Recent Posts

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Tale of Two Sisters

This is Part 3 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

Prior to purchasing "Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine" by Charles Higham, the reviews I had read were almost wholly negative. While I anticipated the arrival of the book, I was hellbent on being pleasantly surprised with the material therein.

Alas, one cannot always get what they want.

The story itself is quite interesting, as the lives of these two sisters are both thrilling and tragic; full of success and defeat; and last, but certainly not least, legendary.

The savage sisterly feud of which Charles Higham writes stands as one of the most iconic and enduring celebrity catfights in Hollywood history. Both women have taken public, and private, shots at one another; and both sisters have been left deeply hurt.

The subject matter being this book's only real redeeming quality, I have very few positive things to say about it. The writing alone became very tedious rather quickly. Charles Higham's prose seems to carry a very slow pace. Because of this, I found myself often bored, flipping through the rest of the book to try and find the TRULY juicy details. There also seem to be a number of factual errors in Higham's story. It also became apparent to me that the storyline could get confusing, the way Higham jumps from one sister's life to another. That being said, one must still give him credit for his ability to intertwine the sister's lives in an accurate chronological fashion.

Poor editing aside, Higham seems to have dropped a few bombshells within his book; most of them, it seems, are directed at Olivia. The following things about which I was most shocked are:

1.) The abuse (mental, physical, and sexual) both young girls endured at the hands of their tyrannical stepfather, George Fontaine.

2.) The accusation that Errol Flynn once, in a drunken stupor, tried to break down the door to Olivia's dressing room and rape her.

3.) The inclusion of Olivia's court testimonies stating that first husband Marcus Goodrich began to abuse and terrify her shortly after their son's birth.

4.) Olivia's alleged extramarital affair with Luther Davis in the mid-1960's.

It was the shocking and scandalous passages that held my attention. Had Higham not spiced things up, it is sufficient to say I would have put this book down. It was my dedication to Olivia and Joan that inspired me to see this novel through.

All of this being said, I would only recommend this book to die hard fans of Olivia de Havilland and/or Joan Fontaine. Only they will have what it takes to finish this book.


Tom said...

I just renewed this book again from my local library. You're right - Higham does jump from one's life to another chronologically, which I give him credit for. There's alot to digest, and I've noticed he does seem to favor Joan, but then again he used Joan's book as a major source for his material as well. I'd be interested to know more about the factual errors you discovered; I wouldn't doubt they would be in here. Also, I'm thinking he may have exaggerated on a few points as well, such as the Errol Flynn incident.

The Poetess said...

The Errol Flynn bit doesn't sit well with me, fact wise. Especially given Olivia's infatuation. How could she love a man who tried to rape her? Also, I think it would have been a bigger story, had it been true.

Anonymous said...

From what I always knew about Olivia, having grown up in LA in the 60's she was always a B--ch and hated her sister since Joan won her Oscar. Joan was by far the most talented of the two and as for Errol Flynn.. please,m Olivia invented this and of course Errol was not around to defend himself. He was no angel towards women but rape a movie star on the set; impossible even for a drunk like Flynn

Post a Comment