Olivia de Havilland’s Niece (Joan Fontaine’s Daughter) Remembers Her as a ‘Dear Mentor’

Deborah Dozier Potter, whose mother was Joan Fontaine (1917-2013) and whose aunt was Olivia de Havilland (1916-2020), has written a touching remembrance of her late aunt.

In it, she reveals she was far closer to Olivia than to her own mom.

Potter acknowledges the famous sisters' infamous feud, writing:

“Olivia and my mother were, indeed, competitive adversaries. A year and a half apart in age, competing for the same three parents’ attention, the same film roles, sometimes the same men. They were also very different. Joan was glib, Olivia was gracious.”

She also recalls what the said was the very last time the sisters ever spoke — 1973. It was during a weekend trip to Santa Barbara, California, that gathered de Havilland, Fontaine and their beloved mother together for what would also be another notable last:

“The next morning, the sisters and Gams posed for prearranged professional photos. During the process they bickered like two little girls in the back seat of a car. Joan pushed one of Olivia’s buttons and she left, never to speak to Joan again.”

I do wonder if she's off by a year, because these images from 1972 certainly feel like they could be the last?

The piece reveals many interesting tidbits, including de Havilland's joy at being told by her director that her dailies were excellent (quite possibly for her final feature, The Fifth Musketeer, released later that year), her lack of emotion when Fontaine died (“What shall we say when the press starts phoning?” she asked her niece), and her excitement at receiving a birthday wish in her eighties from President Bill Clinton.

She wraps the remembrance up with:

“The great star died in her sleep, peacefully, beautifully and filled with grace. And so, my dear Aunt Olivia, thank you for loving me and for being such a mentor to me.”

Lovely. Now, I would like to read a candid remembrance of her mother!

Read more at The Santa Fe New Mexican.

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