The following article appeared in the March 1944 issue of Movieland magazine (pages 35, 83-84). Olivia was on the cover.
This Is Myself
by Olivia de Havilland
My First Great Adventure...
Occurred when I was five. We lived opposite a school, an old wooden building that had been declared derelict. The children in the neighborhood plugged the plumbing and flooded the boys' half of the basement so that the water stood three feed deep.
We made rafts of boxes that were lying around, and had a glorious time poling around the basement on them.
I still feel the thrill of my tremendous amusement.
A little boy named Abner Read, in the third grade when I was in first grade. He wore an orange black sweater which he hung up in the cloak room. I used to come to school late so that I could kiss it surreptitiously as I passed.
When I ceased to care for Abner, but I was always in love. When I was six I admired another boy who threw a rock at me. Ten years later, when I was sixteen, he proposed.
I Used To....
- Want to be an author, and actress, an artist, and something else that began with "a" - I can't think what! I believed there was something special about all my ambitions beginning with "a". It seemed a significant coincidence.
- See myself as a heroine. I saw myself saving lives by the dozen. When the Los Gatos Creek flooded the prune trees, which it did regularly every year, I saw myself rescuing people with the Australian crawl...I still can't swim more than fifteen consecutive strokes!
- See myself in various roles and then act out the roles. I went to a convent where the slightest deviation from conventional behavior was punished. I was distinctly feminine, but I saw myself then as a tomboy and proceeded to behave like one. Very trying for my family but I suppose I enjoyed it at the time.
I'd Like To...
- Know how to build a fire with two sticks, boy scout fashion;
- Shine in emergencies;
-Catch up on all the good books I've missed;
-Write a book - but I know I never will.
Once I Thought...
It mattered what people say. I suffered dreadfully over what I thought was said about me. Now I know I am my own best judge, must make my own decisions, and "What-will-people-say" is no longer a bogie.
- In luck. I've been very lucky at times.
- In a sixth sense. I frequently know things without understanding how I know them. One Sunday as I drove with friends to an engagement, I suddenly said: "Please stop at the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel. There will be a cable for me." I had no idea what made me say that. We stopped, found no cable, but an hour later the cable arrived.
- To sleep soundly, because I love to get up refreshed and ready to go;
- Square plates, freesias, General Montgomery and his beret, or General Montgomery without his beret; little scampering mice, onions, and curious and interesting foods;
-The idea of promptness. I believe in it, but I never am.
- People who sniffle;
- Poke bonnets;
- Unexplained thumps in a house at night.
I'm Never Annoyed With...
People who want me to try their cold remedies. I usually have several to offer myself.
I Think It's Fun To...
- Plan parties, work out every detail of decoration, menu, and entertainment;
- Outwit the traffic cop when the signal turns red just as I reach it. ....My system is to go halfway through the intersection, start to back up, look helplessly around as if to say: "Oh dear, I'd better go on!" and then dart through.
Practically everything by the trial-and-error method. I learn from my mistakes. I'm not sorry to make them - I'm glad I can learn that way - but I'm seriously annoyed with myself when I repeat a mistake.
When I Was At School...
I wanted to look like a Palm Olive advertisement I cut out of a magazine. The girl in the picture had very black hair, brown eyes and a sweet, sweet, sweet smile. When I came on the ad years later, was I glad all dreams don't come true!
I'll Never Forget...(part 1)
- A coat my mother gave me one Christmas. It was gray with a red tie and had a printed pattern in red and black and gray. When I returned to school wearing it, it struck the other children as very funny. They called it my "bathrobe," shrieked with mirth and made me actually miserable.
I'll Never Forget...(part 2)
- A meal at the Lakeside Golf Club. I gained twenty pounds and was warned not to take it off until I was quite recovered. I played in period pictures where weight was no problem, but along came a modern picture and I had to reduce - but fast. I went on the Harper's Bazaar diet, where you eat steaks, chops and tomato salad, no more. Today I'm probably the only creature in America who doesn't mind the meat shortage.
I craved all the foods I couldn't have and looked forward to Fridays because that was the day I was permitted one piece of French toast.
Our director used to take us to the Golf Club for lunch, and while I toyed with a slice of tomato the rest of the company devoured delectable dishes.
One day I came to the end of my self-control, ate every single item on the buffet.
Next day they couldn't shoot the picture - I was home in bed.
I'll Never Forget... (part 3)
- The beautiful thing a little girl did for me.
Her name was Helen Burns. She and I were six.
Our school house had a huge standpipe that filled up when it rained and overflowed like a geyser, dramatically.
The great sport at school was to stand under the geyser and enjoy the shock and excitement of water splashing down three stories upon you.
One day Helen and I, greatly daring, stood under the geyser. My mother saw me, yanked me home, gave me a good spanking and sent me back to school - not in a dress like all the other girls, but in the khaki blouse and pants I wore for the play.
I suffered horribly at having to appear different from all my schoolmates. It was simply excruciating.
Helen saw me, ran home and put on her khaki outfit, came back and sat beside me.
I thought her wonderful. I still do.
To live any day of my life over again. I liked some days very much indeed - some were unbelievably perfect - but I've had them.
The First Thing That Attracts Me...
- In a man is brains, humor, kindness, honesty and courage - yes, and vitality. Intelligence and humor are probably the first things I notice; the existence of the other qualities isn't so immediately apparent.
- In a woman is charm. Often very dumb women have it, but it attracts me. I like intelligent women, of course. It's nice to have women friends, but they are more difficult to acquire than men friends - at least for me.
- Almost any kind of music - melodies, tangos, rhumbas, songs from "Oklahoma," so-called classical music.
- Pictures - but I don't know a great deal about them. I spent a glorious afternoon this week looking at a collection belonging to a friend and I hope I'll never forget it. He had three Rousseaus, some Paul Klees, several Picassos; some lovely, lovely things!
-Books, but I'm usually from one to fifty years late in reading what everyone else reads. I've just caught up with "South Wind," "Moby Dick," Wells' "Outline of History," F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ibsen's plays.
-Thunder and lightning. They make me feel safe, oddly enough.
-My first and only pet, my Airedale Shadrack, in spite of his arrogance, willfulness, unreasonable ideas about discipline.
I'm Guilty Of...
-Postponing decisions. But it's usually because something tells me to wait-and I wait.
-Spoiling people I love. But maybe it's just that I like to make them happy.
-Trying to hard for perfection. Or just trying too hard. Period.
Some Day I Would Like...
-To have a baby. I'd like two or three, but I do want to be sure of one.
I'm Not Fond Of...
All babies and small children. I never know how to handle them.
I Want To...
Know the truth about people. Once you know their virtues and their faults, their ideas, hopes, and beliefs, you know what to do about them. It's not easy, but if you're fond of anyone it's your business to find out the whole truth.
I Believe In...
Destiny and free will. It seems to me that we each have a pattern we are to follow in life. But we also have a thread of free will that we can use as we please. It is up to us to weave the thread into the pattern.
Whatever we do with our lives, some of the praise and some of the blame is certainly all our own.