Olivia de Havilland's fight against FX back in US court


Los Angeles (AFP)

Hollywood veteran Olivia de Havilland's court battle over how she was portrayed in "Feud: Bette And Joan" is set to resume Tuesday, with attorneys for FX Networks fighting for dismissal of the case.

The 101-year-old two-time Oscar winner, who came to embody the elegant glamour of Golden Age Hollywood, said she did not consent to the use of her likeness in the miniseries, nor has she received any remuneration for the use of her name and identity.

"Feud" focuses on the famous rivalry between Bette Davis, performed by Susan Sarandon, and Joan Crawford, as portrayed by Jessica Lange.

British actress Catherine Zeta-Jones portrays De Havilland -- Davis's friend -- in the show. Of the stars of yore seen in the miniseries, only De Havilland is still alive.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig ruled in September that the actress could move forward with her "right-of-publicity" lawsuit, despite the network's protestations that the show is protected by the First Amendment.

Kendig said that although the series was aired in the public forum of television and dealt with a subject of public interest, De Havilland still showed a likelihood of "prevailing on the merits."

Kendig also found that the star -- who under the law is a public figure -- showed that the network either knew that aspects of the series were false, or did not care whether they were.

The judge cited four examples, including a depiction of a 1978 Academy Awards interview in which De Havilland disparaged Davis and Crawford.

Kendig said the evidence showed the interview never took place, adding that De Havilland was falsely portrayed as someone who was a "gossip" and who used vulgar language against others, including her sister, Joan Fontaine, and that she had made disparaging remarks about Frank Sinatra's drinking habits.

"I believe in the right to free speech, but it certainly must not be abused by using it to protect published falsehoods or to improperly benefit from the use of someone's name and reputation without their consent," De Havilland told The New York Times by email earlier this month.

"Fox crossed both of these lines with 'Feud'."

Kendig said she disagreed with the defense that the series was "transformative" and said there was evidence the network benefited financially from the use of De Havilland's name.

De Havilland rose to fame in the 1930s playing ingenue roles alongside Errol Flynn, but moved on to more challenging fare, winning Academy Awards for the 1946 film "To Each His Own," and four years later for "The Heiress."

Legendary director Victor Fleming chose her for the role of Melanie Hamilton in the US Civil War epic "Gone With the Wind," (1939) and other notable films included "My Cousin Rachel" in 1953 with Richard Burton, and "Hush... Hush Sweet Charlotte" in 1965 with Bette Davis.

"A key reason for the public's deep respect for Olivia de Havilland is that in her 80-plus year career, she has steadfastly refused to engage in typical Hollywood gossip about the relationships of other actors," her complaint reads.