Oscar Winner Joan Fontaine Dead at 96

Sister of Olivia de Havilland feuded with sibling for years
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2013 12:32 AM CST
Oscar Winner Joan Fontaine Dead at 96
This April 1945 file photo shows actress Joan Fontaine.   (AP Photo/File)

Joan Fontaine, who won the Best Actress Oscar in 1941 for her role opposite Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion, died peacefully in her sleep at her Carmel, Calif., home yesterday at age 96, the AP reports. Fontaine was also nominated for Oscars for her lead roles in The Constant Nymph and Hitchcock's Rebecca; played Jane Eyre opposite Orson Welles; appeared in films by Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, and Nicholas Ray; played opposite stars including Bing Crosby, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joan Crawford; and was nominated for an Emmy in 1980. She was also involved in what the AP calls "one of Hollywood's legendary feuds" with her own older sister, Olivia de Havilland, who lost out on the Best Actress to Fontaine in 1941. "I felt Olivia would spring across the table and grab me by the hair," Fontaine later wrote, according to the Washington Post.

Fontaine later wrote in her memoir about a rivalry that had existed since childhood, and once told a reporter, "I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it!" (De Havilland, who ended up besting Fontaine with two Oscars, is currently living in Paris, age 97, the Hollywood Reporter notes.) When de Havilland won her own Oscar in 1947, Fontaine tried to congratulate her and was rebuffed. Fontaine ultimately left Hollywood after being asked to play Elvis Presley's mother, explaining that the role simply "wasn't my cup of tea." She spent 25 years in New York, appearing in dinner theater plays and on Broadway, and appeared on TV quite a bit in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. She was married four times, and had two children. Click for more on her 71-year feud with de Havilland. (Read more Joan Fontaine stories.)

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