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Olivia de Havilland

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Academy Pays Tribute To Legendary Actress

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Olivia de Havilland

Olivia de Havilland, the great star of a platoon of Hollywood's finest including "Gone With the Wind," "The Adventures of Robin Hood," "The Heiress" and "The Snake Pit," all of which regularly and prominently show up on 'best of' and 'favorite movie' lists, has certainly had her share of prestigious awards through the years, including Oscars in 1946 and 1949.

But next year, on June 15, this amazing and quite indefatigable woman will be receiving a very special tribute from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an organization near and dear to the actress' heart, not only because of those golden trophies she has received but also because of her own affection for and appreciation of what the Academy represents.

She has been a member since 1940 and an Oscar presenter many times (including, most memorably, at the 2003 ceremony), and she's a five-time nominee. Making appearances at salutes and prize parties is something she has always kept to a minimum, but this invitation from the Academy is one that came with perfect timing.

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Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Wilkes

in 'Gone With The Wind'

It'll be happening in the city where her career began, taking place at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills just two weeks before her 90th birthday. So she will indeed be traveling from her home in Paris for the event, which will be complete with film clips from many of her screen performances and an onstage discussion of her career.

And what a career. It actually began at the Hollywood Bowl in 1934 with a Max Reinhardt stage production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Its cast included a pint-sized Mickey Rooney as Puck. She followed that with a film version of 'Dream' and a long-term contract at Warner Bros. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. had both highs and lows for the actress.

On the high end, de Havilland starred in eight films with Errol Flynn, starting with 1935's "Captain Blood." Her lows included enough bad scripts and treatment to lead her to pursue a lawsuit against Warners that kept her off the screen for three years. However, it did result in 'The de Havilland Decision' on the California law books which limits to seven calendar years the time that any employer can forcibly keep an employee under contract.

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Friends Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland star

as sisters in the drama, 'In This Our Life'

By taking on, in essence, all the major film studios of that time, she indeed flirted with career suicide; by winning, as her friend Bette Davis said, "Every actor in Hollywood now and in the future owes a great debt of gratitude to Olivia."

Freed from bondage at Warners, de Havilland's career flowered more than ever; later, she opted to devote most of her time to family life, moving to Paris, where she raised two children and even wrote a best-seller, "Every Frenchman Has One."

The film magic she created still endures mightily, and it'll be prominently on display in June in Beverly Hills with the added good news that the lady herself is making a rare visit to the turf where it all started.

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