This is Part 2 in a three-part review of the book Sisters: The Story of Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine (1984) Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
While Charles Higham's "Sisters" destroyed my illusions of Olivia, it failed to change my opinion of Joan Fontaine. Prior to reading her own autobiography, I had very little interest in her as anything other than an actress. But once I opened "No Bed of Roses," I was hooked. I found a woman with whom I could strongly identify. She was witty, strong, intelligent, and obviously very different from those around her.
Because of her honesty in her own book, there was very little that surprised me in "Sisters." One thing is for certain, though: While Higham was kind to neither sibling, his portrait of Joan was the more flattering. He portrayed Olivia as a psychopath; he gave the impression that Joan was a misunderstood wit with a terribly weak immune system.
Other than stating that Joan was a sickly child whom Olivia cast aside, especially within school halls, there is no reason to delve into her childhood for she shared one with Olivia; and I touched on their childhood in my review FOR her elder sister.
They shared the same incidents of child molestation, the same eccentric absentee father, and the same sordid childhood rife with Draconian discipline.
Joan managed to escape her parents' (mother and stepfather) house for a year, when she traveled to Japan to live with her father and stepmother. This arrangement ended when Walter de Havilland, the girls' estranged father, allegedly propositioned Joan.
Throughout adulthood, Joan beat Olivia to many monumental firsts: she was first to lose her virginity, get married, win an Oscar, and have a child. Certainly this poked holes in an already perforated bond.
Joan was also married twice as many times as Olivia. The first, to Brian Aherne; then William Dozier; followed by Collier Young, and then Alfred Wright, Jr.
Her only biological child is Deborah Leslie Dozier, born to Joan and Bill Dozier. She also informally adopted a poor Peruvian child by the name of Martita Valentina Pareja (how BEAUTIFUL is that name??!!!). Joan, unfortunately, suffered 2 miscarriages during 1965.
Her personal life has seen many ups and downs, but it has been full of laughter, glamour, and wonderful friends.
Professionally, though Olivia is regarded as the more successful and iconic of the two, Joan has surely made her mark on Hollywood. She is a true screen legend, and she will be remembered for quite some time.