Monday, December 16, 2013

Joan Fontaine, 1917-2013

Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940)

The death has been announced of Joan Fontaine, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Suspicion. She was 96. Fontaine is survived by her sister, fellow Oscar-winning actress Olivia de Havilland, who as of this posting was still alive in Paris at the age of 97.

Fontaine started her career not all that long after her sister, in the movie No More Ladies. Not wanting to ride on her sister's coattails, she took the name "Burfield", apparently from a road sign, before settling on using her stepfather's last name. Fontaine continued to toil at RKO, making B movies such as Maid's Night Out, and getting cast opposite Fred Astaire in A Damsel in Distress, which is coming up at 2:00 AM Thursday as part of the Star of the Month salute to Astaire. This, even though singing and dancing weren't Fontaine's strong suits. Small roles in bigger movies like Gunga Din and The Women followed, before she really hit it big being cast as the second Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca, pictured above.

Rebecca earned Fontaine an Oscar nomination, but it was next year with Suspicion that she won. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of Suspicion, because they had to redo the ending and the ending we have is a mess. Allegedly, it was beating her sister Olivia for that Oscar that caused their long-time feud, although according the obituaries they weren't particularly close growing up anyway, Fontaine made about a movie a year through the 1950s, stuff like The Bigamist or Island in the Sun.

I'm sure there's going to be a TCM programming salute for Fontaine as well as Peter O'Toole, and it should be easier for TCM to get movies for it since she started off at RKO, even if those aren't her best movies. I don't know when it's going to be, what with TCM having to schedule multiple tributes, and having to do all this after coming back from a weekend and the TCM Cruise.

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