Is your surname de Havilland?

Research the de Havilland family

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland

Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan
Death: December 15, 2013 (96)
Carmel Highlands, Monterey County, California, United States
Place of Burial: Cremated
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Walter Augustus de Havilland and Lilian Augusta Fontaine
Wife of Collier Hudson Young and Alfred Wright, Jr
Ex-wife of William McElroy Dozier and Brian Aherne
Mother of Private; Private and Private
Sister of Olivia de Havilland and Private

Occupation: British actress
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all 15

Immediate Family

About Joan Fontaine

British American actress Joan Fontaine was one of the last surviving leading ladies from Hollywood of the 1930s and the only thespian to have won an Academy Award for a performance in a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

She was born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland on 22 October 1917 in Tokyo, Japan, the younger daughter of Walter Augustus de Havilland (1872–1968), a British patent attorney with a practice in Japan, and Lilian Augusta Ruse (1886–1975), a British actress known by her stage name of Lillian Fontaine. Her parents married in 1914, and were divorced in 1919.

She married, firstly, Brian de Lacey Aherne, son of William de Lacey Aherne, on 21 August 1939. She and Brian de Lacey Aherne were divorced in 1944.
She married, secondly, William Dozier on 2 May 1946. She and William Dozier were divorced in 1952.
She married, thirdly, Collier Hudson Young on 12 November 1952. She and Collier Hudson Young were divorced on 3 January 1961.
She married Alfred Wright, Jr. on 27 January 1964. She and Alfred Wright, Jr. were divorced in 1969.


Joan Fontaine was a movie star of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. She was the younger sister of Olivia de Havilland. Their mother had wanted to be an actress, but instead instilled that desire in her daughters. De Havilland became an actress first, and when Fontaine broke into film their mother reportedly demanded that she go by some other name than de Havilland. Fontaine first called herself Joan Burfield, before settling on her stepfather's name, Fontaine, as her stage name. The two sisters never appeared together in the same film.

Fontaine spent the early part of her career in her sister's shadow, but eventually eclipsed her stardom. The two stars, both rather high-strung and easily offended, feuded for decades after both were Oscar-nominated in 1942. De Havilland lost the award for Hold Back the Dawn, while Fontaine won for Suspicion. According to reports at the time, when de Havilland tried to congratulate her sister on winning, Fontaine turned away.

Fontaine starred in numerous well-remembered films, including Letter from an Unknown Woman with Louis Jourdan, Jane Eyre with Orson Welles, and Ivy with Patric Knowles. She remained a high-profile star until reaching middle age, when she was no longer offered interesting parts. She turned to television, making many appearances on live plays and anthology series, and she had brief success on Broadway when she replaced Deborah Kerr in the lead of Tea and Sympathy with Anthony Perkins.

Fontaine and her sister have long been at odds, over perceived slights to their husbands, snide comments reported in the media, or memories of Joan having to wear Olivia's hand-me-downs in adolescence. Their battles reportedly reached a crescendo after their mother's death in 1975, when Joan said she was not invited to the memorial service, and Olivia said Joan simply refused to attend. In the decades since, the two sisters have reportedly not spoken to each other.

Fontaine was married and divorced four times, and she has said that her mother, Lillian de Havilland, was the best friend she ever had. In retirement, Fontaine tends to her garden, and does not answer fan mail. She is reportedly not on speaking terms with her two daughters, because they are on speaking terms with their Aunt Olivia.

Father: Walter Augustus de Havilland (British patent attorney, b. 1872, d. 1968) Mother: Lillian Ruse Fontaine (actress, b. 1886, d. 1975, cancer) Father: George Fontaine (stepfather, department store manager) Sister: Olivia de Havilland (actress) Husband: Brian Aherne (actor, b. 1902, m. 20-Aug-1939, div. 1945, d. 1986 heart attack) Husband: William Dozier (producer, b. 1908, m. 2-May-1946, div. 1951, d. 1991, one daughter) Daughter: Deborah Leslie Dozier (actress, b. 5-Nov-1948) Husband: Collier Young (producer, b. 1908, m. Nov-1952, div. 1961, d. 1980 car accident) Daughter: Martita Pareja Calderon (adopted with Young) Husband: Alfred Wright, Jr. (sports journalist, m. Jan-1964, div. 1969)

