Sunday, December 15, 2013

Joan Fontaine Dies at 96

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):


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).

Fontaine's survivors include her estranged older sister, 97-year-old fellow Oscar winner 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.

Wonderful tributes to Miss Fontaine were published today by many bloggers including 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) (and here), 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.


Blogger Vienna said...

A shock indeed for three Classic era stars to have died in such a short space of time.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

My appreciation for Fontaine somewhat echoes yours. She was always marvelous, I just wasn't always smart enough to see it. In particular, "Suspicion" used to be my "meh" Hitchcock, but in the last few years Fontaine's performance and the film have moved up the list.

So long, Christabel.

5:15 AM  
Blogger UneCinephile said...

my grandma told me about Joan this morning. i teared up a little bit. Joan is one of the reasons i became a fan of old hollywood. it is so sad to hear she passed away. i adore her with every film i watch because she just got better and better with each one she made. the first time i saw Joan in a film was Rebecca and just became a huge fan of her's and Hitchcock's right then and there. it took me a while to like Suspicion bc for the longest time i thought Joan was terrible but i gave the film another chance and i thought she was very good.
i shall be having myself quite a few Joan Fontaine marathons this week.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for the link, Laura.

12:24 PM  

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