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Remembering Olivia de Havilland August 8, 2020

By Marian Luntz & Dena Woodall
Tags: museum, film, mfah, birthday, theater, olivia-de-havilland, celebration, legendary, remembering, retrospective

A global appreciation of legendary actress Olivia de Havilland has been happening since she died in Paris on July 26, just weeks after celebrating her 104th birthday. The MFAH is honored to have a very special connection to her that’s worth sharing.

The relationship between the Museum and de Havilland is only a couple of degrees of separation apart, by way of de Havilland’s daughter, Gisele Galante, an honorary MFAH Trustee for more than a decade. Edward R. Broida, Galante’s late former husband, was a distinguished collector of modern and contemporary art, and he left a generous bequest to the MFAH in 2007 of more than 430 works of art by 115 artists. Galante has served on the Museum’s subcommittees for European art, Latin American art, and American painting and sculpture, and she continues to serve on the subcommittees for film, modern and contemporary art, and prints and drawings.

Centennial Retrospective
July 1, 2016, was the centennial anniversary of de Havilland’s birth. Early in that year, MFAH director Gary Tinterow encouraged us to explore the idea of a film retrospective. We approached Galante (who has since married Andy Chulack and is now Gisele Galante Chulack), and she was receptive but quick to clarify that de Havilland would not be able to travel to Houston.

De Havilland graciously accepted the invitation to suggest 10 favorite films from her career for the Museum to screen, and in fact provided a list of 12. She personally edited the film descriptions, and among the selections were A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Gone with the Wind, The Heiress, Light in the Piazza, and My Cousin Rachel.

Chulack and her husband traveled to Houston for one weekend of the retrospective. On a truly memorable night, Chulack introduced The Dark Mirror—a 1946 film starring de Havilland in a dual role—in the Museum’s Brown Auditorium Theater. Chulack’s remarks included a message from de Havilland to the audience, as they had spoken by phone hours earlier.

A Special Celebration
This year, on de Havilland’s 104th birthday, Chulack shared that the July 1 celebration was in keeping with her mother’s preferences: champagne and cake, in a room full of flowers from the many admirers of Olivia de Havilland.