Entertainment News

  • 16 December 2013, 12:11

Joan Fontaine: Oscar Winner Dies Aged 96

Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine - the star of several Alfred Hitchcock thrillers - has died aged 96.

Fontaine, whose film career was marked by a long-running rivalry with her sister Olivia de Havilland, passed away in her sleep at her home in Carmel, California.

Among her most memorable films was the Hitchcock picture Suspicion, co-starring Cary Grant, for which she won an Academy Award in 1942.

It gave her the distinction of being the only performer ever to win an Academy Award for a starring role in one of the legendary filmmaker's many movies.

De Havilland, who was nominated that year for Hold Back The Dawn, went on to win two Oscars of her own for the 1946 film To Each His Own and the 1949 picture The Heiress.

Now aged 97, de Havilland resides in Paris. Her Oscar victories established the feuding sisters as the only two siblings ever to both win Academy Awards for acting.

Fontaine also earned Oscar nominations for Hitchcock's 1940 American debut Rebecca, co-starring opposite Laurence Olivier as a young bride haunted by the memory of her husband's deceased first wife, and the 1943 romantic drama The Constant Nymph.

She appeared mousy and innocent in her early movies but later carefully selected her roles and went on to play worldly, sophisticated women.

She wrote in her 1978 autobiography No Bed Of Roses that her sickly condition as a child helped develop her acting skills.

In her sickbed fantasies - or pillow dreams, as she called them - Fontaine created "endless scenes of romance, passion, jealousy, rejection, death".

Her childhood marked the beginning of an enduring rivalry with de Havilland as they competed for parental attention.

"I regret that I remember not one act of kindness from her all through my childhood," Fontaine wrote.

Fontaine was born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland to British parents in Tokyo on October 22, 1917.

In Hollywood, she took her stepfather's surname to avoid being confused with the already-established Olivia.

She was married to British actor Brian Aherne, producer William Dozier, screenwriter-producer Collier Young and sports writer Alfred Wright Jr She had two daughters.

In her memoirs, Fontaine maintained she repeatedly turned down marriage proposals from tycoon Howard Hughes, as well as offers to be the mistress of Joseph Kennedy and other political figures.

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