch one day in a Los Angeles business restaurant where movie stars do not appear, Dr. Rubinstein nudged his wife.

"There," he said, "there, across the room, do you see? There is a beautiful face. Such expression, such feeling, such movement! It is a face like Duse's! And can you find such beauty among your stars? No, you must seek it out here in the world, in a woman who has nothing to do with movies except to see them, like us." So he sat and stared for an hour, while his untouched food grew cold before him.

A week later, at a party, Dr. Rubinstein was introduced for the first time to the de Havilland sisters. Olivia said how-do-you-do with demure dignity, but Joan's reproachful first words were, "You stared at me!"

Is this the face of the affection-starved girl who hid in corners of her school-house basement to weep, and nightly for twenty years wet her pillow with tears? Is this the face no one wanted, ten years ago, when Joan's studio had dropped her and she had retired in disgrace? And is it mere coincidence that then, a few brief weeks after Joan married, this selfsame face could make "Rebecca," a picture that thrilled thirty million movie-goers, who before had turned away from the box office when Joan's name was on the marquee?

There is a story in that face and though perhaps theirs is not a sister act, this is a sister story, the story of Joan and inevitably of Olivia.

It is a Cinderella story, and the Cinderella story has not lost its magic these thousand years and more. It is a story of struggle and disappointment and fulfill­ment, of love and marriage and mother­hood, and of all else that ever made a story. It is a mystery story, too, but don't duck, nobody's going to be shot, and maybe in time you'll have a happy ending.

But it won't begin happily. What good story ever does?

The two daughters of Walter and Lillian de Havilland, English by nation­ality, were born in Tokyo—Olivia in 1916, Joan sixteen months later, on October 22, 1917. While they were still babies, their parents parted and were divorced. Mrs. de Havilland packed up her daughters and her belongings and retreated to the nearest occidental port, San Francisco. She met and married a department-store executive named G. M. Fontaine, and their home became Sara­toga, a small California town.

The girls' new stepfather had led no pampered life. As the orphaned son of a frontier trading-post proprietor in north­ern Minnesota, with five younger sisters and brothers to support, he had risen in darkness each morning to milk the cow, and from dawn to midnight had tended the counter under which he slept at night. He was self-taught, sell-made, self-regulated.   Toil   and frugality   and discipline were his religion. For every act, he had a system and a rule.

Olivia and Joan had to follow the rules. Every weekend they took tablet and paper and laboriously budgeted the 168 hours of the week to come: Thirty minutes, three times a day, for washing dishes; fifteen minutes, twice a day, for cleaning their rooms; so much time for school, so much for sewing, so much for weeding the garden, learning to cook, to mend, to darn. So much for sleep and so much for study and when was there time for play?

Infringement of the rules brought prompt and unremitting punishment—scoldings and spankings, but no loss of liberty because they had no liberty to lose. They were not allowed outside activities, and they were not allowed to entertain guests. It might disturb the schedule, which was already full.

Occasionally their mother would rise to their defense—she would even, at times, threaten to write to their father— but her general principle was that they must obey their stepfather. So it was ordained. "Mother," explains Joan, "is like me: She likes to be bossed. I like to be bossed; I love to take direction. The director says, Do this or Do that, and I nod, and do what he says, and think Yessir."

Olivia was the defiant sister. Once when sent to the yard for a switch to be whipped with, she returned with a two-inch twig; angrily sent out again, she lugged back a two-by-four almost as big as she was. Olivia can't cook or sew, because she so valiantly resisted all efforts to teach her; Olivia can't wash dishes without breaking them, because once it gave her such pleasure to let her stepfather hear them crash.

Joan was the soft sister. Where Olivia stiffened her back and braced her feet and stood firm against oppression, Joan wet the world with her tears, made a valiant effort to do whatever would please her stepfather, buttered up to the entire community, and was ready at a moment's notice to forgive her tres­passers—in return for a passing particle of human sympathy.

