Suzy Parker (born Cecilia Ann Renee Parker; October 28, 1932 – May 3, 2003) was an American model and actress active from 1947 into the early 1960s. Her modeling career reached its zenith during the 1950s, when she appeared on the covers of dozens of magazines and in advertisements and movie and television roles.
She appeared in several Revlon advertisements as well as in advertisements for many other cosmetic companies, including Solo Products, the largest hair care product company in the country at the time. (Models did not have "exclusive" cosmetic company contracts until Lauren Hutton and Karen Graham in the early 1970s).
In 1956, at the height of her modelling career, she became the first model to earn $100,000 per year ($940,000 today). A song that The Beatles wrote for her, though not released on record, appeared in their 1970 documentary film Let It Be, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Score.
Suzy Parker was born Cecilia Ann Renee Parker in Long Island City, New York, to George and Elizabeth Parker, who married in 1916. She had three older sisters: Dorian, Florian, and Georgiabell.
Her mother Elizabeth believed she was undergoing menopause, but then discovered she was several months pregnant with her youngest child, Cecilia. Her father George disliked the name Cecilia and called her Susie, a name which Parker would retain throughout her life. A French Vogue photographer later changed the spelling to "Suzy".
In 1947, when Suzy Parker was 15, her sister Dorian Leigh, already one of the top models at the time, introduced her to modelling agency Eileen Ford.
Dorian Leigh started her modelling career only a few years ago and very quickly became one of the top models in the world, arguably the "world's first supermodel" along with Lisa Fonssagrives.
Dorian also built her own modelling agency but decided to close it after marriage in 1947.
Dorian telephoned Ford Modeling Agency and told Eileen and Jerry Ford that she would sign on with them if they also took her younger sister, sight unseen. Eager to represent Dorian, they agreed. Expecting to meet a similarly petite, extremely thin, flawless, pale-faced, electric blue-eyed, raven-haired younger version of Dorian, they were shocked to meet Suzy for the first time. A 15 year old girl with a height of 5'10", big-boned, and had carrot red hair, pale-green eyes, and freckles.
Suzy Parker's photo appeared in Life magazine shortly after. That same year, she had one of her first magazine advertisements for DeRosa Jewelry. Although she still lived with her parents in Florida, she stayed in New York City with Dorian when she had modeling assignments there. Dorian introduced Parker to her fashion-photographer friends, Irving Penn, Horst P. Horst, John Rawlings, and a young Richard Avedon. Parker later became Avedon's muse, she said years later that "The only joy I ever got out of modeling was working with Dick Avedon."
In 1950, Suzy Parker and her high-school sweetheart, Ronald Staton (some sources cite Charles), drove to Georgia to secretly marry. She wore a bikini with a raincoat on top for the ceremony.
They moved to Pennsylvania and rented a house near where her sister Dorian was living with her husband and children. While Ronald was attending the University of Pennsylvania as a freshman, Parker was busy modeling in the United States, and more and more, Europe.
On one of her work trips to France, Parker met journalist Pierre de la Salle at a Jacques Fath party outside of Paris. She returned to the United States and asked Ronald for a divorce, who would only agree if Parker gave him a large monetary settlement, paid for plastic surgery on his nose and paid for his acting lessons. She agreed, and their divorce was finalized in Mexico in 1953. Ronald was killed years later in an automobile accident.
Suzy Parker was the first model to earn $200 per hour and $100,000 per year. Vogue declared her one of the faces of the confident, post-war American woman. By 1955, she owed income taxes on her modeling income from previous years, amounting to more than $60,000 in back taxes and rapidly accumulating penalties, an enormous amount at the time. Jerry Ford paid her tax bill and found her assignments.
She worked non-stop for Revlon, Hertz, Westinghouse, Max Factor, Bliss, DuPont, Simplicity, Smirnoff, and Ronson shavers, to name a few. She also was on the covers of about 70 magazines around the world, including Vogue, Elle, Life, Look, Redbook, Paris Match and McCall's. After being introduced to, and taught photography by, war photographer Robert Capa, Parker was briefly listed as a member of Magnum Photos.
Parker and Pierre continued to date for years despite Pierre's numerous infidelities. She also was paying for his high cost-of-living expenses. They married about 1957 or 1958, but the couple kept it a secret.