   High School: The American School, Japan
   RKO Radio Pictures under contract
   Oscar for Best Actress 1940 for Suspicion
   Hollywood Walk of Fame 1645 Vine Street.
   The Witches (9-Dec-1966) 
   Tender Is the Night (19-Jan-1962) 
   Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (12-Jul-1961) 
   Until They Sail (8-Oct-1957) 
   Island in the Sun (12-Jun-1957) 
   Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (5-Sep-1956) 
   Casanova's Big Night (12-Apr-1954) 
   The Bigamist (3-Dec-1953) 
   Flight to Tangier (21-Nov-1953) 
   Decameron Nights (16-Nov-1953) 
   Ivanhoe (31-Jul-1952) 
   Born to be Bad (27-Aug-1950) 
   September Affair (25-Aug-1950) 
   Letter from an Unknown Woman (13-Sep-1948) 
   The Emperor Waltz (30-Apr-1948) 
   Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (30-Oct-1947) 
   Frenchman's Creek (20-Sep-1944) 
   Jane Eyre (07-Apr-1944) 
   The Constant Nymph (23-Jun-1943) 
   Suspicion (14-Nov-1941) 
   Rebecca (27-Mar-1940) 
   The Women (1-Sep-1939) 
   Gunga Din (24-Jan-1939) 
   Maid's Night Out (4-Mar-1938) 
   A Damsel in Distress (19-Nov-1937) 
   No More Ladies (14-Jun-1935)

Joan Fontaine (born October 22, 1917 - died December 15, 2013) was an Academy Award-winning British actress in American films. She became an American citizen in April 1943. She was the younger sister of actress Olivia de Havilland, also an Academy Award winner. Along with Luise Rainer, Gloria Stuart, Shirley Temple, Deanna Durbin and her sister, Olivia de Havilland, Fontaine was one of the last surviving female stars from Hollywood of the 1930s.

Early life:
She was born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland in Tokyo, Japan, the younger daughter of Walter de Havilland (1872-1968), and the former Lilian Augusta Ruse (1886-1975), a British actress known by her stage name of Lilian Fontaine, who married in 1914, and divorced when Joan was two. Walter was a British patent attorney with a practice in Japan. She is the younger sister of actress Olivia de Havilland (b. 1916), from whom she has been estranged for many decades, not speaking at all since 1975. They both attended Los Gatos High School and the Notre Dame Convent Roman Catholic girls school in Belmont, California. Her paternal cousin is Sir Geoffrey de Havilland.

Joan was a sickly child who developed anaemia following a combined attack of the measles and a streptococcic infection. Upon the advice of a physician, Joan's mother moved her and her sister to the United States where they settled in the town of Saratoga, California.

Joan's health improved dramatically and she was soon taking diction lessons along with her sister. She was also an extremely bright child and scored 160 on an intelligence test when she was three.[citation needed] When she was fifteen, Joan returned to Japan and lived with her father for two years.

Stage career:
Joan made her stage debut in the West Coast production of Call It A Day in 1935 and was soon signed to an RKO contract. In later life she appeared on Broadway in Forty Carats.

Film career:
Her film debut was a small role in No More Ladies (1935). She was selected to appear in a major role alongside Fred Astaire in his first RKO film without Ginger Rogers: A Damsel in Distress (1937) but audiences were disappointed and the film flopped. She continued appearing in small parts in about a dozen films but failed to make a strong impression and her contract was not renewed when it expired in 1939, the same year she married her first husband, the British actor Brian Aherne. That marriage was not a success.

Her luck changed one night at a dinner party when she found herself seated next to producer David O. Selznick.

She and Selznick began discussing the Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca, and Selznick asked her to audition for the part of the unnamed heroine. She endured a grueling six-month series of film tests, along with hundreds of other actresses, before securing the part.

Rebecca marked the American debut of British director Alfred Hitchcock. In 1940, the film was released to glowing reviews and Joan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

She didn't win that year (Ginger Rogers took home the award for Kitty Foyle) but Fontaine did win the following year for Best Actress in Suspicion, which was also directed by Hitchcock. This is the only Academy Award winning performance directed by Hitchcock.

She went on to continued success in the 1940s, during which she excelled in romantic melodramas. Among her memorable films during this time were The Constant Nymph (1943), Jane Eyre (1944), Ivy (1947), and Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). Her film successes slowed a bit during the 1950s and she also began appearing in television and on the stage. She won good reviews for her role on Broadway in 1954 as Laura in Tea and Sympathy, opposite Anthony Perkins.

