Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Birthday "Melanie"

Every child comes with the promise that God is not yet discouraged of men.
~ Anonymous

That's a photo of Gone With the Wind's Melanie Wilkes, aka the Oscar-winning actress Olivia de Havilland. I didn't think they allowed such skin-filled publicity shots in the 1930s, but there you have it. Wowza.

I've always admired de Havilland as an actress, starting with her role as Melanie in GWTW--one of my favorite books and movies of all time.

My brother was an Errol Flynn fan, so I also saw de Havilland co-star with Flynn in Robin Hood on TV reruns of classic movies during the olden days of my youth. In later years she made the campy films Lady in a Cage and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. But to me, she'll always be Melanie.

It's an odd irony of Hollywood history that Olivia de Havilland, the one principal cast member whose character dies in the final scenes of GWTW, has long outlived her fellow actors in that classic film. Leslie Howard died on a military air mission during WWII. Clark Gable died in 1960, and Vivien Leigh died in 1967. Yet tomorrow, July 1, Olivia de Havilland celebrates her 92nd birthday.

Another note of interest to me is the fact that she was born on the same day as my father. In world events on July 1, 1916, the Battle of the Somme commenced on the Western front. The battle raged for months, into November, with over one million total casualities. The Somme was called ‘The most gigantic, tenacious, grim, futile and bloody fight ever waged in the history of war’. To this day, July 1, 1916 holds the tragic distinction of being the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.

A very somber day, yet also a day that brought at least two special souls into the world. Happy Birthday, Melanie. You're a classic.