Joan learned to cook: Last winter, when a wayward chef spoiled a party dinner, Joan hied herself to her kitchen, prepared a banquet tor twenty persons, and was standing at the doorway in the faultless attire of the Hollywood hostess to receive her guests as they arrived. Joan learned to sew: "I had to," she explains. "I had to wear Olivia's hand-me-downs, and I had to make them look good." Joan learned to compromise:

"I'm a cuddlebug. Even when I hated my stepfather, I'd get up early and crawl into their bed to cuddle."

Olivia was the stronger sister. Joan was sickly. Was it psychosomatic? Per­haps; the word hadn't been invented yet. "Every time we punished Joan," her mother confides, "she became ill, and had a fever, and we had to have a doctor and medicine. Sometimes she even need­ed the hospital. It kept us poor." Joan had double pneumonia and pleurisy and rheumatic fever; she had measles and mumps and whooping cough and what­ever else children have; she had hay fever and edema and still has. She lay in bed and wept with frustration and guilt— the frustration of missing half of every school year, the guilt of being such a burden. "They were always reminding me that Olivia wasn't so inconsiderate, and that my illness was costing a lot of money."

The early financial affairs of the sisters are an ironic memory. "You must learn the value of money," said their step­father, and he gave them an allowance of five dollars a month each. Immediately upon its receipt, they had to march down to the savings bank and deposit the entire sum. Then came the depression, and the department store went under, carrying the Fontaine fortune down with it. So one day G. M. (they always called him G. M., oven when they were tiny children) coolly informed them that he had drawn out their savings, five hun­dred dollars by then. "Ha," says Joan. "I learned the value of money, all right."

And there are bitter memories: Of their early high-school days, when their stepfather would hide a piece of string in their room to make sure their clean­ing was thorough. They would miss it, and he would come striding down the sidewalk to where they waited for the school bus. "You can't go yet!" he would call. "You haven't cleaned your room properly." So back they would go, dis­mayed at the forced delinquency from school, with Olivia holding back the tears and Joan letting hers flow free, to man their carpet sweepers until at last the symbolic string could be located and consigned to the wastebasket.

That was a time for weeping in the basement of Los Gatos High School.

That was a time for daydreams, too. Joan dreamt of her rich father, who would come like a knight in shining ar­mor, buy her beautiful clothes, encom­pass her with love and sympathy and take her back to Japan, where she need never weep again.

De Havilland was rich, all right; he had shared in inventions, invested, and saved. He was said to be one of the ten richest Westerners in the Orient. He was not impervious to the fate of his daughters, either; at least, he was not totally incurious about them. He had traced them through a detective agency, and from time to time they got a card from him. Now that the depression was at its height, Mrs. Fontaine called on him for help, and he came to a rendez­vous not far from Saratoga.

Olivia, Joan, and their mother had long since constituted themselves the Three Musketeers, allied against their stepfather, whom they called the Iron Duke; they allied themselves, now, against father de Havilland as well. They sallied forth to meet and conquer him. They lost.

In a British accent so strong that his small-town American daughters could hardly understand him, de Havilland stated his position succinctly: If the girls lived with him, he would support them; if they did not, he was too poor to spare them a penny. His offer was rejected, and he rose to go. "I am sure," he concluded sarcastically, "that their rich American stepfather can do much better for them than I can." The musketeers retreated in disorder, the daydreams were quenched for a while, and matters, it seemed, could not possibly be worse.

But they could.

Olivia was stagestruck by now, which is not unusual in a high-school girl, and she was chosen for the leading part in her class play. She asked her mother, and her mother said yes, if G. M. would agree; but Olivia did not ask her step­father because she knew that he forbade extracurricular activities.

Secretly she studied and rehearsed her part. Secretly she made her own costume, sewing in her room and frantically hiding it when she heard her stepfather's foot­steps approaching.

The blow fell on the morning of the performance. G. M. had found out about it.

"You are not permitted to leave the house today," he informed Olivia.

