Spotlight Stories 2016-10-21T04:58:27+00:00

Spotlight Stories

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June 30 2016
Olivia de Havilland, two-time Oscar winner, turns 100!
By: Barbara Munker

Olivia de Havilland’s co-stars from the 1939 film classic Gone With the Wind are nearly all gone.

  • Clark Gable, who played dashing Rhett Butler, died 55 years ago.
  • Vivien Leigh, who played the spirited Scarlett O’Hara, was 53 when she was found dead in 1967. Leslie Howard, who played Scarlett’s secret love Ashley Wilkes, died in World War II.
  • Child actor Mickey Kuhn, who played de Havilland’s young son in the film, is now 83.Olivia de Havilland in the 1978 film The Swarm.  Photo: supplied

But de Havilland is still here. She celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday. The two-time Oscar winner still best known for her role as Gone With the Wind‘s virtuous Melanie Hamilton said it is a “rather wonderful” privilege to be able to keep the film’s memory alive, in an interview published last year in the US magazine Entertainment Weekly.

De Havilland married her second husband, French writer Pierre Galante, in 1955 and left Hollywood for Paris, where she still makes her home. But she enjoys the memories of Gone With the Wind, which she admits having seen dozens of times, and of her co-stars. “Luckily, it does not make me melancholy,” she told Entertainment Weekly“Instead, when I see them vibrantly alive on screen, I experience a kind of reunion with them, a joyful one.”

Born in Tokyo to British parents, de Havilland moved as a child to California, where she got a fairytale start in Hollywood. Austrian director Max Reinhardt discovered her at age 19 playing the role of Hermia in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Soon she had signed a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers film studio, where she was paired with Tasmanian-born screen idol Errol Flynn.

The two made eight films together, including The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). They made sparks on set, but de Havilland said rumours notwithstanding, they never brought the romance off-screen. Her early fame had its price.

“I wouldn’t wish overnight success on anyone,” she told the US magazine Vanity Fair.
“You have no real friends … relationships [at Hollywood studios] were formal, and often competitive.”

Gone With the Wind was a smash success, winning eight Oscars and earning more money than any film before. Adjusted for inflation, it is still one of the highest-earning films of all time. But for de Havilland, the film was also tied to a bitter disappointment, when de Havilland lost out on the best supporting actress Oscar to her co-star Hattie McDaniel, whose win was the first Academy Award for an African-American artist.

But de Havilland got her chance later. She won the Oscar for best actress in 1946 for her starring role as an unmarried mother in To Each His Own. Three years later, she won again as best actress for William Wyler’s revenge drama The HeiressDe Havilland’s personal life made tabloid headlines for decades through a bitter feud with her younger sister, the actress Joan Fontaine. In 1942, the sibling rivalry extended to the best actress Oscar, for which both were nominated and which Fontaine won for her role in Suspicion.

In her 1978 autobiography No Bed of Roses, Fontaine revealed the two disliked each other even as children. De Havilland disputed this vehemently in her Vanity Fair interview, saying “I loved her so much as a child,” but has otherwise remained silent on the sisters’ relationship. Fontaine died in 2013 aged 96. In her time, de Havilland was also a pioneer in artists’ rights. At the beginning of the 1940s when Warner Brothers tried to unilaterally extend her seven-year contract, she sued them and won.

She told Vanity Fair she ascribes her longevity to “the three Ls – love, laughter and light”.

Oldest Female Bodybuilder Turns 80, Still Wakes Up at 2:30 a.m. to Train: ‘It’s My Joy’
By: Julie Mazziotta

Ernestine Shepherd loves to run, hitting the park at 2:30 a.m. for her daily ten miles. She also loves lifting weights, targeting a different body part each of the four days a week she works out. But more than anything, Shepherd – named Oldest Female Bodybuilder by the Guinness Book of World Records – loves to inspire others.
“It’s my joy, it’s really a joy to me,” she tells PEOPLE.

Shepherd celebrated her 80th birthday on June 16, but the nine-time bodybuilding competitor, author and coach isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

“Exercise keeps me happy and alive, so it’s just another day, that’s all,” she says of her birthday. “I tell everybody that age is nothing but a number. And if there ever was an anti-aging pill, it would have to be exercise. My whole life has changed. It has changed for the better.” While you’d never know it from her impressive biceps and ripped abs, the octogenarian is a recent convert to exercise. It was only at 56 that her sister convinced the once sedentary Shepherd to join a gym. “She said, ‘What we are going to do, is we are going to become bodybuilders.’ ‘What?’ I said. ‘Yes, we are going to become bodybuilders,’ ” Shepherd recalls.

Sadly, her sister had an aneurysm and died shortly thereafter, and Shepherd stopped going to the gym.

“I really wouldn’t do anything, I was complete mess,” Shepherd says. “I did absolutely, positively nothing.” Two years later, Shepherd said her sister came to her in a dream and encouraged her to get back to the gym. At 71, she competed in her first bodybuilding event and earned her Guinness title.

“I’ve won a large number of trophies. It’s just been wonderful, it’s been a joy, it’s made me very very happy,” Shepherd says. “And from doing these things, I’ve inspired others to start working out and compete in bodybuilding shows, or whatever they see fit that they want to do.”

“I get letters, cards. Every day I hear something from someone, and it’s just wonderful, because all I want to do is try to motivate and help others have a healthly, happy, confident lifestyle.”

Her goal is to show everyone the joys of exercise.

Susannah Mushatt Jones, world’s oldest person, dies at 116
By Chris Boyette and Pilar Melendez, CNN

(CNN) Susannah Mushatt Jones, the world’s oldest person, has died in New York, a Guinness World Records spokesman confirmed Friday. She was 116. Jones, who attributed her longevity to sleep, clean living and positive energy, died at 8:26 p.m. Thursday after being ill and in and out of the hospital for 10 days, said her niece, Dr. Lavilla Watson. She died in her sleep.

Jones was the last American born in the 1800s, according to Robert Young, senior consultant for gerontology for Guinness World Records and director of the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group’s Supercentenarian Research and Database Division. The presumptive oldest person in the world is Emma Morano of Italy, who was born on November 29, 1899, according to Young. The oldest man is Israel Kristal of Israel, who is 112.

Jones was born on July 6, 1899, in Lowndes County, Alabama, and her life spanned three centuries, according to Guinness World Records. Her father was a sharecropper who supported his family by picking cotton. The Brooklyn, New York, woman lived through 20 U.S. presidents, two world wars and the birth of the automobile, the airplane, TV and the Internet. Guinness officially recognized Jones as the oldest recorded person on the planet last year after 116-year-old Jeralean Talley died in suburban Detroit. The oldest living person ever recorded was Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at 122.

Jones attended the Calhoun Colored School in Calhoun, Alabama, where Booker T. Washington was an original member of the school’s board of trustees, according to the New York City Housing Authority. In 1923, Jones moved north to New York, where she worked as a live-in housekeeper and child-care provider.

Jones said she was determined to give the first-born girl in her family the gift of a college education. Despite her $50 weekly salary, she said she single-handedly put her first three nieces through college. The third oldest of 10 children, Jones had 100 nieces and nephews.  Jones had said she did not smoke or drink and cited loving relationships as a secret to her longevity.

“I surround myself with love and positive energy,” she told the New York City Housing Authority in 2005. “That’s the key to long life and happiness.”

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