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Joan Fontaine
Joan Fontaine 1951.jpg
Fontaine in 1951
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland

(1917-10-22)October 22, 1917
Tokyo, Japan
Died December 15, 2013(2013-12-15) (aged 96)
Other names
  • Joan Burfield
  • Joan St. John
  • Tokyo School for Foreign Children
  • Los Gatos High School
Occupation Actress
Years active 1935–1994
  • Brian Aherne
    (m. 1939; div. 1945)
  • William Dozier
    (m. 1946; div. 1951)
  • Collier Young
    (m. 1952; div. 1961)
  • Alfred Wright Jr.
    (m. 1964; div. 1969)
Children 2
  • Walter de Havilland
  • Lilian Fontaine
Relatives Olivia de Havilland (sister)
Awards Academy Award for Best Actress (1941)

Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland (October 22, 1917 – December 15, 2013), known professionally as Joan Fontaine, was a British-American actress best known for her starring roles in Hollywood films. Fontaine appeared in more than 45 feature films in a career that spanned five decades. She was the younger sister of actress Olivia de Havilland.

Early life and career

Joan Fontaine 1945
Joan Fontaine 1945

Born in Tokyo to British parents, Fontaine moved to California before she was two years old. She traveled there along with her mother, Lilian Fontaine, and sister, the actress Olivia de Havilland, following her parents' divorce.

After living in Japan and attending school there for a short while, she began her stage career in 1935, signing a film contract with RKO Pictures. Fontaine received her first major role in The Man Who Found Himself (1937); however, she failed to make a significant impression and her contract was not renewed.

Joan Fontaine 1943
Joan Fontaine 1943

Her career prospects improved greatly after her starring role in the Alfred Hitchcock-directed Rebecca (1940), for which she received the first of what would be three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress; the following year, she won for her role in Suspicion (1941). A third Oscar nomination came with the film The Constant Nymph.

She appeared mostly in drama films through the 1940s—including Letter from an Unknown Woman, which is now considered a classic. In the next decade, her career began to decline and she moved into stage and television roles. She appeared in fewer films into the 1960s, her final feature film being The Witches (1966).

Personal life

Promotional photograph for the film Jane Eyre 1943

Fontaine held dual citizenship; she was British by birthright (both her parents were British) and became an American citizen in April 1943. Outside of acting, Fontaine was also noted as being a licensed pilot, an accomplished interior decorator, and a Cordon Bleu-level chef.

Fontaine's autobiography, No Bed of Roses, was published in 1978. In 1982, she traveled to Berlin, Germany and served as a jury president for the Berlin International Film Festival.

Fontaine's last role for television was in the 1994 TV film Good King Wenceslas, after which she retired to her estate, Villa Fontana, in Carmel Highlands, California, where she spent time in her gardens and with her dogs.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Fontaine has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1645 Vine Street. She left her hand and foot prints in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre on 26 May 1942.

Later life

Joan Fontaine Rebecca 1940
Joan Fontaine Rebecca 1940

For most of her middle to later life, Fontaine was active in radio, television, and the stage. She released an autobiography, No Bed of Roses, in 1978; she continued to act until her last performance in 1994. Fontaine lived in Carmel Highlands, California, where she owned a home, Villa Fontana.

Having won an Academy Award for her role in Suspicion, Fontaine is the only actor to have won an Academy Award for acting in a Hitchcock film. Furthermore, she and her sister remain the only siblings to have won major acting Academy Awards.

Death and legacy

Joan Fontaine 1942
Joan Fontaine 1942

On December 15, 2013, Fontaine died in her sleep of natural causes at the age of 96 in her Carmel Highlands home. Her longtime friend Noel Beutel said, "She had been fading in recent days and died peacefully." After Fontaine's death, de Havilland released a statement saying she was "shocked and saddened" by the news. Fontaine was cremated.

Fontaine's Academy Award for Best Actress in Suspicion was initially going to be sold at an animal rights auction; however, the Academy threatened to sue since it was not offered back to them for $1 and Fontaine's estate retained possession.