Suzy Parker’s most important connection to Europe and France, however, is not her French husband, but Coco Chanel, who became a close confidante, giving Parker advice on men and money as well as creating numerous Chanel outfits for her. Suzy Parker also became the so-called signature face of the Coco Chanel brand.
Related article: Elegant love: When Coco Chanel meets Suzy Parker
In 1958, Parker was a passenger in a car her father was driving when they were hit by an oncoming train. Her father died of his injuries at the hospital. Parker was hospitalized, with broken bones and embedded glass (with her face untouched), under the name Mrs. Pierre de la Salle. The press jumped on this, but Pierre continued to deny that they were married.
After recovering from her injuries, Parker became pregnant and Pierre de la Salle left her and the baby. She said, "He didn't want to be a father. I already hired a nanny... he was gone, history."
She gave birth to their daughter Georgia Belle Florian Coco Chanel de la Salle in December 1959, whose godmother was close friend Coco Chanel. Parker named her daughter after her older sisters Georgiabell and Florian and purposely left Dorian Leigh's name off, as Parker was fed up with Leigh's promiscuous lifestyle and her not taking care of her children.
A top model already more famous than her sister Dorian Leigh, Suzy Parker also became a film actress.
Her first film role was in Kiss Them for Me (1957), playing the main interest of Cary Grant's character. Soon after she accepted a cameo role in Funny Face (1957), on screen for two minutes in a musical number described as "Pink Number".
In 1960, while filming A Circle of Deception (1960), she met actor Bradford Dillman at the set. She was still married to Pierre de la Salle but no longer living with him. Dillman was ending his first marriage and dating Juliette Gréco at the time. Parker obtained a divorce and married Bradford in 1963 on board a boat at sea. She changed her name to Suzy Parker Dillman following the marriage.
In 1964, Suzy Parker suffered another car accident while nervously rehearsing for her famous appearance in the tv show The Twilight Zone.
After that, she mostly retired from modeling and took care of her three children with Dillman: daughter Dinah and sons Charlie and Christopher, as well as two step children: Jeffrey and Pamela, Dillman's children from his first marriage
The family lived in Bel Air, Los Angeles, until her daughter Dinah was bitten by a rattlesnake in the yard and almost died. They then moved to Montecito in the Santa Barbara area, where Suzy remained until her death in 2003.
Parker enjoyed being a stay-at-home mother and she was an excellent cook. Her sister Dorian Leigh also loved cooking and became a Cordon Bleu-level chef after retiring modelling.
Suzy Parker long suffered from allergies, and in the 1990s, developed ulcers. During surgery for an ulcer, her vital signs disappeared on the operating table, but she was resuscitated. She never fully recovered and developed more ulcers and diabetes. She had multiple hip surgeries, and then her kidneys began to fail. She spent the last five years of her life in and out of the hospital.
Parker decided to end dialysis treatments. She returned home and died at age 70 surrounded by family at her orchard in Montecito, California on May 3, 2003. Her husband Bradford Dillman died in 2018 at age 87.
Main Rousseau Bocher (October 24, 1890 – December 27, 1976), also known as Mainbocher, was an American couturier best known for the eponymous fashion label he founded in 1929. Although often pronounced "Man-bo-shay," his name is pronounced "Maine-Bocker."
Bocher was a native of Chicago, where he studied at the Lewis Institute, now the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He served in intelligence during World War I and stayed in Paris after the war, working as a fashion illustrator for Harper's Bazaar, as Paris fashion editor for Vogue from 1922 to 1929, becoming the editor-in-chief of the French edition of Vogue in early 1927. Main Bocher's decision to become a couturier grew out of his years as editor at Vogue; he realized that his critical eye and his feeling for fashion might also serve him as a designer.
In November 1929, Main Rousseau Bocher merged his own name, in honor of his favorite couturieres, Augustabernard and Louiseboulanger, and established his own fashion house, incorporated as "Mainbocher Couture" at 12 Avenue George-V in Paris. Mainbocher progressively gained recognition for his elegant and sophisticated couture garments. The strapless dress and jeweled cashmere sweaters are his creations.
