Back in print for the first time in decades—and featuring a new interview with the author, in celebration of her centennial birthday—the delectable escapades of Hollywood legend Olivia de Havilland, who fell in love with a Frenchman—and then became a Parisian
In 1953, Olivia de Havilland—already an Academy Award-winning actress for her roles in To Each His Own and The Heiress—became the heroine of her own real-life love affair. She married a Frenchman, moved to Paris, and planted her standard on the Left Bank of the River Seine. It has been fluttering on both Left and Right Banks with considerable joy and gaiety from that moment on.
Still, her transition from Hollywood celebrity to parisienne was anything but easy. And in Every Frenchman Has One, her skirmishes with French customs, French maids, French salesladies, French holidays, French law, French doctors, and above all, the French language, are here set forth in a delightful and amusing memoir of her early years in the “City of Light.”
Paraphrasing Caesar, Ms. de Havilland says, “I came. I saw. I was conquered.”
I’m pretty certain that everyone knows, Gone With The Wind, is my favorite movie of all time. (It’s tied with Beauty and the Beast!). I’ve always had an affinity towards Scarlett O’Hara, which is a nickname for me given that since childhood (and before I ever saw the movie or read the book), I always say ‘After all, tomorrow is another day!’ To which my parents reply, “Okay, Scarlett.” Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t love anyone else but Scarlett/Vivien Leigh. I absolutely loved all the main characters and Olivia de Havilland’s portrayal of Melanie Wilkes touched my heart. As with all of my interests (which become obsessions for awhile there), I researched about the four leads. I found Olivia’s story so very fascinating and I was rather awestruck when I saw she had written a book.
Enter ‘Every Frenchman Has One’! Written by Ms. de Havilland in 1962, it was rereleased last year in honour of her 100th birthday. There must be something about France because she has never looked back since moving there. There isn’t a structure followed, there isn’t a plot, it is just Ms. de Havilland writing her own thoughts and experiences, some of which will have you cracking up. Her candor is something to experience. It’s a quick read and the book is small too, 144 pages and this edition has a small interview with her to celebrate her centennial birthday, which was on the 1st of July.
Reading this book made me feel like I was talking to an old friend; that she was regaling me with tales about her life, which is precisely what the goal was, I think. Moving from the USA to France was an experience; she had to relearn how to go from Fahrenheit to Celsius, the very chic and stylish salons and such, language barrier, falling in love, tending to her son and countless other gems that make you think she should have optioned this book to be a comedy film. It’s such a gem of a book, one you’ll enjoy if you’re ever curious about how it is when you move across the proverbial pond and how to adjust and find your way.
Oh, and the title? What does every Frenchman have? A liver. Ms. de Havilland writes, “the most significant of all human organs as the French constitution is concerned.”
About the Author
Olivia de Havilland began her film career at the age of eighteen playing Hermia in Max Reinhardt’s motion picture presentation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her films have included The Adventures of Robin Hood, Gone with the Wind, The Snake Pit, and Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte. Over the course of her esteemed career, she has won two Academy Awards (for her leading roles in To Each His Own and The Heiress), as well as two New York Critics Awards, two Golden Globes, and a National Board of Review Award. In 2008 she received the National Medal of Arts, and in 2010, the French Legion of Honour. She lives in Paris.