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Joan Fontaine

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Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland (aka Joan Fontaine) was born on October 22, 1917 in Tokyo, Japan in what was known as the International Settlement. Her father was a British patent attorney with a lucrative practice in Japan, but due to Joan and her older sister's ( 'Olivia de Havilland' (qv) ) recurring ailments the family moved to California with the hopes of improving their health. Mrs. de Havilland and the two girls settled in Saratoga while their father went back to his practice in Japan. Joan's parents did not get along well and a divorce soon followed. Mrs. de Havilland had a desire to be an actress but her dream was curtailed when she married. Now she hoped to pass on her dream to Olivia and Joan. While Olivia pursued a stage career, Joan went back to Tokyo where she attended the American School. In 1934, Joan came back to California where her sister was already making a name for herself on the stage. Joan likewise joined a theater group in San Jose. However, San Jose was not exactly an acting mecca so she went to Los Angeles to try her luck there. After moving to LA Joan adopted the name of Joan Burfield because she didn't want to infringe upon Olivia who was using the family surname. She tested at MGM for a small role in NO MORE LADIES in 1935. She was scarcely noticed. After that production, Joan was idle for a year and a half. During this time she roomed with Olivia who was having much more success in films. By 1937, this time using Joan Fontaine, she took a better role as Trudy Olson in YOU CAN'T BEAT LOVE. Later that year she took an uncredited part in QUALITY STREET. Although the next two years saw her in better roles Joan still yearned for something better. In 1940, she garnered her first Academy Award nomination in REBECCA. Although she thought she should have won, (she lost out to Ginger Rogers in KITTY FOYLE), she was now an established member of the Hollywood set. However, she would again be nominated for her role as Lina McLaidlaw Aysgarth in SUSPICION (1941). This time she won the coveted award. She was making one film a year but Joan was choosing her roles well. In 1942, she starred in the well-received THIS ABOVE ALL. The following year she appeared in THE CONSTANT NYMPH. Once again she was nominated for the Oscar only losing out to Jennifer Jones in THE SONG OF BERNADETTE. By now, it was safe to say she was now more famous than her older sister. More fine films followed. In 1948, Joan was forced to accept second billing in THE EMPEROR WALTZ with Bing Crosby. Joan took the year off in 1949 before coming back in 1950 with SEPTEMBER AFFAIR and BORN TO BE BAD. In 1951 she starred in Paramount's DARLING, HOW COULD YOU! which turned out badly for her and the studio as it wasn't the hit they imagined it to be. More weak productions followed. Joan slowed down on the big screen for a while taking part in television programs and dinner theaters. Joan also starred in many well produced Broadway plays such as FORTY CARATS and LION IN WINTER. Her last appearance on the big screen was THE DEVIL'S OWN in 1966. Her last public appearance in the electronic medium was GOOD KING WENCESLAS which was a made for TV film. Joan, today, still appears on the stage and lecture circuit while traveling and writing in her spare time. She is, without a doubt, a lasting movie icon.
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