During the 1960s, she continued her stage appearances in several productions, among them Private Lives, Cactus Flower and an Austrian production of The Lion in Winter. Her last theatrical film was The Witches (1966), which she also co-produced. She made sporadic television appearances, including a guest role on ABC's short-lived sitcom, The Bing Crosby Show, in the 1964-1965 season. She continued appearing in the 1970s and 1980s and was nominated for an Emmy Award for the soap opera, Ryan's Hope in 1980.

She resided in Carmel, California, in relative seclusion.

Her autobiography, No Bed of Roses, was published in 1978.

Brian Aherne (1939 - 1945) William Dozier (1946 - 1951) Collier Young (1952 - 1961) Alfred Wright, Jr. (1964 - 1969), a magazine editor. She has one daughter, Deborah Leslie Dozier (born in 1948), from her union with Dozier, and another daughter, Martita, a Peruvian adoptee, who ran away from home. Joan Fontaine has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1645 Vine Street.

Biographer Charles Higham records that the sisters have always had an uneasy relationship, starting in early childhood, when Olivia would rip up the clothes that Joan had to wear as hand-me-downs, forcing Joan to sew them back together. A lot of the feud and resentment between the sisters stems from Joan's perception of Olivia being their mother's favorite child.

Both Olivia and Joan were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1942. Joan won first for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941) over Olivia's nomination for Hold Back the Dawn (1941). Higham states that Joan "felt guilty about winning; given her lack of obsessive career drive..."

Higham has described the events of the awards ceremony, stating that, as Joan stepped forward to collect her award, she pointedly rejected Olivia's attempts at congratulating her and that Olivia was both offended and embarrassed by her behavior. Several years later, Olivia would remember the slight and exact her own by brushing past Joan, who was waiting with her hand extended, because Olivia had allegedly taken offense at a comment Joan had made about Olivia's then-husband.

Olivia's relationship with Joan continued to deteriorate after the two incidents. Higham has stated that this was the near final straw for what would become a lifelong feud, but the sisters did not completely stop speaking until 1975.

According to Joan, Olivia did not invite her to a memorial service for their mother, who had recently died. Olivia claims she told Joan, but that Joan had brushed her off, claiming that she was too busy to attend.

Higham records that Joan has an estranged relationship with her own daughters as well, possibly because she discovered that they were secretly maintaining a relationship with their aunt Olivia.

Both sisters have refused to comment publicly about their feud and dysfunctional family relationship, unless you want to go by John Kobal's interview of Joan: with him she stated categorically that the so called rivalry was a pure hoax, cooked up by the studio publicity hounds.

Awards and Nominations

Joan Fontaine and Gary Cooper holding their Oscars at Academy Awards , 1942Year Award Category Film Result 1940 Academy Award Best Actress Rebecca Nominated 1941 Academy Award Best Actress Suspicion Won NYFCC Award Best Actress Won 1943 Academy Award Best Actress The Constant Nymph Nominated 1947 Golden Apple Award Most Cooperative Actress Won 1980 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest/Cameo Appearance in a Daytime Drama Series Ryan's Hope Nominated


No More Ladies (1935) A Million to One (1937) Quality Street (1937) (uncredited) The Man Who Found Himself (1937) You Can't Beat Love (1937) Music for Madame (1937) A Damsel in Distress (1937) Maid's Night Out (1938) Blond Cheat (1938) Sky Giant (1938) The Duke of West Point (1938) Gunga Din (1939) Man of Conquest (1939) The Women (1939) Rebecca (1940) Suspicion (1941) This Above All (1942) The Constant Nymph (1943) Jane Eyre (1944) Frenchman's Creek (1944) The Affairs of Susan (1945) From This Day Forward (1946) Ivy (1947)

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)  The Emperor Waltz (1948)  You Gotta Stay Happy (1948)  Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948)  September Affair (1950)  Born to Be Bad (1950)  Darling, How Could You! (1951)  Something to Live For (1952)  Othello (1952)  Ivanhoe (1952)  Decameron Nights (1953)  Flight to Tangier (1953)  The Bigamist (1953)  Casanova's Big Night (1954)  Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Mothers and Fathers (1955) (short subject)  Serenade (1956)  Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)  Island in the Sun (1957)  Until They Sail (1957)  A Certain Smile (1958)  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)  Tender Is the Night (1962)  The Witches (1966)  The Good King (1994)


Over the years, the Academy has recognized acting families, with awards bestowed upon siblings, parents and children, and even cousins. The Huston's, the Fonda's, the Coppola's, and the Redgrave's, are among the acting families, who have multiple awards amongst them. But perhaps the most interesting, would be that duo of feuding sisters, who's private infighting, became Hollywood gossip, and who would butt heads at the Oscar ceremonies on more than one occasion!

Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine were both army brats, two sisters born one year apart in Tokyo, where their father was stationed, back in 1916-17. The girls suffered from ill-health, forcing the parents to move to California when they were young. During that time, their parents divorced, and their father returned to Tokyo.

The sisters admit that growing up together, that they fought constantly. According to Fontaine, elder sister, Olivia never got used to the idea of a younger sister, and thus a jealous rivalry was begun. Their fighting was so bitter as children, that it often resulted in fist fighting, as much as it did petty squabbling.

Olivia was the first to venture into acting, taking the stage in the early thirties. Sister Joan followed suit a few years later.

As they were both being courted for contracts with movie studios, Joan changed her name to Fontaine, supposedly on the advice of a fortune teller. While Joan started to work her way up the ranks of RKO, playing smaller roles to Katherine Hepburn and Joan Crawford, Olivia was signed with Warner's, playing high profile roles in Robin Hood and in several Bette Davis films.

By 1939, Olivia had made a name for herself, so much so, that she was a popular choice with fans, and with casting agents, to play Melanie, in the classic, Gone With the Wind. Olivia earned her first nomination for Best Supporting Actress, playing the ultra-pure wife of the man that Scarlett O'Hara is hot-to-trot for.

Of course, the award would ultimately be handed out to her co-star, Hattie McDaniel, the first black actress to ever win the award, but that fact didn't console de Havilland. She later admitted, that for at least two weeks after her defeat, she was convinced that 'there was no God.' She admitted that on the night that McDaniel won, she 'couldn't stay at that table another minute. I had to be alone, so I wandered out into the kitchen and cried.' She said that it took a few days before she could finally be 'proud' that she "belonged to a profession which honored a black woman who merited this, in a time when other groups had neither the honesty, nor the courage to do the same sort of thing."

The very next year, David Selznick was looking for a vehicle to follow up his success on Gone With the Wind. He chose Rebecca, and gave newcomer, Alfred Hitchcock free reign to direct. Hitchcock cast the other sister, Joan, in the lead role of the meek and mild, second Mrs. de Winter. The film was a success, garnering yet another Best Picture win for Selznick's camp. Meanwhile, Joan was suddenly a big star, and found herself nominated for her first Best Actress Award.

Despite raving reviews by the critics, and a huge fan base that was gunning for her, Joan didn't win that year. Instead, the award went to Ginger Rogers, who was perhaps being honored for a decade worth of fine work in classic musicals and comedies, rather than for the second grade weepy, Kitty Foyle, for which she was nominated. Fontaine was gracious about losing, stating that 'to have won for my first good role, would have been precipitous.'

The 1941 Oscar's marked the first round in the battle of the feuding sisters, when both of them were nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. Joan received the nod for Suspicion, her second film with Alfred Hitchcock directing her, while Olivia was recognized for Hold Back the Dawn.

Joan actually didn't plan on attending the ceremony, stating that she had to be up early the next morning, however, older sister, Olivia twisted her arm, stating, "You have to be there. Your absence would look odd."

Gingers Rogers presented the Best Actress award, while the two sisters sat next to each other at the Selznick table. When she called out Joan's name, Joan remembers how she just froze. "Get up there," her sister nudged. Joan remembers bursting into tears at that very moment. "All the animus we felt toward each other as children," she recalled. "The hair pulling, the savage wrestling matches, the time Olivia fractured my collar bone, all came rushing back in kaleidoscopic imagery. My paralysis was total ... I felt age four, being confronted by my older sister. Damn it! I incurred her wrath again."
view all 12

Joan Fontaine's Timeline

October 22, 1917
Tokyo, Japan
December 15, 2013
Age 96
Carmel Highlands, Monterey County, California, United States