Joan Fontaine, Oscar-Winning Actress, Dies at 96

Joan Fontaine in the 1940s
 Courtesy Everett Collection

Another screen legend has entered the hereafter. On Sunday, Dec. 15, Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine died at her home in Carmel, Calif. at age 96, her assistant confirmed to the New York Times and other outlets. The regal blonde British-American secured her place in the Hollywood pantheon of all-time greats with her role in Alfred Hitchcock's gothic 1940 classic Rebecca. She earned an Oscar nomination for that performance, and then won the trophy two years later in another Hitchcock film, Suspicion, opposite Cary Grant.

Born in Tokyo, Japan to British parents, Fontaine moved to California in 1919 with her older sister — another future movie star, Olivia de Havilland. Now 97, Gone with the Wind star de Havilland became a successful Hollywood star just a few years before Joan's rise to fame — but the famous, gorgeous siblings were reportedly estranged for much of their lives.

Indeed, Fontaine once said: "I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it!"''

Married and divorced four times, Fontaine is survived by biological daughter Deborah, 65, and Marita, her adopted, Peruvian-born daughter with whom she was estranged.

Other notable screen performances from Fontaine included The Constant Nymph (1943), Jane Eyre (1944), Ivy (1947) and Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948).

She also enjoyed success on the Broadway stage and on television — earning an Emmy nomination in 1980 for her performance in Ryan's Hope.

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