Joan Fontaine

Active - 1935 - 2011  |   Born - Oct 22, 1917 in Tokyo, Japan  |   Died - Dec 15, 2013 in Carmel, CA  |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy

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Biography

Born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland, Joan Fontaine began her acting career in her late teens with various West Coast stage companies under the name Joan Burfield. She also used that name when she made her 1935 feature film debut in No More Ladies, in which she had a minor role. The daughter of '40s actress Lilian Fontaine, she returned to the screen as Joan Fontaine after two more years of stage work, although appearing primarily in B-movies. Two exceptions were A Damsel in Distress (1937) opposite Fred Astaire and Gunga Din (1939) with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Her career took off in the early '40s due largely to leads in two Alfred Hitchcock films. Fontaine received Best Actress Oscar nominations for her work in the director's Rebecca (1940) and The Constant Nymph (1943), and won an Oscar for her performance in Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941). She starred in many subsequent films, at first playing innocent, well-bred types, but later maturing into roles as sophisticated, worldly, often hot-headed or maliciously calculating women. Appearing in few films after 1958, Fontaine was also a licensed pilot, champion balloonist, prize-winning tuna fisherman, expert golfer, licensed interior decorator, and Cordon Bleu cook. The sister of actress Olivia de Havilland (with whom she supposedly had many feuds), the first three of Fontaine's four husbands were actor Brian Aherne, producer William Dozier, and producer/screenwriter Collier Young. She published an autobiography, No Bed of Roses, in 1978 and made two rare TV movie and miniseries appearances in 1986. Joan Fontaine's final big-screen appearance was the intelligent British horror/drama The Devil's Own; her last TV work was in the 1994 production Good King Wenceslas. She died in 2013 at age 96.

Movie Highlights

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Factsheet

  • Made her screen debut in 1935's No More Ladies billed as Joan Burfield; has also used the name Joan St. John.
  • She and Olivia de Havilland were the first sisters to win Oscars and the first ones to be Oscar-nominated in the same year, 1941 (Joan won for Suspicion and Olivia was nominated for Hold Back the Dawn).
  • Costarred with her mother in Ivy (1947) and The Bigamist (1953).
  • Autobiography No Bed of Roses was published in 1978.
  • Was vice-president of the Episcopal Actors' Guild of America.
  • Had a hole-in-one at both California's Cypress Point and Carmel Valley Golf Clubs.
  • Was a licensed interior decorator and a licensed pilot.
  • Was a recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award.