She faced him squarely. "I must."

"I forbid it."

"I must. I can't let the others down."

"If you go, you need never come back."

"Then I won't come back. But I have to go."

Olivia was sixteen years old. She went to school, she played her part, and she never went back home.

That afternoon, when Olivia had been taken in by some friends, she called Joan and told her where she was now living.

"Why should I stay here, if Liv isn't going to?" Joan pondered. So she moved out too. Some friends, for whom she had done baby-sitting, took her in, with hu­morous indulgence; she baby-sat for them, helped around the house, and had a few days of happy freedom.

Then they concluded that this was no silly fifteen-year-old runaway; this was a determined exile. That made it differ­ent. They moved her to a tiny corner of the attic with the traditional iron bed­stead; she cooked and washed and ate in the kitchen with the Japanese servant; she wept into the dishwater. But she stuck it out.

For months to come the de Havilland sisters lived in Saratoga, a town of eight hundred population where everyone knew and saw everyone else. They passed their stepfather on the street, and he did not speak to them; they conversed hur­riedly and surreptitiously with their mother, when they met her shopping or picking up the mail, but she stuck to her principle: obedience to their stepfather. He wouldn't give in and neither would the girls. They worked for their keep, and they went to high school daily, where they got A's and A-minuses and just occasionally a B-plus. Two sisters, aged sixteen and fifteen, and all so the elder one could act in a high-school play. It doesn't seem fair to separate them now.

Mishap separated them then. Joan fell and dislocated her shoulder. She was taken to a nursing home, and things had never looked blacker. She couldn't work. She had no money. Olivia had no money; she was barely making enough for her board and keep. Secretly Joan wrote to father de Havilland and made him an offer: She would go live with him if he would take care of Olivia too.

It was a shrewd offer. Joan was the one he wanted: she more resembled the de Havilland half of the family. He accepted the bargain and came at once.

So the daydream was fulfilled; but you could hardly say it came true. Joan's father did buy her new clothes, including her first high heels and a suit she thought was snazzy; he did take her to Japan with him. But that was all. Walter de Havilland had turned to Japanese ways; he had married a Japanese woman (all through the last war, he stayed in intern­ment with her); he had become addicted to the Japanese game of Go, a game so profound that in our country only chess masters attempt it, and it monopolized his time and his interest. He planted Joan on shipboard and forgot about her. She stayed in her stateroom and wept, this time with seasickness as much as with homesickness.

When they arrived in Japan. Joan's father supported her but gave her no spending money, not even enough to see a movie. Joan was forbidden to see any old friends of her mother's, which meant in effect that she could see no one who spoke English.

Now Joan lived two lives, the official one in her father's home, where she sor­rowed and wept as she always had, and the secret one when she stole away to the British colony and laughed and danced and got herself "engaged" to a new man every week. But inevitably Joan was caught, and her father served an ulti­matum: She would stay away from the English "foreigners" or back she would go to the United States.

Joan wrote to Olivia: "Is it all right to come back?"—meaning, can you get along without the money our father sends you?—and Olivia wrote back, "Come along. I have a job." For Olivia had gotten her big break, a part in Reinhardt's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which led to her first contract with Warner Brothers and her uninterrupted rise to stardom. Joan sailed back to her family.

Paradoxically, it was a true family— despite the record. Even for their stepfather the girls felt nostalgic affection, and apparently they never doubted his genuine devotion to them, though his way of showing it may have seemed harsh. Olivia, as a minor, selected G. M. as her guardian, and long after she came of age he continued to keep books for her and invest her money. Joan admits she profited from his severe regimen. To this day she budgets her time, wastes nothing, prowls around her house turning off unneeded lights, won't make a long­distance call if she can telegraph, or send a telegram if she can write, or send a letter if a postcard will do. And, she says, "I can't ever bear to be late."