His subtle and timeless style won Mainbocher an exclusive clientele, which included fashion editors like Carmel Snow, Bettina Ballard, Diana Vreeland, aristocrats like Princess Karam of Kapurthala, Lady Castlerosse, the Vicomtesse de Noailles, Baroness Eugène de Rothschild, pianist Dame Myra Hess, socialites like Millicent Rogers, Daisy Fellowes, Mrs. Cole Porter, Syrie Maugham, Elsie de Wolfe, and stars like Mary Pickford, Constance Bennett, Kay Francis, Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, Miriam Hopkins, Helen Hayes.
His most famous patron was Wallis Simpson, after whom he even named a color, "Wallis Blue".
In 1937, he designed her wedding dress and trousseau in that particular Wallis Blue for her marriage to the Duke of Windsor, after he abdicated the British throne.
Described in 1950 as "one of the most photographed and most copied dresses of modern times", the bridal dress is today part of the Metropolitan Museum collection. Hamish Bowles later said: "I think [Mainbocher's clothes] are so subtle, the detailing is so extraordinary, and they are so unbelievably evocative of ... absolute subtle luxury. You can really see why a client like Wallis Windsor would have been drawn to his clothes, and why she became so emblematic of his work."
Mainbocher's last Paris collections created a storm of controversy. Anticipating Christian Dior's "New Look" of 1947 by eight years, the "wasp waist", a nipped-in waist, radically altered the silhouette of the thirties. Dior himself confessed: "Mainbocher is really in advance of us all, because he does it in America."
The corset that shaped Mainbocher's last Parisian collection was immortalized in 1939 by one of Horst P. Horst's most famous photographs, known as the "Mainbocher Corset." Mainbocher's corseted waist, defined bosom, and back draping was an abrupt shift in silhouette and introduced the Victorian motifs that were to pervade the forties.
Cameron Silver named Mainbocher "the designer of the 30ies,” in his book Decades: A Century of Fashion, and he further noted that "Mainbocher's designs oozed exclusivity, good breeding, and rarefied taste.”
The onset of Second World War forced Mainbocher to leave France. In 1940, he relocated his business to New York on 57th Street next to Tiffany's and established "Mainbocher Inc." He recreated his Paris salons exactly as they were and stayed true to haute couture traditions.
The corset controversy proved to be a timely marketing opportunity; the house of Mainbocher teamed up with the Warner Brothers Corset Company and streamlined the design for mass production.
He showed his first New York collection on October 30, 1940, and soon established himself as one of the leading American fashion designers. He solved fabric rationing issues by designing short evening gowns and "cocktail aprons" that could transform any dress into a formal evening dress.
During the war, Mainbocher designed a series of uniforms for both military and civilian organizations, applying his principles of functionality and utility while retaining the sophisticated elegance of his namesake label. These uniforms also allowed him to reclaim his American identity in a patriotic context.
In 1942, he conceived the uniforms for the women-only division of the American Navy, called WAVES. He then updated the uniforms of the American Red Cross,
In 1948, he unified the uniforms of Girl Scouts in the same shade of green. In 1950, he designed a one of a kind evening dress uniform for Colonel Katherine Amelia Towle, who was then Director of Women Marines (USMCR). This unique uniform is now on display at the armory of the Newport Artillery Company in Newport, Rhode Island.
In New York, Mainbocher continued to dress generations of women like debutante Brenda Frazier, Doris Duke, Adele Astaire(sister of Fred Astaire), Elizabeth Parke Firestone, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lila Wallace, Bunny Mellon, Babe Paley, Princess Maria Cristina de Bourbon, Kathryn Miller, and C. Z. Guest. In 1947, eight of the New York Dress Institute's Ten Best-Dressed Women in the World were Mainbocher clients.
After he achieved fame for dressing some of the world's most famous women, Mainbocher was commissioned to design the costumes for Leonora Corbett in the comic play Blithe Spirit (1941); Mary Martin in the Broadway musicals One Touch of Venus (1943) and The Sound of Music (1959); Tallulah Bankhead in the Broadway production Private Lives (1948); Ethel Merman in the musical Call Me Madam (1950); Rosalind Russell in the musical Wonderful Town (1953); Lynn Fontanne in The Great Sebastians (1956); Katharine Cornell in The Prescott Papers; Irene Worth in the play Tiny Alice (1964); and Lauren Bacall in the musical Applause (1970).
