Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine dead at 96

Mon Dec 16, 2013 2:28am EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine, one of the last of the leading ladies from Hollywood's Golden Age whose career was marked by a storied and bitter rivalry with her older sister, Olivia de Havilland, died on Sunday at age 96.

Fontaine died in her sleep Sunday morning at her home in Carmel, California which overlooked the Pacific Ocean, after having been in failing health in recent days, said Noel Beutel, a longtime friend of the actress.

"She was an amazing woman, she had such a big heart and she will be missed," Beutel told Reuters, adding that she had had lunch with the actress just last week.

Among Fontaine's most memorable films in a Hollywood career spanning four decades and some four dozen films was the Alfred Hitchcock thriller "Suspicion," co-starring Cary Grant, for which she won an Academy Award in 1942, beating out her sister in the competition.

The honor gave Fontaine the distinction of being the only performer, actor or actress, ever to win an Academy Award for a starring role in one of Hitchcock'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 leading roles in 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 her star turns in 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," falling for a dashing composer played by Charles Boyer.   Continued...