DATELINE: Lady in a Caged Lawsuit
DeHavilland as vindictive Heiress (1949)
Perhaps the 101-year-old legendary star actress has outlived her own values.
According to a California court, Miss Olivia De Havilland has no right to stop an unflattering portrayal of herself in Ryan Murphy’s ripe black comedy called Feud. It’s the nasty tale of how Bette Davis and Joan Crawford spoiling for a fight over their careers and in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.
Miss DeHavilland’s character called her own sister, actress Joan Fontaine, a “bitch” on screen, to which De Havilland objected. She called her many things, but never bitch.
She would have preferred “dragon lady,” but the producers of Feud and the courts felt that it was too archaic and not colorful enough to suit the story. Olivia De Havilland was kicked harder than Joan Crawford in Baby Jane, all in the name of artistic expression.
If the law is to be understood nowadays, you don’t have a right to stop the First Amendment, however disabused you may suffer at the hands of hack writers.
In all likelihood, Ryan Murphy, smug as ever, never realized Olivia DeHavilland, a two-time Oscar winner for 1940 and 1949, was still alive. He continued to call her “Olivia” this year, as if they were on a first-name basis, throughout the legal case.
So, Miss De Havilland stayed in seclusion in Paris while Hollywood glamour types and writers now have open season on living beings. A screenwriter can put whatever words he wants into your mouth, all in the name of artistic freedom, and therein rests the script.
Hollywood’s new bread-and-butter is the documentary bio-film with re-enactors and colorful revisions to history. Miss De Havilland did not stand a chance, and we wouldn’t blame her for calling Ryan Murphy “a son of a bitch.”