In 1961, the Mainbocher business moved to the K.L.M. Building on Fifth Avenue and continued until 1971 when Mainbocher, at the age of 81, closed the doors of his house. He divided his last years between Paris and Munich until his death in 1976.
Mainbocher's innovations include short evening dresses; beaded evening sweaters; the strapless evening gown; bare-armed blouses for suits; costume-dyed furs (black mink and black sealskin); novel uses for batiste, voile, organdy, piqué, linen, and embroidered muslin; the waistcinch; man-tailored dinner suits; bows instead of hats; the principle of the simple dress with many tie-ons (shirt-like aprons, changeable jackets); the sari evening dress; the "bump" shoulder (a sort of modified leg-o'-mutton sleeve) on suits and coats; the evening version of the "tennis dress," a white evening dress with "V" neck and stole; the revival of crinolines; and the rain suit.
Mainbocher inspired many of the most brilliant fashion designers, including Christian Lacroix, who praised the glamour of his garments.
In 2002, Mainbocher was honored with a bronze plaque on New York City's Fashion Walk of Fame in the legendary Garment District.
Mainbocher's fashion designs have been displayed in many exhibitions over the years.
In 2010, the Museum of the City of New York created a virtual exhibition on Worth & Mainbocher, which was the first to emphasize Mainbocher's work.
The first retrospective dedicated to Mainbocher, entitled Making Mainbocher, took place at the Chicago History Museum from October 2016 to August 2017. This exhibition was partly sponsored by Luvanis, which is the current owner of the brand.
Originaire de Chicago, Main Rousseau Bocher part pour l'Europe en 1911. Dès lors, menant une vie de bohème, il alterne entre ses études et divers emplois, à New York, Munich, Paris et Londres. Il étudie ainsi l'art à Munich, puis le dessin à Paris en 1912, et rentre aux États-Unis en 1913. Quelques jours après son retour sur le sol américain, il apprend que l'un de ses dessins a été sélectionné pour le Salon des Artistes Décorateurs. C'est ainsi qu'il revient brièvement à Paris, avant de se rendre à Londres où il dessine des affiches publicitaires et illustre Aucassin et Nicolette pour Harrods.
Le déclenchement de la Première Guerre mondiale le force à rentrer à New York en 1914. Il subsiste en vendant des illustrations de mode au fabricant E. L. Mayer, lui aussi originaire de Chicago. En parallèle, il prend des cours de musique avec Frank La Forge et commence à se faire connaître dans le milieu musical new-yorkais. Lors de l'entrée en guerre des États-Unis en 1917, il s'engage volontairement et devient sergent major l'année suivante. Démobilisé en 1919, il décide de rester à Paris et songe à une grande carrière à l'Opéra-Comique, sa passion. Cependant, son rêve prend brutalement fin quand, en 1921, il échoue à une audition importante.
Il est alors engagé comme dessinateur pour Harper's Bazaar. Deux ans plus tard, il intègre le groupe Condé Nast en tant que rédacteur mode de l'édition francaise du magazine Vogue (« Paris fashion editor »). Il lance la rubrique « l'œil de Vogue », dans laquelle il popularise de nouvelles expressions comme « blanc cassé ». Il y fait preuve de flair en décelant dans les collections de couture ce qui plaira aux Françaises et aux Américaines. Grâce à ses talents littéraires et à son sens du style, il devient rédacteur en chef de l'édition française du magazine Vogue en 1927. En 1929, il considère sa connaissance du monde de la mode suffisante pour passer à une activité plus créatrice, et décide d'ouvrir sa propre maison de couture. Il s'agit d'un pari risqué pour Mainbocher, qui, alors âgé de 40 ans, n'avait pas de formation technique.
Main Rousseau Bocher fusionne son prénom et son nom de famille pour donner naissance à sa griffe « Mainbocher », à l'instar des griffes Augustabernard et Louiseboulanger dont il était un fervent admirateur. Il ouvre la société Mainbocher Couture au 21, avenue George-V et présente sa première collection en novembre 1930, en pleine dépression économique. Mainbocher s'impose progressivement grâce à ses créations tout aussi élégantes que sophistiquées. On lui doit notamment la robe bustier et les pull-overs en cachemire brodés.
