Olivia is now a full year into her second century! So far, 2017 has been a significant year for her. In June, she was named a Dame by the Queen of England. This honor made her the oldest ever dame. It is a well-deserved honor and completes the trifecta of national honors from countries Olivia has had a connection with throughout her life. In 2008, she was honored in a ceremony at the White House by President Bush with the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor for a US president to bestow upon an artist. In 2010, French President Nicolas Sarkozy honored her with the Legion of Honor at a ceremony at the presidential palace. Receiving damehood from the Queen of England bestows honors upon Olivia from her parents' country and the country of her birth citizenship. Olivia was born to British parents in Tokyo, Japan in 1916. After moving to California as a child and launching her Hollywood career at 18, Olivia became a naturalized American citizen on November 28, 1941 at the age of 25.
Olivia responded to the announcement of receiving damehood with the following statement:
"I am extremely proud that the Queen has appointed me a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. To receive this honour as my 101st birthday approaches is the most gratifying of birthday presents.”
Receiving an appointment of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire is not the only significant event concerning Olivia to take place in recent days. Yesterday afternoon, on the eve of her 101st birthday, attorneys for Olivia filed a lawsuit in L.A. County Superior Court against FX and Ryan Murphy Productions over her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones in the 2017 production of Feud: Bette and Joan. In the 33 page complaint, Olivia claims the production company financially benefitted from the use of her name, likeness and identity without seeking her permission or providing her compensation. Further, she claims the portrayal of her in the series took advantage of her prestige, social and commercial standing, causing harm to her reputation. Olivia is seeking damages and profits gained as a result of the use of likeness in Feud.
This is not Olivia's first foray into seeking legal protection. On August 23, 1943 after Warner Brothers studio extended her contract six times for rejecting the roles it suggested, Olivia filed suit against the studio. On December 8, 1944, Olivia de Havilland won her lawsuit against Warners Brothers when the California Court of Appeal of the second district unanimously ruled that seven years from the commencement of service meant seven calendar years. Since Olivia had started work under her contract at Warners on May 5, 1936, and seven calendar years had elapsed from that date, the contract was no longer enforceable. This freed Olivia from an unending cycle of suspensions and extensions of her contract at Warner Brothers and enabled her to seek different projects with other studios.
As a result of her efforts, California Labor Law 2855 became known as "the de Havilland Law." Olivia's lawsuit didn't just free her from an unending contract, legions of other actors at the time and in the decades to follow were able to take advantage of the precedent and it has been cited as recently as 2009 involving a dispute over a music contract between EMI Records and Jared Leto and Shannon Leto of the band Thirty Seconds to Mars.
Complaint filed by Olivia de Havilland against FX and Ryan Murphy Productions
Author's Personal Note and Birthday Wish
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Olivia de Havilland has reached her centenary! July 1, 2016 marks her 100th birthday! Olivia stands as the oldest living recipient of an Academy Award and is a member of a class of only four other women currently living to receive at least two best actress Academy Awards! Her career, life, and legacy continue to inspire and engage generations of fans around the world!
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