In the making of her latest picture one could hear Nick Ray, the director, shout­ing, "Miss Fontaine has been on the set for ten minutes. Can't the rest of you be on time?" The star, like the champion, has the prerogative of entering last—but not Joan. She gets to work early every morning, cuts short her forty-five-minute lunch period so she can be the first one back, and sprints like mad from one appointment to the next.

Thw entire community of Saratoga, California, agrees that Joan's feeling toward Olivia during their girlhood was one of hero-worship. Today, when osten­sibly the sisters aren't speaking, one promptly reaches the conclusion that it still is. Joan can't talk five minute with­out a memory, and Olivia is always half the memory and always the better half. Sent "The Snake Pit" to read, she re­turned it with a note. "I can't play this, but my sister can." Finding herself beside a strange dinner partner at a non-Hollywood party, where she had been introduced merely as "Mrs. Dozier," Joan playfully steered the conversation around to "the actress, Olivia de Havilland." "But," she laments, "everything he said was complimentary, so I couldn't embarrass him by saying, ‘She's my sister.'" Bill Dozier, whom Joan married in 1946, and from whom she was separated last month, says he has never heard her "even in an unguarded moment" say any­thing against Olivia. Joan may bitterly resent any implication that a sense of rivalry toward her sister led her to be­come an actress too, and perhaps emula­tion, rather than rivalry, is the proper word; but it would be hard to convince anyone that Joan would have entered the movies if Olivia hadn't set the example.

Joan's account of it is simplicity itself:

"I had to work or starve, and I wasn't trained for anything else but acting." G. M. Fontaine had considered shorthand and typing the proper education for two teen-age girls, but Olivia had resisted and Joan hadn't stuck around long enough. So if she was going to start off as an unskilled laborer, why not in a field that paid the best?

Olivia was the talented sister; for Joan it came harder. She knew only one thing, but it was the important thing to know— the secret formula of motion-picture success: Work like the devil!

It was a painful process, learning the myriad tricks of the trade—physical pain and mental pain, and Joan was still a crybaby. Her first job was in a stage pro­duction, and at the end of the rehearsal period the director bawled her out before the entire cast. He told her she didn't know the first thing about acting, and said he would fire her if it weren't that it was too late to get anyone else. All the long streetcar ride home, she had to keep her face turned to the window so the other riders wouldn't see the tears. But she went back the next day and played through the run of the show, which was three weeks.

Then Joan got the lead in a quickie— four days to make the entire picture, at twenty-five dollars a day. There were no rehearsals and no sets—they drove around in automobiles until the director would say, "Here's a good spot," and they would stop and shoot a scene, with the director repeating, "Come on, come on, we haven't got all day." This one almost killed Joan, literally. It was called Olym­pic Champ, and a member of the cast, practicing shot-putting, lost his aim and conked her on the head with a sixteen-pound stone. "I thought she was a goner," said Bruce Bennett, who played the male lead opposite her. They drove her to a hospital and took fourteen stitches in her head. But at seven o'clock that night, Joan was back to play a love scene, with the pain so bad she couldn't bear to be touched, so that Bennett had to embrace her and kiss her and still keep his arms and lips a fraction of an inch away.

There was gradual progress. Jesse Lasky signed Joan to a standard seven-year contract and took her to RKO, where she became a "B star," had secondary parts in a few A pictures, and attended her first Hollywood opening, spotlights, microphones, and all.

"I didn't have anyone to take me." Joan recalls, "but Liv had a boyfriend, and I asked if I could borrow him. She said of course." Off to the opening went nineteen-year-old Joan, with rented fox caps and lavish make-up and escort in top hat and tails. The picture was "A Damsel in Distress," and Joan danced briefly with Fred Astaire. Just as she and Fred came on the screen, at the very beginning of the picture, a woman behind Joan said, "My dear, isn't she terrible!" Joan began to cry. She couldn't see the picture through her tears, so she sneaked out and went home, leaving her escort behind.

