Olivia de Havilland, who I interviewed in 1986 for my tome Women, has become the oldest recipient of a damehood at the age of 100, in the centenary of the honour itself. The actress, who is approaching her 101st birthday and lives in Paris, said she was extremely proud to be made a dame for her services to drama, in recognition of her glittering Hollywood career.
With her daughter Gisele at the Golden Globe Awards in 1979. Giselle was her only daughter to husband Pierre Galante.
The Gone with the Wind star, a double Oscar winner who will celebrate her birthday in July, is 11 months older than the Order of the British Empire itself, which was founded in 1917 by George V. ‘I’m extremely proud that The Queen has appointed me a Dame Commander of the British Empire,’ Dame Olivia said last Friday. ‘To receive this honour as my 101st birthday approaches is the most gratifying of birthday presents.’
She joins an illustrious group of older recipients, with Dame Vera Lynn last year made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour at the age of 99.
Dame Olivia is known for her on-screen collaborations with Errol Flynn in films including The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1936 and The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938. She was born to British parents in Tokyo, but moved to California when she was young. She won Oscars for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949).
When I met her for the first time I was enchanted by her warmth, her straight talking and somehow, unexpectedly, we hit a common chord. She then introduced me to her daughter Gisèlle Gallante, born in 1956, who I interviewed at length for the same book and was much taken by her frank exposition of her relationship with her mother in the early days of her childhood.
Needless to say, I still hold a nostalgic memory of my encounters with both mother and daughter and would like to wish them all the contentment that the future will undoubtedly hold for them, and to Olivia my congratulations on her damehood.