Monday, December 16, 2013

Another Star Joins the Heavens: Joan Fontaine

It was just last week that Eleanor Parker's death was mourned. Now, another leading lady from Hollywood's Golden Age has passed away, Joan Fontaine. I became a fan of Ms. Fontaine after watching Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca. Her portrayal of the ingenuous, second Mrs. DeWinter was beautiful. Watching the evolution of Fontaine's character from a naive, love-struck girl to a loyal, stalwart wife was amazing. I then discovered Suspicion, another Hitchcock vehicle. In Suspicion, Fontaine played Lina McLaidlaw. Lina could have been a one note, spinsterish woman who marries a ne'er do well. However, Joan Fontaine showed Lina to be a lonely, young woman who desperately wants to believe the best about her handsome husband, Johnnie. However, although inexperienced in love, Lina is an intelligent woman who senses that Johnnie is not all he pretends to be. For her work in Suspicion, Joan Fontaine earned an Oscar for Best Actress of 1941.

Tribute sketch of Joan as The Constant Nymph by my husband David Hardy.

Over the years, I've seen numerous films starring Joan Fontaine and read her autobiography, No Bed of Roses. One film that Ms. Fontaine mentioned in her autobiography fondly was The Constant Nymph. Unfortunately, public showings were limited due the author's deal with Warner Brothers and some other legal issues. When I met David, he mentioned that he was lucky enough to see the film during a showing at his library. It was the one film starring Joan Fontaine which I just had to see. Finally, TCM resolved the various legal issues and obtained the rights to the film. I was thrilled and a bit scared when TCM announced the TV premiere of The Constant Nymph in September of 2011. Sometimes, a film does not live up to one's expectations. I was so happy that The Constant Nymph was even better than I hoped it would be. Without a doubt, Joan Fontaine was brilliant as Tessa Sanger. She had a tender, ethereal quality that a muse like Tessa should possess. I am so glad Ms. Fontaine lived to see audiences rediscover this wonderful film.

Joan Fontaine like her sister, Olivia DeHavilland, was a STAR. Fontaine was not a star, like we classify today's crop of movie actors. She had class and a timeless beauty. That is why she will be fondly remembered for years to come.


  1. A beautiful tribute for a beautiful Star , honey ! Great job as always ! :)

  2. Enhanced by your beautiful sketch!