This period, when Joan was perfecting the technique that has made her a fault­less craftsman, wise in all the ways of her profession, was not without pain to her employers, either. With overhead at four thousand dollars an hour, she would spoil one take after another: and after she had made eleven pictures for RKO, nine of them in two years, her agent telephoned her one evening. "They aren't taking up your option," he said.

Joan just sat there, hoping he wouldn't hear her heart drop to the floor. Then she hung up and went to bed. It was 1939, and Joan, a twenty-two-year-old veteran, was out of a job.

But Olivia said to her, "I'm working, dear, and you don't have to worry so long as I am." And anyway, Joan had become engaged to Brian Aherne, who preferred that his wife not be an actress. He had suggested retirement to her be­fore, and he had asked Mrs. Fontaine, "Do you think she'll really be willing to quit?" Mrs. Fontaine had said, "I think so. She's very domestic; she likes to cook and keep house, and she likes Englishmen and older men." So Joan and Brian set the date, and that might have been that—if Joan hadn't run into David Selznick at a party.

She had met Selznick before, and they had talked about books. Now Selznick asked what reading she had done lately.

"Rebecca," said Joan dreamily, "and it's wonderful."

"Want to try out for it?" asked Selznick.

That, of course, is an invitation few actresses could refuse; Joan couldn't. Be­sides, she wasn't married yet. She tested for "Rebecca" twenty-four times. But nothing had come of it when she and Aherne were married and went off honeymooning, and when unexpectedly she got a telegram offering her the part, she wired back, "Now it's too late."

In fact, it was Aherne (who didn't want his wife to be an actress) who decided Joan should take the part. He was about to begin a picture, and he thought it might be well for Joan to be occupied during the same hours and to earn some money of her own—"So she can buy a new hat when she wants it."

At the start of "Rebecca," Joan faced another disaster. The picture was in its first week when Laurence Olivier, the male star, went to director Hitchcock and said, "This girl won't do. Can't we get somebody else?" He thought Vivien Leigh, to whom he was engaged, should have the part. But Hitchcock stood up for Joan (and shrewdly told her the whole story, so as to have her on his side in any unforeseen disputes), and within a matter of days Joan found her­self. She has had no such troubles since, though she can shudder still to think of her narrow escape. "The disgrace," she says, "would have killed me."

For Joan, the ascent to stardom meant freedom in several senses. Always before, inculcated with principles of obedience to her elders, she had taken what parts were offered her and said, "Thank you, sir." Now, "I could throw my weight around a little"—she no longer hesitated to turn down a part she didn't think she could do. At the same time, she could indulge herself in a bit of informality.

Olivia was the prudish sister; Joan was the hoyden. Olivia as a girl was going to be a schoolteacher; Joan was going to marry and have fourteen chil­dren (she has since scaled her goal down to a more modest four). When they were teen-age, struggling actresses, a friend brought a phonograph record to play for them. It was called "Naughty Nellie Gwyn" and it was risqué, for those days, though no one would raise an eyebrow at it today. Joan giggled and loved it; Olivia said "Disgusting!" and stalked to her room (but she laughed a little, too). Anyway, both recoiled from the standard "Whatcha doon tonight, toots?" that star­lets encounter on all sides. "It took them a while," says Joan, "to learn that I wasn't to be had, and neither was Olivia."

Joan's defense then was an exaggerated dignity. She dressed like a duchess. She was formal with everyone. As a result—and partly because she had brought back from Tokyo an English accent, which always seems affected to Americans—Joan got a reputation for being high-hat. Then, having become a major star with whom liberties aren't taken, she began to disport herself around Hollywood in pigtails and ginghams; she got on first-name terms with everybody around the studios, and gradually her reputation changed, until now she is considered the most informal of all the stars. Even the chauffeur who drove her to the studio while she was pregnant (at all other times she drives herself) called her Jo-Ann.

