I regret having to post the sad news that the great Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine has died at the age of 96.
It's a bit hard to believe, coming the very same week as the passings of Eleanor Parker and Audrey Totter. Three favorite actresses of the classic film era, all gone within a week's time.
Fontaine was a brilliantly subtle actress it admittedly took a while for me to appreciate properly. I initially saw her as somewhat bland due to her series of "shy" roles in REBECCA (1940), SUSPICION (1941), and JANE EYRE (1943), yet when I returned to those films in more recent years I discovered shadings and nuances which had eluded me when viewing the films at a younger age.
My favorite Fontaine films are THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943):
and FROM THIS DAY FORWARD (1946):
She plays entirely different characters in these two films, a frail European teenager and a struggling newlywed in the Bronx, inhabiting them so completely that even her body language and voice are different. Anyone who wants to understand Fontaine's brilliance need only watch and compare these two films -- yet there was so much more to her career, including one of my all-time favorite Hitchcock films, REBECCA (1940), and a marvelous performance in a film I watched just a week ago, LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (1948).
Olivia de Havilland, and two daughters.
A sad, fond farewell to a remarkably talented lady whose life's work will be appreciated for as long as movies exist.
December 16th Update: Turner Classic Movies will pay tribute to Joan Fontaine on December 29th, with a seven-film lineup consisting of BLOND CHEAT (1938), THE WOMEN (1939), REBECCA (1940), SUSPICION (1941), THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943), BORN TO BE BAD (1950), and IVANHOE (1952).
The TCM Remembers tribute video for Joan Fontaine is now posted at the TCM site.
The Self-Styled Siren, Will McKinley, Sheila O'Malley, and Lara Fowler, who conducted Fontaine's very last interview. Susan King of the Los Angeles Times shared five favorite Fontaine performances.
Joan Fontaine movies reviewed here over the last few years: NO MORE LADIES (1935), YOU CAN'T BEAT LOVE (1937), MAID'S NIGHT OUT (1938), THE MAN WHO FOUND HIMSELF (1937), SKY GIANT (1938), THE WOMEN (1939), SUSPICION (1941), THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943), FROM THIS DAY FORWARD (1946), LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (1948), SEPTEMBER AFFAIR (1950), BORN TO BE BAD (1950), DARLING, HOW COULD YOU! (1951), FLIGHT TO TANGIER (1953), UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957), and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1961).
Related Post: A Birthday Tribute to Joan Fontaine.