Dame Olivia de Havilland loses legal battle over TV portrayal

Veteran Hollywood actress, Olivia de Havilland, holds her Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters certificate,  awarded by the U
Veteran Hollywood actress, Olivia de Havilland, holds her Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters certificate, awarded by the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, during its Degree presentation ceremony at St Albans Cathedral today (Friday). Photograph by Fiona Hanson/PA.

Dame Olivia de Havilland has lost her lawsuit over a television series she claimed depicted her falsely and unfairly after the US Supreme Court refused to review the case.

The 102-year-old Gone With the Wind actress, one of the last surviving figures of Hollywood’s Golden Age, argued the producers of Feud: Bette And Joan made her look like a hypocrite and gossip.

FX’s anthology series about the lives of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford features Catherine Zeta Jones in the role of Dame Olivia, who claimed producers were guilty of “unauthorised and false use” of her “name and reputation”.

Dame Olivia Havilland
Dame Olivia Havilland has lost her lawsuit against US television makers (Rosie Hallam/PA)

Initially, a judge in Los Angeles allowed the lawsuit to progress before a California appeals court reversed the decision on the grounds of the First Amendment, or the right to free speech.

Dame Olivia brought the case to the state’s supreme court, who sided with TV network FX, before the actress asked the US Supreme Court to review the decision.

On Monday, the court rejected her petition to review the dismissal of her lawsuit.

Lawyers working on behalf of Dame Olivia said: “One day someone else who is wronged for the sake of Hollywood profits will have the courage to stand on the shoulders of Miss de Havilland and fight for the right to defend a good name and legacy against intentional, unconsented exploitation and falsehoods.

“Miss de Havilland hopes she will live to see the day when such justice is done.”

After a judge dismissed the case in March, the show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, said it was a “victory for the creative community”, adding it allowed writers “to tell important historical stories inspired by true events”.

Dame Olivia, who won Oscars for 1946’s To Each His Own and 1949’s The Heiress, previously won a landmark victory over Warner Bros in 1943 which effectively ended actors’ contract servitude.

She became the oldest ever dame in 2017.

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