Happy 102nd to Olivia de Havilland who celebrated another birthday yesterday. The below article was first printed last year.
Legendary actress Olivia de Havilland celebrated her 101st birthday today. Considered the last star of the Golden Age of Hollywood, she is best known for her role as Melanie in Gone with the Wind and her Oscar winning performance in The Heiress, directed by three time Oscar winner William Wyler. Less known, but no less important, is the De Havilland Law, a gutsy challenge to the grip of the studios.
“The De Havilland Law is the informal name of California Labor Code Section 2855. Hollywood industry lawyers in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s took the position that an exclusive personal services contract should be treated as suspended during the periods when the artist was not actually working. Since no artist could be working every single day (that is, including holidays and weekends), this interpretation meant that two, or later seven, years of actual service would be spread over a much longer calendar period, thus extending the time during which the studio system had complete control of a young artist’s career. In response, actress Olivia de Havilland filed a lawsuit on August 23, 1943 against Warner Bros. which was backed by the Screen Actors Guild. The lawsuit resulted in a landmark decision of the California Court of Appeal for the Second District in De Havilland’s favor on December 8, 1944. De Havilland’s legal victory reduced the power of the studios and extended greater creative freedom to performers. The decision was one of the most significant and far-reaching legal rulings in Hollywood. The decision came to be informally known, and is still known to this day, as the De Havilland Law.”