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Olivia de Havilland’s estate hits the auction block (exclusive)


Gisèle Galante recalls a recent evening when she and her husband watched for the first time Dodge the city, the 1939 Michael Curtiz-directed western starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. The daughter of De Havilland, born 17 years after that film premiered, Galante was as much struck by her mother’s beauty as by her performance: “I had never seen it before, but she was so, so beautiful,” says she. The Hollywood Reporter. And even though it wasn’t what you’d call a meaty roll, she was excellent. There is still so much to discover, more of my mom’s movies that I haven’t seen.”

For many fans of classic films, De Havilland’s death in July 2020 at the age of 104 marked the end of an era, the passing of arguably the last great star of Hollywood’s golden age. Galante notes she had those fans in mind when planning her mother’s estate auction, a two-part sale kicking off with an online event running May 13-23 and hosted by London-based Bonhams . “My mom had a lot of respect for her fans; unless she was ill, she answered every letter, and often I helped her,” says Galante. “That’s really why I’m doing this, because I hope it will be an opportunity for those who loved her to buy something that was hers.”

“Olivia de Havilland’s Collection” is split into two events representing the two main stages of the actress’s life. May’s online auction features lots representing the Oscar winner’s Hollywood years, a collection of mementos that includes gifts from celebrities like Jimmy Stewart and Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.

A sterling silver box engraved after Olivia de Havilland by Samuel Goldwyn, Jr


Next, on Oct. 4 in Paris, Bonhams will present an online and in-person sale of de Havilland’s furniture, artwork and other decorative items, collected in the years since she moved to the French capital in 1953 and married Pierre Galante, Gisèle’s father. and then the editor of match in Paris.

“It really makes sense when you think about it, because my mother had two lives,” explains Gisèle. “There was the very glamorous life she led in Hollywood, and then a different kind of life when she moved to Paris, married my dad and had me. She really embraced the Parisian culture and learned to speak perfect French. She hired a private tutor and on sale you will find her notebooks with the exercises she did to perfect her French.”

De Havilland’s early years in Paris are captured in a light-hearted memoir she wrote about her adjustment to life in France, Every Frenchman has onefirst published by Random House in 1962 and reissued in 2016 to mark the star’s 100th birthday.

IN THIS OUR LIFE, from left: Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, 1942

Bette Davis (left) and Olivia de Havilland enter In this our life1942

Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Indeed, the Hollywood plots are linked to some of cinema’s most iconic stars. A silver floral embossed compact box owned by longtime friend and co-star Bette Davis was given to de Havilland after the former star was passed over by Davis’ longtime assistant, while a silver box inscribed “For Olivia, With Many Thanks, from Sammy” a gift from Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.

Olivia de Havilland - Bonhams Auction - Compact Mirror - Gift from Bette Davis

A compact mirror that Bette Davis gave to Olivia de Havilland


One of the most talked-about items is undoubtedly a $30 Bank of America check written by de Havilland to Errol Flynn and signed by both stars, who were among Hollywood’s most famous on-screen duos, making eight films together, including 1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Although Galante says her mother made no plans to sell her estate while she was alive, she did make one request: that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of an estate be donated to The American Cathedral in Paris, which was built in the late 1880s. “She told me she trusted me and asked me to be generous with the American Cathedral,” says Galante. “My mother was a long-time parishioner and read classes at Christmas and Easter, so she was very keen for the cathedral to be remembered.”

DODGE CITY, Olivia De Havilland, Errol Flynn, 1939

Olivia DeHavilland and Errol Flynn Dodge the city1939

Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Once Bonhams was brought in to organize the sale – recommended to Galante by Fraser Heston, son of Charlton Heston, whose estate was sold by Bonhams in 2016 – the auction house made several discoveries while examining de Havilland’s assets, which were in pristine condition. state were kept. “My mom kept everything, and it was also incredibly well organized,” says Galante. “We found electricity bills from the 1930s. We also found the original receipts for many of the furniture and antiques my mother bought in London and Paris. The Bonhams reps were both impressed and quite excited to have these for the provenance of several items.

Other lots in the Hollywood auction also refer to De Havilland’s well-known relationships during that period of her life. A collection of jewelry given to de Havilland by Jimmy Stewart includes a letter alluding to their closeness between 1939 and the early 1940s, while a pair of 1943 World War II distribution booklets are issued to both de Havilland and director John Huston . “They dated for years and my mom once told me John Huston was the love of her life,” says Galante.

De Havilland was also known for favoring Christian Dior both in her personal life and in her films, most notably wearing the house’s designs in 1956’s The ambassador’s daughter and years 1962 Light on the Piazza. Most of her personal Dior wardrobe was sold at two auctions in the actress’s lifetime, most recently in 2019, but the Bonhams auction includes a group of original Dior sketches, created prior to de Havilland’s appearance at the Academy Awards in 1963. “That’s a nice memory for me too, because I remember my mother taking me to Christian Dior when I was seven or eight years old for both the fashion shows, which were much more intimate at the time, and her fittings,” says Gallant. . “It wasn’t like you see in fashion shows now, but it was still very glamorous.”

Academy Awards in 1963 with producer Sam Spiegel and original Dior sketches

Olivia de Havilland at the 1963 Academy Awards with producer Sam Spiegel and original Dior sketches for her performance

Thanks to Bonhams (2)

Other items on sale in May include wristwatches, a collection of photos from 1949 The heiress (one of de Havilland’s two Oscar-winning roles, following that of 1946 Each his own) and the Olivetti typewriter that the actress used for correspondence in her home in Paris. For Galante, a key to the Beverly Hills Hotel also conjures up thoughts of visiting Hollywood while her mother was filming the 1964 movie. Hush…Quiet, dear Charlotte. “My mom was a big client of the Beverly Hills Hotel,” says Galante. “There I discovered American TV, milkshakes and swimming in the hotel pool.”

The October sale will focus on, among other things, the desk and lacquered tables in the office that De Havilland called “the Oscar room” — “where all her prizes were displayed,” says Galante. “She typed letters to her fans, and as a teenager I put my feet up on these low, lacquered Chinese tables, my mother pointing out that they were precious antiques.”

Olivia de Havilland - Bonhams Auction - Olivetti typewriter

Olivia de Havilland’s personal Olivetti typewriter


When asked what she would not give up for sale, Galante has no doubts. “Her Oscars will never be auctioned; my mom would be so mad at me if I sold them,” she says. “Right now they live on our mantelpiece and one day they will be donated to an institution, but they will never be sold.” Galante also keeps a treasured teapot with de Havilland’s emblem—”My mother loved to entertain people with tea, followed by champagne,” she says—as well as a variety of original sketches and caricatures, many of which were only discovered after death . Havilland’s death. “I knew my mom was a great actress and a great writer, but I never realized what a great artist she was until I found maybe dozens of beautiful drawings and caricatures,” Galante notes. “No one has seen these drawings, so my plan is to frame them and hang many of them in our house, while I will give others to family and friends.”

The most challenging moment, Galante admits, is attending the October event in Paris. “It might be a little emotional seeing all of my mom’s cherished pieces back together,” she says. “But I also know that the proceeds from the sale go to a good cause. And hopefully (the new owners) won’t put their feet on the tables.

Olivia de Havilland - Bonhams auction - Personal check to Errol Flynn -

A check made out to Errol Flynn and signed by both the actor and De Havilland.


Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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