Son style subtil et intemporel remporte les faveurs de célèbres éditrices de mode telles Carmel Snow, Bettina Ballard, Diana Vreeland, mais aussi de femmes de la haute société telles Elsie de Wolfe, Lady Castlerosse, la vicomtesse de Noailles, Lady Abdy, la baronne de Rothschild, la pianiste Myra Hess, Millicent Rogers, Daisy Fellowes, Madame Cole Porter, ou encore de célébrités comme Mary Pickford, Constance Bennett, Kay Francis, Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, Miriam Hopkins et Helen Hayes.
De toutes ses clientes, la plus célèbre reste Wallis Simpson, pour qui il va jusqu'à créer le « bleu Wallis ». Il réalise sa robe de mariée et son trousseau, lorsqu'elle épouse en troisièmes noces le duc de Windsor en juin 1937, après son abdication du trône d'Angleterre.
Cette robe, l'une des plus photographiées et des plus copiées, contribue fortement à asseoir sa notoriété. Elle est aujourd'hui conservée au Metropolitan Museum of Art à New York.
La dernière collection parisienne de Mainbocher, qui introduit des « tailles de guêpe » sanglées, est sujette à de vives controverses. Certains commentateurs voient, en effet, dans le retour du corset un recul de la mode. Le « corset Mainbocher » tranche radicalement avec la silhouette fluide des années 1930 et annonce déjà le « New Look » de Christian Dior. Ce corset est immortalisé par Horst P. Horst dans l'une de ses plus célèbres photographies.
Avec la déclaration de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, Mainbocher se voit contraint de quitter la France.
En 1940, la maison de couture devient Mainbocher Inc. et s'installe à New York, à l'angle de la 57e Rue et de la 5e Avenue, à côté de Tiffany. Il y recrée ses salons de couture à l'identique et reste attaché aux traditions de la haute couture parisienne.
Le corset Mainbocher et la controverse qui l'entoure lui fournissent une clef d'entrée dans le marché américain. Il s'associe ainsi à la Warner Brothers Corset Company pour produire une ligne de corsets portant sa griffe.
Il présente sa première collection de couture new-yorkaise le 30 octobre 1940 et réussit bientôt à s'imposer sur la scène de mode américaine. Pendant la durée du conflit, Mainbocher s'accommode des problèmes posés par le rationnement de tissu en créant des robes du soir courtes et des tabliers dits de cocktail (cocktail aprons) pour transformer n'importe quelle robe en robe du soir habillée.
En parallèle, Mainbocher crée des uniformes pour plusieurs organisations civiles et militaires, lui permettant de mettre en application ses principes de fonctionnalité et d'utilité, sans sacrifier à l'élégance chic et sobre qui fait le renom de sa marque. Ces uniformes lui permettent aussi d'affirmer son identité américaine dans un contexte patriotique.
En 1942, il crée d'abord les uniformes des auxiliaires féminines de la marine américaine, appelées WAVES. Puis, il conçoit les nouveaux uniformes de la Croix-Rouge américaine. C'est encore lui qui se charge de mettre les uniformes des Girl Scouts au goût du jour en 1948.
À New York, Mainbocher reste sans conteste le plus grand couturier de l'élite américaine; il habille de nouvelles générations de femmes du monde et, notamment, Brenda Frazier, Doris Duke, Adele Astaire, Elizabeth Parke Firestone, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lila Wallace, Bunny Mellon, Babe Paley, la princesse Maria Cristina de Bourbon, Kathryn Miller, ou encore C. Z. Guest.
En 1947, huit des dix femmes élues les mieux habillées par le New York Dress Institute étaient clientes de Mainbocher.
Mainbocher crée de nombreux costumes pour Broadway, y compris les costumes de Leonora Corbett dans L'Esprit s'amuse (1941), de Mary Martin dans One Touch of Venus (1943) et The Sound of Music (1959), de Tallulah Bankhead dans Private Lives (1948), de Ethel Merman dans Call Me Madam (1950), de Rosalind Russell dans Wonderful Town (1953), de Lynn Fontanne dans The Great Sebastians (1956), d'Irene Worth dans Tiny Alice (1964) ou de Lauren Bacall dans Applause (1970).
Mainbocher ferme sa maison de couture en 1971, à l'âge de 81 ans. Il passe ses dernières années entre Paris et Munich jusqu'à son décès en 1976.
