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De Havilland breaks sibling fued silence

Associated Press Associated Press 1/07/2016

Celebrating her 100th birthday, indomitable actress Olivia de Havilland has finally broken her silence on Hollywood's most famous sibling rivalry.

In a rare interview, one of the last living remnants of Hollywood's Golden Age has disclosed her true feelings about her late sister Joan Fontaine, revealing that she calls her Dragon Lady.

Posing on a chaise longue in a demure black dress in her Saint James Paris residence, the still-glamorous two-time Oscar winner quipped that only "the pearls are fake" before she agreed to answer more detailed questions via email - her preferred mode of communication because of her failing hearing and vision.

De Havilland said the "legend of a feud" with her sister was first created by an article entitled Sister Act in Life Magazine following the 1942 Oscars, where both sisters were nominated for an Academy Award.

Fontaine, who was then the lesser known sister, won, for Suspicion while de Havilland had been nominated for Hold Back the Dawn.

"A feud implies continuing hostile conduct between two parties. I cannot think of a single instance wherein I initiated hostile behaviour," she said.

"But I can think of many occasions where my reaction to deliberately inconsiderate behaviour was defensive," she added.

It is unclear what Fontaine, who died in 2013, would make of the analysis. Describing the 1942 Oscars in her 1978 memoir, No Bed of Roses, she painted a somewhat different picture.

"All the animus we'd felt toward each other as children, the hair-pullings, the savage wrestling matches, the time Olivia fractured my collarbone, all came rushing back in kaleidoscopic imagery," she wrote.

"My paralysis was total. I felt Olivia would spring across the table and grab me by the hair. I felt age 4, being confronted by my older sister. Damn it, I'd incurred her wrath again!"

De Havilland went on to win two Oscars for To Each His Own in 1947 and The Heiress in 1950, but that apparently didn't warm her to her younger sibling.

After her 1947 win, Fontaine came forward to congratulate de Havilland and was rebuffed. De Havilland's publicist said at the time: "This goes back for years and years, ever since they were children."

De Havilland has mainly kept her silence on her version of events but in the interview with Associated Press called the memories of her sister "multi-faceted, varying from endearing to alienating".

"On my part, it was always loving but sometimes estranged and, in the later years, severed," she said, succinctly.

"Dragon Lady, as I eventually decided to call her, was a brilliant, multi-talented person, but with an astigmatism in her perception of people and events which often caused her to react in an unfair and even injurious way," she said.

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