She still kids and jokes on the set, and is Joan even to the waiter who brings her tray at lunchtime; but she has changed her mind about the pigtails and the ginghams. When Jesse Lasky took her to her first Academy Award dinner, at her mother's behest she appeared without make-up, "a freckle-faced girl in a homemade dress." Now she says, "I was wrong. An actress should look like an actress"—and she dresses to kill for every public appearance, even when she goes shopping for meat at Hollywood's famed Farmers Market. Joan spends twelve or thirteen thousand dollars a year on clothes—relatively low among the best-dressed women—and fights the income-tax people every inch of the way about how much of it she can deduct as necessary professional expense (they give her fifty per cent). She keeps a card-file record of every dress she buys, how much it cost, and all the dates and occasions when she wears it, with lists of precisely who was there: these records are always handy to confound the tax men. She has two hundred pairs of shoes, which is a staggering figure until you think of Lily Pons, who has two thousand.

All this time there were the constant rumors that Olivia and Joan were rivals and enemies, that they hated and despised each other. The sisters were not confidantes—"I never confide in women," says Joan; "I confide in men. Women can't keep a secret—except me. I can keep a secret." But they were friends; they lived together uninterruptedly between Joan's return from Japan and her marriage to Aherne; yet when she married and went to live with her hus­band—which would hardly be cause for scandal in any other community in the world—it was reported that they had "broken up."

They did have their fights. What sisters don't? Wise old Winston Churchill, noted no less tor his gift of simile than for his wisdom, knows no worse invective than "I hate you like a brother," and the basic difference between blood and water is that blood tends to become a bit thick. But the longest quarrel they ever had was of less than a month's duration, and the cause was a hat. It was simple, like this:

"Liv," said Joan, "may I wear your new hat today?"

"No," said Olivia.

So as soon as Olivia had gone out, Joan went out too and when Olivia came back, Joan and the hat were both conspicuous by their absence.

This quarrel, as all the de Havilland sisters' quarrels have, and as the current one probably will, dissolved in laughter. Mrs. Fontaine and her daughters took a ride along the seashore, the girls sullenly silent, the mother trying, as mothers will, to pacify them both. "Isn't the ocean beautiful!" exclaimed Mrs. Fontaine. "I've seen the ocean before," said Olivia crossly, and then she began to laugh, and they all began to laugh, and they laughed all the way home.

And, according to Joan, they never quarreled about the use of the family name, either. "I wanted a new name," says Joan, "because I was trying to get as far as I could from my unhappy child­hood." She tried Joan Burfield, a name taken from a Los Angeles street. Then she tried Joan St. John because of its rhythm, but that didn't work because on the stage, with its English tradition, they called it Sinjen, and the euphony was lost. Just before her third job, Joan went to a numerologist who told her she must have a name ending with "e." "I tried and tried, but I just couldn't think of a name ending in e except Fontaine." So she reverted to Fontaine, and since this was the job that led to her RKO contract, she has used the name ever since. She can't find it in her heart to blame the numerologist, either.

The Ahernes broke up in 1944, for whatever reasons. Maybe because he had married an actress, something he feared all along. Maybe—as their friends say— because Joan was oppressed by the rela­tively stiff dignity of the circle, a corner of old England, in which Aherne and nearly all other actors of British origin move in Hollywood. And it may be that Joan had been vainly chasing the dream image she formed, as a little girl, of her English father. Whatever the reasons, the sisters again were single and again they were inseparable during the two-year period between Joan's divorce and her remarriage.

Then, within four months of each other, both sisters became wives. Joan married William Dozier, as American as the tall corn of the Nebraska prairies from which he stems; and Olivia, unwed in her first thirty years, married Marcus Goodrich, product of old Virginia, a writer and author of the novel Delilah, which won tremendous critical acclaim when it was published in 1941.

Here enters the mystery story. "It's a mystery to me," says Joan. "And it's a mystery to me," says Mrs. Fontaine. Unaccountably, they say, and suddenly, Olivia stopped seeing her family, answer­ing their messages, or communicating with them in any way. As sharp, and apparently as unaccountable, was her break with all members of her official family.

