Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Oscar-winner Joan Fontaine dies

Joan Fontaine has died at the age of 96

Academy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine has died at the age of 96.

The actress - w ho found stardom playing naive wives in Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion and Rebecca - died in her sleep in her California home on December 15, said longtime friend Noel Beutel.

Fontaine had been fading in recent days and died "peacefully", Beutel said.

The actress - the sister of fellow Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland - appeared in more than 30 movies, including early roles in The Women and Gunga Din, the title part in Jane Eyre and in Max Ophuls' historical drama Letter From An Unknown Woman.

She also starred on Broadway and in 1980 received an Emmy nomination for her cameo on the daytime soap Ryan's Hope.

"You know, I've had a helluva life," she once said. "Not just the acting part. I've flown in an international balloon race. I've piloted my own plane. I've ridden to the hounds. I've done a lot of exciting things."

Fontaine had minor roles in several films in the 1930s, but received little attention and was without a studio contract when she was seated next to producer David O Selznick at a dinner party. She impressed him enough to be asked to audition for Rebecca, his first movie since Gone With The Wind and the American directorial debut of Hitchcock.

With Laurence Olivier as Maxim, Fontaine as the unsuspecting second wife and Judith Anderson as the dastardly housekeeper Mrs Danvers, Rebecca won the Academy Award for best picture and got Fontaine the first of her three Oscar nominations.

Hitchcock's Suspicion, released in 1941, and featuring Fontaine as the timid woman whose husband (Cary Grant) may or may not be a killer, brought her a best actress Oscar.

In 1978, she played a socialite in the made-for-TV movie The Users. In the 70s and 80s she appeared on television series such as The Love Boat, Cannon, and Ryan's Hope.

The actress was married four times and had a daughter. She later adopted a child from Peru.

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