By December 23, 2013 4 Comments Read More →

Last Night I Dreamt of Manderley

Originally posted on ‘the secret keeper’ 20th Dec 2013 but has been modified for Expats Post].


The deaths, last weekend, of Peter O’Toole and Joan Fontaine reminded me of star royalty. Fontaine had drifted away. I kept checking to make sure she was alive. But now, I know she is no longer with us. Her sister, and rival is still here. One year older and on the other side of the ocean, that is how Joan Fontaine had acted since she won an Oscar in the same year they both were nominated. Olivia de Haviland just wanted to congratulate her but for whatever reason, Joan Fontaine wanted none of it. That was where the line was drawn.

Trailer – Rebecca [Hitchcock] – Joan Fontaine

I continue to watch her films today, she made many brilliant ones. My favorite is “Rebecca” and yes, there is the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. The other is Hitchcock’s “Suspicion,” where her character feels that her husband [Cary Grant] is trying to kill her. The audience isn’t any better at knowing the truth than her character. We find what she knows or thinks she knows, convinces us maybe she is right. I love both sisters. They gave us great characters to love. Olivia de Haviland’s favorite of mine is Melanie in “Gone With the Wind.” She is probably the sweetest character who ever existed in films.

Families all have their problems and some just do not get along or want anything to do with the other member, no matter what. In this case, Joan Fontaine took to the grave the absence of her sister from her life. It wasn’t a Hollywood pretend distance. It was made by something only Joan or Olivia know for sure. And now only Olivia holds the truth of it.

Joan Fontaine & Tony Perkins on Mike Douglas Show [1967]

But I found out something today, rummaging around, Joan Fontaine, in her own words, when asked the question, what caused the broken connection between you and your sister. Joan Fontaine’s answer was extensive & will post the interview tape for those who want to hear it firsthand. First, when they were children, Olivia showed absolutely no warmth toward Joan at all. There was the mystery of a broken collar bone. Joan said she assumed it was an accident. But even that wasn’t the worst part.

When they were adults, Joan Fontaine had prepared her 80 year old mother for death. Along comes Olivia wanting the doctors to cut open their mother, to probe inside her to see if they can fix her. Joan told her sister she would have none of that. She wouldn’t consent. Well, Joan had some commitments to take care of. When their mother died, Olivia sent Joan a telegram to inform her of their mother’s death without finding out where she was.


She received the telegram two weeks after her mother died. To Joan, this was unforgivable. Olivia knew how to find her. After listening to Joan Fontaine speak of this, it makes me wonder who lies behind that sweet face of Melonie from “Gone With the Wind.” Remember Olivia de Havilland is 97, one year older than Joan Fontaine and still very much alive, living in Paris, France. Joan Fontaine lived in LA, California.

Retro Bites: Joan Fontaine – Sisters [Answers Questions Re: Feud with Olivia de Havilland & more]

I have pulled together some entertaining and informative videos to watch, I felt these were the best. One is her screen test for Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.” She is brilliant just reading for the role. It is a walk down the road with someone I find to be one of the Great Actresses we will never see again in anyone new coming up. Joan Fontaine made a statement on one of the tapes which I will paraphrase. She didn’t feel those in the film industry were making films to make anyone special any longer.

If you look around at what we call celebrity today, I believe she has something in what she says. No one is really special. Someone may stand out for a brief moment in between the next film or TV show we watch. But it doesn’t feel that anyone stays with us, not the way that Greta Garbo, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, just to name a few, have done. And now we can add to this list Peter O’Toole and Joan Fontaine, to those who were special and will remain special. They made films that make them last into immortality.

Enjoy the videos I included in this tribute to Joan Fontaine. Watch whatever strike you. There is some great footage of Joan Fontaine. There is even a great interview segment from the Mike Douglas Talk Show from long ago, Joan Fontaine is a guest host and the guest who is called out is “Tony Perkins,” none other than Norman Bates from the Hitchcock film “Psycho.” He is a delight. The interview is joyful and it gives the viewer a wonderful glimpse into Joan Fontaine and Anthony Perkins, who, also, is no longer with us. He is a gem the world lost too young. The two did “Tea and Sympathy” together on Broadway.

I will leave you to enjoy. I did this to honor a truly Great Actress I have loved since I was very young.

RIP Joan Fontaine. Remember You Are One of the Greats Forever!!!

One last tidbit about “Rebecca,” Lawrence Olivier was ticked off Vivien Leigh, who did a screen test with Olivier, her husband, but, obviously, did not get the part, so he treated Joan Fontaine miserably. Now, Hitchcock being the director, you would think he would step in and correct the situation. Nope. Instead, he told Olivier to keep treating her badly. The rest of the cast received the same instructions. Hitchcock felt it would make for a better performance, having Joan Fontaine thrown off kilter and made to feel insecure and unsure of herself.

Well, it didn’t spoil her receiving an Oscar Nomination for “Rebecca.” I feel playing the second Mrs. De Winter should have been her Oscar winner, instead it was for her role in her other Hitchcock film, “Suspicion.”

I will leave you to enjoy. I did this to honor a truly Great Actress I have loved since I was very young.

RIP Joan Fontaine. Remember You Are One of the Greats Forever!!!

RIP Joan Fontaine – Tribute

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Last Night I Dreamt of Manderley, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

About the Author:

Words. Ideas. Visions. Sounds. Abstractions. Attract the Writer. Poet. Artist Inside of Me. Seeking Out the Unknown & Infinite Possibilities & Impossibilities. Living My Life Filled with Imagination & Creativity. Zen – j.kiley
  • Cher Duncombe

    Joan Fontaine had enormous class, as did Peter O’Toole. I would love to revisit some of the films you mention here, Jennifer. These actors are compelling, each in their own way. We never quite know what divides families, but it seems to be that human condition. It is always so sad, though, when it happens. Splendid write-up!

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    • I was thinking about doing a marathon of watching films. Some Fontaine and the some O’Toole. Start out with Rebecca. Move on to Lawrence of Arabia or The Stuntman. For Joan, I watched September Affair last night for the first time. It was a curiously lovely film. Joan Fontaine, Joseph Cotton & Jessica Tandy. I did not recognize Jessica Tandy right away.

      We could try to find the same film around the same time & we could talk about it.

      You know what is a beautiful film. It has nothing to do with Joan or Peter but is of the Peter O’Toole era. “Dr. Zhivago” with Julie Christie & Omar Sharif. It is a long film, but beautiful.

      No but sometime a person has to retreat from something toxic> It definitely sounded like the sisters weren’t meant to be together. It is a weird call to make. But we weren’t inside their heads. I do know how I feel about family. It is not blood but who you love most in this world and beyond.

      I have some great films & ideas for future film reviews & things related. Thank you, Cher.

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  • Yes it’s sad. I like both of them. I still watch Rebecca every now a and the when I feel depressed.

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    • There will always be Manderley. We can see her there anytime. There is something about all the confusion people get in with “Rebecca.” She is once again with Mrs. Danvers. Maybe, maybe not. It is a good film for moods and to be spooked just a bit.

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