Mainbocher a inspiré certains des plus grands couturiers du XXe siècle, dont Christian Lacroix, qui vantait le glamour des vêtements griffés Mainbocher.
En 2002, Mainbocher se voit décerner à titre posthume une plaque sur le « Fashion Walk of Fame » dans le Garment District à New York. Cette plaque symbolique rend hommage à sa contribution dans l'histoire de la mode.
Les créations de Mainbocher ont été présentées dans de nombreuses expositions au fil des ans, mais c'est seulement en 2010 qu'elles ont fait l'objet d'une exposition virtuelle créée par le Musée de la ville de New York. Elles y sont présentées aux côtés des créations de la maison Worth.
La première rétrospective consacrée à Mainbocher, intitulée « Making Mainbocher », a eu lieu au Musée d'histoire de Chicago d'octobre 2016 à août 2017. Cette exposition était en partie sponsorisée par Luvanis, aujourd'hui propriétaire de la marque.
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland (October 22, 1917 – December 15, 2013), known professionally as Joan Fontaine, was a British-American actress who is best known for her starring roles in Hollywood films during the "Golden Age". Fontaine appeared in more than 45 films in a career that spanned five decades. She was the younger sister of actress Olivia de Havilland. Their rivalry was well-documented in the media at the height of Fontaine's career.
She began her film career in 1935, signing a contract with RKO Pictures. Fontaine received her first major role in The Man Who Found Himself (1937) and in 1939 with Gunga Din. Her career prospects improved greatly after her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940), for which she received her first of three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress. The following year, she won that award for her role in Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941). A third nomination came with The Constant Nymph (1943). She appeared mostly in drama films through the 1940s, including Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), which is now considered a classic. In the next decade, after her role in Ivanhoe (1952), her film career began to decline and she moved into stage, radio and television roles. She appeared in fewer films in the 1960s, which included Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1960), and her final film role in The Witches (1966).
She released an autobiography, No Bed of Roses, in 1978, and continued to act until 1994. Having won an Academy Award for her role in Suspicion, Fontaine is the only actor to have won an Academy Award for acting in a Hitchcock film. She and her sister remain the only siblings to have won major acting Academy Awards.
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland was born on October 22, 1917, in Tokyo City, in the then Empire of Japan to English parents. Her father, Walter de Havilland (1872–1968), was educated at the University of Cambridge and served as an English professor at the Imperial University in Tokyo before becoming a patent attorney. Her mother, Lilian Augusta Ruse de Havilland Fontaine (1886–1975), was educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and became a stage actress who left her career after going to Tokyo with her husband. Her mother returned to work with the stage name "Lillian Fontaine" after her daughters achieved prominence in the 1940s.
Joan de Beauvoir's parents married in 1914 and separated in 1919 when she was two. The divorce was not finalized, however, until February 1925.
Lilian de Havilland moved Joan and her elder sister Olivia to Saratoga, California, USA where Joan's health improved dramatically during her teen years. When she was 16 years old, Joan returned to Japan to live with her father. There she attended the Tokyo School for Foreign Children, graduating in 1935.
Joan made her stage debut in the West Coast production of Call It a Day (1935) and made her film debut in MGM's No More Ladies (1935) in which she was credited as Joan Burfield.
Joan's sister Olivia de Havilland was the first to become an actress; when Fontaine tried to follow her lead, their mother, who favored Olivia, refused to let Joan use the family name. Subsequently, Fontaine had to invent a name, taking first Joan Burfield, and later Joan Fontaine taking her stepfather's surname.
Her first starring role in a film was The Man Who Found Himself (1937) for RKO studio, which she later said it had "an A budget but a Z story."
Joan Fontaine's luck changed one night at a dinner party when she found herself seated next to producer David O. Selznick with whom she began discussing the Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca, and Selznick asked her to audition for the part of the unnamed heroine. She endured a grueling six-month series of film tests, along with hundreds of other actresses, before securing the part sometime before her 22nd birthday.
Rebecca(1940), starring Laurence Olivier alongside Joan Fontaine, marked the American debut of British director Alfred Hitchcock. The film was released to glowing reviews, and Fontaine was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Fontaine did not win that year but did win the following year for Best Actress in Suspicion, another film by Hitchcock, in which she co-starred with Cary Grant . This was the only Academy Award-winning acting performance to have been directed by Hitchcock.
