Dueling Divas: #SpinsterHeiressProbz Edition

23 Dec

Posted as part of Backlots‘s Dueling Divas Blogathon running Dec. 20-23.

For a short while in my youth, I couldn’t tell sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine apart.  To my credit, they do share a family resemblance, and they do often play the same types of roles–the naive and mousy soft ingenue who gets mixed up with an ambiguously bad man who may or may not love her back (see Jane Eyre, Rebecca, The Women, In This Our Life, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, even Gone with the Wind to an extent).

What finally distinguished them for me is hard to pin down.  I just one day could tel them apart suddenly and realized I had an irrational attachment to Olivia and an irrational dislike for Joan.

When I heard they despised each other in real life, I somehow felt vindicated in my irrationality and also was firmly on Team de Havilland.  I mean, she’s Melanie–the best movie best friend ever–AND she was best friends with Bette Davis is real life.  That’s pretty damn BA.

But, for the purposes of this blogathon, I was going to try to put my prejudices aside.  I had chosen to compare and contrast thematically similar movies, pitting them against each other in an infographic showdown diva off.

I had chosen Suspicion for Joan Fontaine: the story of a spinster heiress who marries a dashing ne’er do well who may or may not want her for her money.  And The Heiress for Olivia de Havilland: the story of a spinster heiress who almost marries a dashing ne’er do well who may or may not want her for her money.

The problem was I hadn’t seen either of these movies before.  There I had been thinking it would be a pretty even spinster-heiress match up, like my Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis Dual Duel had been last year.  Ha!  No dice!

Suspicion straight up sucks, and The Heiress straight up rules, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland aside.

So my original plan of any kind of fair and balanced competition was out the window.  Here’s Plan B:  a flowchart that will help you figure out what kind of #SpinsterHeiressProbz you might have.

Although this flowchart ostensibly covers the two movies this post is supposed to be about, you might notice my favorite spinster-heiress movie pops up a few times as an added bonus.

11 Responses to “Dueling Divas: #SpinsterHeiressProbz Edition”

  1. Backlots 23 December 2012 at 2:07 AM #

    Thanks for this, Alexandra! I have a special connection to the de Havillands, I adore both of them. I send them each Christmas and birthday cards every year, and Joan always writes back. Olivia never does, but that’s only because she has stacks and stacks of mail she’s trying to plow through! I met Olivia last year and she is an absolute angel. Sweet, kind, modest, affectionate (she held my hand as I talked to her), she’s the ultimate in what a lady should be. I love her even more now. I know you have issues with Joan, but Joan is very, very good to her fans. As I mentioned, she always sends me a thank you note when I write her cards. She’s 95 now, doesn’t really want anything to do with Hollywood anymore, living her retired life at home in Carmel with her 5 dogs, but she’s lovely and gracious.

    I also love your flowchart! Great entry!

    • TheBestofAlexandra 23 December 2012 at 12:37 PM #

      Thanks for sharing that anecdote. I suspected both ladies were both ladies of the highest order, and now I have some proof. 🙂 I think now that I’ve kind of matured in my movie-watching skills, I’ve realized that I don’t really dislike Joan Fontaine; I just prefer Olivia’s acting style. I feel she brings more energy to her roles, even if she’s playing someone pathetic. But for as much as I thought Suspicion was a terrible movie, I thought Joan gave a good performance (and Cary Grant and Nigel Bruce, as well, of course). I took a lot of screencaps in preparation for this post, so I may do a straight review here pretty soon.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Georgie Lee 23 December 2012 at 2:21 PM #

    I’m with you in loving Olivia because of Gone with the Wind, and Robin Hood, but I also prefer her acting. Joan, to me, doesn’t have the acting range of her sister. I’ve liked some of her films but always felt Olivia had more range. Also, Olivia fought some good battles in real life Hollywood and the studio system. Pretty gutsy.

  3. silverscreenings 26 December 2012 at 5:50 PM #

    Great idea for the blogathon, and I love – LOVE – the flowchart.

    “The Heiress” is mesmerizing movie – I try to never miss it when it’s on TCM. “Suspicion” on the other hand really is a dud. It’s too bad the studio meddled with the endings – Cary Grant was supposed to be a murderer, but apparently the studio execs couldn’t allow that. So we ended up with a lame ending that hurts the entire movie.

    • TheBestofAlexandra 26 December 2012 at 6:22 PM #

      As always, thank you for your comments, but I must disagree with you about the ending of Suspicion. I mean, yes, it’s a bad ending, but the whole movie is pretty terrible, so the ending really worked for me. I definitely will have to do a whole review of this so that I can explain myself better…

      • silverscreenings 26 December 2012 at 6:29 PM #

        I really don’t mind the first half of the movie. It really sets things up nicely – the young, naive bride and the charming but vaguely untrustworthy groom. Such a great premise!

        Idea! What if we did a film discussion of this movie? I’ve seen it done on other blogs – you’ve probably seen it too? However, if we do this, I would need to see the movie again. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen it…

      • TheBestofAlexandra 26 December 2012 at 6:58 PM #

        Great idea!

      • Backlots 26 December 2012 at 6:39 PM #

        I think the movie would have been magnificent if the ending had been changed.

  4. Le 27 December 2012 at 12:02 PM #

    I also have a preference for Olivia, maybe because I’m more acquainted with her work. I loved the flowchart, it was a marvelous idea to compare very similar movies.
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂


  1. The Dueling Divas Entries | Backlots - 23 December 2012

    […] THE BEST OF ALEXANDRA: Alexandra muses on the infamous de Havilland sister feud, and offers a flowchart in which spinster/heiress movies tee off against each other. https://thebestofalexandra.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/dueling-divas-spinsterheiressprobz-edition/ […]

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