It happened almost immediately after the Goodriches returned from their honeymoon; those concerned call it "the day everyone got fired." Olivia's agent, lawyer, publicity representative, tax consultant, and even her stepfather, who was still handling her business affairs, all received notices of termination of their contracts. (Formal notices, drawn by a lawyer—but signed, in ink, "Affection­ately, Olivia.")

The accomplished gossips of Hollywood got a slow start on this one. They had been crying wolf so long that they could hardly find anything new to say. But the evidence began to pile up.

The Doziers had a birthday party for Joan, on October 22, 1946, the first year of their marriage. The Goodriches were in­vited, and accepted, and their places were at the Doziers' table. Then, on the day of the party, Olivia called Joan to say that they couldn't come—"Marcus has a cold."

"But couldn't you come alone, just for an hour?" urged Joan.

"Oh, I couldn't," said Olivia. "Not with­out Marcus."

And their empty seats at the table set the tongues wagging again.

The Goodriches did have dinner with the Doziers—once. Joan cooked every­thing Olivia liked, but it didn't get eaten. "Marcus was on a diet, so Olivia was too."

"We sent them a telegram when our baby was first expected," says Dozier, "and we sent them a telegram when our baby arrived." (This was nine months ago.) "We didn't get an answer to either."

The visual evidence came first at the Academy Award dinner of 1947. Joan had won her Oscar, for "Suspicion," in 1942. Olivia had come close in 1944, with "Hold Back the Dawn," and now when she had made "To Each His Own" it could no longer be denied her. The award was made, and she made an eloquent speech of acceptance. Just as Joan, who was there with her mother and her husband, rushed up to kiss and congratulate her, Olivia turned away—and there, in that fortuitous fiftieth of a second, the camera caught them. Mrs. Fontaine, the only mother who ever had two Oscar-winning daughters, went silently back to the guest room of the Dozier house. Joan, reverting to her girlhood custom, fled to the master bedroom and sobbed for two hours.

Their mutual friends sit around, grieve because they can't see both sisters at the same time, and theorize about the situation.

Obviously, the tendency is to put the blame on Marcus Goodrich. There is a sound reason for this. Both sisters are so well liked that people can't bring them­selves to blame either.

One man, fired by Olivia after she became Mrs. Goodrich, now profession­ally connected with Joan, unwittingly gave away the entire theme.

"Joan," he said, "is a brilliant, cultured young woman. She's one of the most charming creatures I ever met She has absolutely no 'side.' I'm crazy about her." He paused and mused on this portrait. "But," he said, lowering his voice and glancing nervously at the walls, as if looking for their ears, "but—don't ever tell anyone I said this—I like Olivia even better."

When this whole thing started, their friends thought it might last a year. Now they give it five years. Joan isn't so sure. Occasionally the sisters do meet at someone's house, and they nod and go their separate ways. "But I can see a twinkle in Liv's eyes," says Joan. Maybe the laughter will pour out, as always before, to wash away the trouble.

Meanwhile, you see, Olivia hasn't been heard from. Expecting a baby, after she had been warned never to expect one, and in constant danger of losing it, she was locked six months ago behind a wall of protection built up by her doctor and her husband. Months passed without her being allowed to speak to anyone, or anyone to her.

And what if anyone did? When you meet an accomplished actress, you meet precisely the woman she wants you to see.

Joan knows this. "I hate all actresses," she says, "including me. You get your real self and your parts so mixed up you never can tell which is which."

Now and then, Joan has a tempera­mental outburst, or so they say. She had one not long ago. The eyes that usually sparkle with merriment flashed fire. The voice that is usually warm with sympathy was so cutting it hurt.

When the scene was over, and her assailant had fled, Joan leaned over toward a friend, and again the eyes twinkled and the voice was warm and winning.

"Not bad, was it?" she asked. "I re­hearsed it all night."

the end