Fontaine was now one of the biggest female stars in Hollywood, although she was typecast in female melodrama. "
20th Century Fox borrowed her to appear opposite Tyrone Power in This Above All (1942) then she went to Warner Brothers to star alongside Charles Boyer in
The Constant Nymph. She was nominated for a third Academy Award for her performance in this film.
Fontaine became an American citizen in April 1943 thus held dual citizenship as she was British by birthright.
In August 1946 Fontaine set up her own company, Rampart Productions, with her then husband William Dozier. Her contract with Selznick ended in February 1947 and Fontaine would work exclusively for Rampart apart from one film a year for RKO.
In 1948, Fontaine appeared in Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) co-starring Louis Jourdan, directed by Max Ophüls. It was made by Rampart Productions, and released through Universal. It is today considered to be a classic with one of the finest performances of her career.
Starting from the 50s, her film career began to decline and she moved into stage, radio and television roles. Most of her 1960s work was done on television or stage.
In the 1970s Fontaine appeared in stage shows and toured with a poetry reading.
She returned to Hollywood for the first time in 15 years in 1975 to appear in an episode of Cannon especially written for her.
Fontaine published her autobiography, No Bed of Roses, in 1978.
In the early 1980s, after 25 years in New York, she moved to Carmel, California. "I have no family ties anymore, so I want to work", she said. "I still host an interview show for cable in New York. I lecture all over the country. But it wasn't enough. My theory is that if you stay busy, you haven't time to grow old. Or at least you don't notice it."
Fontaine's last role for television was in the 1994 TV film Good King Wenceslas, after which she retired to her estate, Villa Fontana, in Carmel Highlands, California, where she spent time in her gardens and with her dogs.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Fontaine has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1645 Vine Street. She left her hand and foot prints in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre on 26 May 1942.
Outside of acting, Fontaine was also noted as being a licensed pilot, an accomplished interior decorator, and a Cordon Bleu-level chef.
Fontaine was married and divorced four times. Her first marriage was to actor Brian Aherne, in 1939 in Del Monte, California; they divorced in April 1945.
In May 1946, she married actor/producer William Dozier in Mexico City. They had a daughter, Deborah Leslie, in 1948, and separated in 1949. Deborah is Fontaine's only biological child. The following year, Fontaine filed for divorce, charging Dozier with desertion. Their divorce was final in January 1951.
The two of them had a custody battle over their child which lingered through the 1950s.
Fontaine's third marriage was to producer and writer Collier Young on November 12, 1952. They separated in May 1960, and Fontaine filed for divorce in November 1960. Their divorce was final in January 1961.
Fontaine's fourth and final marriage was to Sports Illustrated golf editor Alfred Wright, Jr, on January 23, 1964, in Elkton, Maryland; they divorced in 1969.
Fontaine also had a personal relationship with Adlai Stevenson: "We had a tenderness for each other that grew into something rather serious. There was so much speculation about our marrying in the press that over lunch at his apartment in the Waldorf Towers he told me he could not marry an actress. He still had political ambitions and the 'little old ladies from Oshkosh' wouldn't approve. I told him it was just as well. My family would hardly approve of my marrying a politician".
While in South America for a film festival in 1951, Fontaine met a four-year-old Peruvian girl named Martita, and informally adopted her. When Martita turned 16, Fontaine bought her a round-trip ticket to Peru, but Martita refused to go and opted to run away. Fontaine and Martita became estranged following the incident.
But her relationship with her sister Olivia de Havilland, is much more publicized.
According to biographer Charles Higham, Fontaine and her sister Olivia de Havilland had an uneasy relationship from early childhood, and a large part of the friction between the sisters stemmed from Fontaine's belief that Olivia was their mother's favorite child.
Both of the sisters were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1942. Fontaine won for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion over de Havilland's performance in Hold Back the Dawn, and they are the only set of siblings to have won lead acting Academy Awards.
In a 1978 interview, Joan Fontaine said of the sibling rivalry, "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!"
On December 15, 2013, Joan Fontaine died in her sleep of natural causes at the age of 96 in her Carmel Highlands home. After Fontaine's death, her sister Olivia de Havilland released a statement saying she was "shocked and saddened" by the news, Olivia de Havilland she herself would die on July 26, 2020, outliving Joan Fontaine by almost 7 years.