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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Lilian Fontaine Garden Theater in Sarasota, California

As many fans know, Olivia and Joan's mother Lilian Fontaine (born Lillian Augusta Ruse) was a stage actress. Apart from raising her children she dedicated most of her time mentoring young theater actors.

She also helped in the founding of an outdoor park theater which now bears her name --- The Lilian Fontaine Garden Theater.

It's located in Saratoga, California, near where Lilian lived and where Olivia and Joan grew up. Saratoga is about 13 miles southwest of San Jose (and about 70 miles north of where Joan lives today in Carmel).

This summer (2010), the theater served as the venue for performers Dave Koz, Al Jarreau, Lily Tomlin, Joan Baez, and others.

The theater has an interesting history going back decades. It is on the grounds near a mansion formerly called the Villa Montalvo Estate,  which was first owned by outgoing California businessman and politician James Phelan. He lived there and entertained many politicians and actors, including Lilian. Phelan died in 1930, and bequeathed the grounds (175 acres!) to the State, intending it to be a public park and cultural center. Today it is a private non-profit arts center, known as the Montalvo Arts Center. If you go there today you'll find the mansion (used for weddings), two theaters (one indoor and outdoor), an art gallery, hiking trails, and a gardens.

I've never been there, but it sounds like a beautiful place.

In 1978, the outdoor theater was named after Lilian Fontaine, who was not only a good personal friend of James Phelan's, but was also a longtime supporter of the theater until her passing in 1975 at the age of 89.

A few weeks ago KC shared a nice story about how Joan is now helping with the funding of the refurbishment of the theater. The article comes from the Mercury News, written by Richard Scheinin of Mercury News.

Susan Pfeiffer, an assistant to Ms. Fontaine, said that "Joan wanted to preserve her mother's love for theater by helping to maintain this wonderful place."

Also according to the article, Lilian is credited with having brought Shakespearean plays to Montalvo. Angela McConnell, director of the Montalvo Arts Center, said it is "a dream for us, to have Shakespeare in our theater again."

Also from the article:

Delmar McComb, Montalvo's garden curator, said he would like to plant a six- to eight-foot hedge behind and along the sides of the theater. This will "frame the amphitheater and unify it," he said, "creating more intimacy and a little more separation" from the surrounding landscape.

The effect would be "almost like that of a Shakespearean theater, with arches cut into the hedgerow. "

Some of those would be planted with "really bold architectural plants from the Canary Islands," he said, "kind of like a yucca, but softer and with flowers." He also envisions a trellised rose-strewn pathway leading into the theater from the south.

"I think it can be an experience in and of itself, just to go into that theater," he said.

The entire project sounds so wonderful. The director of the arts center hopes that Joan can visit the theater to see the progress, and also hopes Olivia can come as well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

New article about Ann Rutherford

KC shared this great article on her blog Classic Movies. Ann Rutherford - who played Carreen in Gone with the Wind - recently visited the campus of Kent State University along with Robert Osborne. During the visit, Ann befriends a young fan and aspiring film historian.

Article: "A Lesson in Film History" by Rich Heldenfels
(Akron Beacon Journal popular culture writer)
Published on Sunday, Sep 26, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy 90th Birthday, Mickey Rooney!

Hollywood Legend Mickey Rooney celebrates his 90th birthday today! A performer all of his life (his parents were vaudeville performers and brought him on stage when he was a baby), he still finds time to perform, conduct interviews, and do personal appearances. His best known films are from the 1930s and 40s, including National Velvet, Boys Town, Babes in Arms, and the one film he did with Olivia, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Mickey Rooney and Olivia de Havilland in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)

Happy Birthday Mickey Rooney!

Monty posted a nice birthday salute on his blog Singing and Dancing Back in Time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The sibling rivalry continues....

I heard about a new Olivia-Joan article on Laura's blog today. (Thanks Laura for sharing this!)

The article was published last week on UK's Mail Online, just a few days after Olivia was given her award in France.

The author basically points out how Joan was not present at the ceremony, and recaps the decades old sibling rivalry, which many of us are already familiar with. Check it out here.

And the Oscar for sibling rivalry goes to... The nine-decade feud between Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine that is still raging

by Michael Thorton

I still have the feeling that Olivia's hopefully-upcoming (?) biography will have more to tell about how she feels about her sister.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

France honors Olivia de Havilland

Some wonderful news to share today! The blogs Anatomy of a Classic and Laura's Miscellaneous Musings reported that Olivia has been awarded the Knight of the Legion of Honor by French President Nicholas Sarkozy at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Paris.

The Order is the highest decoration in France.

According to the Associated Press, President Sarkozy told Olivia that "you honor France for having chosen us." To live, of course - Olivia has lived in Paris since the 1950s.

Laura shared a link to some wonderful pictures from the event, courtesy of NPR News. Read the AP story by Silvie Corbett as published on the Seattle Times Online.

Thanks to all for sharing this wonderful news. Congratulations Olivia!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cammie King, Bonnie Butler in 'Gone With the Wind,' Dies at 76

Cammie King, the actress who played young Bonnie Blue Butler in Gone With the Wind has passed away. As Laura notes on her blog post, Ms Butler was one of the last remaining cast members of the 1939 classic. According to the website Legacy, Ms Butler "remained active in the Gone With the Wind community, attending conventions, parades and other events. Throughout her life she stayed in touch with many of the film’s cast and crew, and had spoken to Olivia de Havilland just days before her death."

CNN News report:

Here is a tribute from the Vivien Leigh blog.