Year Title Role Notes
1935 No More Ladies Caroline 'Carrie' Rumsey Credited as Joan Burfield
1937 A Million to One Joan Stevens
Quality Street Charlotte Parratt Uncredited
The Man Who Found Himself Nurse Doris King
You Can't Beat Love Trudy Olson
Music for Madame Jean Clemens
A Damsel in Distress Lady Alyce Marshmorton
1938 Maid's Night Out Sheila Harrison
Blond Cheat Juliette 'Julie' Evans
Sky Giant Meg Lawrence
The Duke of West Point Ann Porter
1939 Gunga Din Emmy
Man of Conquest Eliza Allen
The Women Mrs. John Day (Peggy)
1940 Rebecca The second Mrs. de Winter Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
nominated – New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress – directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1941 Suspicion Lina Academy Award for Best Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress – directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1942 This Above All Prudence Cathaway
1943 The Constant Nymph Tessa Sanger Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Jane Eyre Jane Eyre (as an adult)
1944 Frenchman's Creek Dona St. Columb
1945 The Affairs of Susan Susan Darell
1946 From This Day Forward Susan Cummings
1947 Ivy Ivy
1948 Letter from an Unknown Woman Lisa Berndle
The Emperor Waltz Countess Johanna Augusta Franziska
You Gotta Stay Happy Dee Dee Dillwood
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands Jane Wharton
1950 September Affair Marianne 'Manina' Stuart
Born to Be Bad Christabel Caine Carey
1951 Darling, How Could You! Alice Grey
Othello Page Uncredited
1952 Something to Live For Jenny Carey
Ivanhoe Rowena
1953 Decameron Nights Fiametta/Bartolomea/Ginevra/Isabella
Flight to Tangier Susan Lane
The Bigamist Eve Graham
1954 Casanova's Big Night Francesca Bruni Alternative title: Mr. Casanova
1956 Serenade Kendall Hale
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Susan Spencer
1957 Island in the Sun Mavis Norman
Until They Sail Anne Leslie
1958 A Certain Smile Françoise Ferrand
1961 The Light That Failed Hostess TV movie
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Dr. Susan Hiller
1962 Tender Is the Night Baby Warren
1966 The Witches Gwen Mayfield Alternative title: The Devil's Own
1978 The Users Grace St. George TV movie
1986 Dark Mansions Margaret Drake TV movie
1994 Good King Wenceslas Queen Ludmilla TV movie

Television credits

Year Title Role Episode(s)
1953–1954 Four Star Playhouse Trudy "Trudy"
"The Girl on the Park Bench"
1956 The Ford Television Theatre Julie "Your Other Love"
1956 Star Stage "The Shadowy Third"
1956 The 20th Century Fox Hour Lynne Abbott "Stranger In the Night"
1956–1957 The Joseph Cotten Show Adrienne "Fatal Charm"
"The De Santre Story"
1956–1960 General Electric Theater Linda Stacey
Laurel Chapman
Melanie Langdon
Countess Irene Forelli
"A Possibility of Oil"
"The Story of Judith"
"At Miss Minner's"
"The Victorian Chaise Lounge"
"In Summer Promise"
1959 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Margaret Lewis "Perilous"
1960 Startime Julie Forbes "Closed Set"
1960 Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond Ellen Grayson "The Visitor"
1961 Checkmate Karen Lawson "Voyage Into Fear"
1962 The Dick Powell Show Valerie Baumer "The Clocks"
1962 Kraft Mystery Theatre Margaret Lewis "Perilous"
1963 Wagon Train Naomi Kaylor "The Naomi Kaylor Story"
1963 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Alice Pemberton "The Paragon"
1965 The Bing Crosby Show Mrs. Taylor "Operation Man Save"
1975 Cannon Thelma Cain episode: "The Star"
1980 Ryan's Hope Paige Williams Five episodes
nominated – Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest/Cameo Appearance in a Daytime Drama Series
1981 Aloha Paradise "Love Teacher/The Actress/Prodigy"
"Turn Me On/Treasure Hunt/A Child Will Become Father"
1981 The Love Boat Jennifer Langley "Chef's Special/Beginning Anew/Kleinschmidt"
1983 Bare Essence Laura "Hour Four"
"Hour Five"
1986 Hotel Ruth Easton "Harassed"
1986 Crossings Alexandra Markham Miniseries

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