Both sisters were also famous for their long-running sibling rivalry and then feud, and the two never reconciled after the death of their mother nearly forty years ago.
It's especially sad since both women lived and have lived to such an old age that they never buried the hatchet. Olivia is still alive and is 97.
The cause of Joan's death was natural causes.
Joan's parents separated when she was a small child, and she moved to the United States with her mother and sister Olivia, who was 15 months older. After their mother remarried to George Fontaine, the De Havilland girls grew up in Saratoga in Northern California, where they acted in school plays.
But family life was chaotic, and by age 15 Joan was back in Japan with her father and his second wife. When that did not go well, Walter de Havilland put Joan on a ship to the U.S. with $50. She didn't see him again for 16 years.
When Fontaine landed in San Francisco, Olivia was already touring as Hermia in Max Reinhardt's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which would lead to a contract at Warner Bros.
For a time, Joan lived with her sister and mother in Hollywood, but the sisters' rivalry deepened as Olivia's acting career met with early success.
I love this quote:
The two sisters had to be separated by an entire room during a 1979 Oscar winners’ reunion. A year earlier, she had told the Hollywood Reporter, “I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it!”
So far I haven't read or heard anything from Olivia about her sister's death.
Many people didn't care for her book, No Bed of Roses, because they thought she wasn't telling the complete truth.
Fontaine said more than perhaps she should have in this video clip: