( b. Oct 22, 1917 Tokyo, JAPAN - d. Dec 16, 2013 Carmel, California, USA ) Female
Joan Fontaine rocketed to fame playing frightened wives in two landmark Hitchock films of the early 1940s. Ms. Fontaine was only 24 when she won an Academy Award as Best Actress for "Suspicion." In the suspense thriller, her character, a shy retiring type, comes to believe that her playboy husband, played by Cary Grant, is planning to kill her in order to collect her life insurance policy. The film culminated with a scene in which Grant brings possibly a poisoned glass of milk--which Hitchcock had lit from within for eerie effect--to Fontaine's bedroom.
The year before, she played another young woman who is swept off her feet by a dashing man--this time the Maxim de Winter of Laurence Olivier--in the film adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's "Rebecca." Once married and settled in Maxim's mansion, Manderlay, however, she is nearly driven mad by the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter, a great beauty to whom the home's housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, is slavishly devoted. Ms. Fontaine landed the role after six months of film tests. The film won her stardom and her first Oscar nomination.
She continued to find success throughout the '40s, though none of her subsequent films attained the notoriety of "Rebecca" and "Suspicion." Those two movies cemented her screen persona with the public, and thereafter she frequently played meek and self-sacrificing women whose lives were dominated by stronger, magnetic men.
She received a third Academy Award nomination for "The Constant Nymph" (1943), in which she played a teenager in love with a composer played by Charles Boyer. She starred opposite Orson Welles in the 1944 adaptation of "Jane Eyre." Though the director of record is Robert Stevenson, critics generally agree that Welles had a role in the look of the moody, visually striking black-and-white picture. Another career landmark was the 1948 Max Ophuls film "Letter From an Unknown Woman," in which she played a woman who spends her life in love with a pianist who barely knows she exists, despite the fact that she has borne his child.
Other films of this period included "Frenchman's Creek," "The Affairs of Susan," "Ivy," "The Emperor Waltz," "Something to Live For," "You Gotta Stay Happy" and "Ivanhoe." Her star dimmed during the 1950s. She gave her final screen appearance, in "The Witches," in 1966.
On the stage, she stepped into two Broadway roles, assuming the leads in Tea and Sympathy in the mid-'50s and the Julie Harris comedy Forty Carats in the late '60s.
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