Vanities: Olivia de Havilland (1916-1920)


I read this morning that legendary Hollywood actress Olivia de Havilland has just died at the age of 104. May she always live on through her films!

I couldn’t remember offhand whether Ms. de Havilland had any particular interest in perfume, so I checked, and: yes. She did.

This promotional photo from the 1930s (above) features a few bottles that are most likely decorative atomizers.

Jean Patou Joy

Online “celebrity scent guides” name Jean Patou Joy (1930, Henri Alméras) as de Havilland’s favorite. I’m having a hard time finding a source for that information. However, Joy is a classic beauty that rose to fame right around the same time she did, so it would make sense.

Screenland, December 1935

I found this scan from the December 1935 issue of Screenland magazine online…but the remainder of the article is nowhere to be found. Maybe it didn’t discuss de Havilland directly, so the fan who uploaded this image omitted the rest.

But here’s a nice note from five years later, published in an article by Naomi Benyas that ran The Honolulu Advertiser (April 26, 1940):

Another lovely maid who likes her variety is Olivia de Havilland who also matches her scents to the gowns she wears. If she’s sporting diaphanous chiffon, Olivia explains, she tips lips, wrists and ears with a light floral scent. If a dark velvet, then she chooses a heavier scent.

(Both images above date from 1940.)

This ad ran in various newspapers in December 1940.

This image and caption come from an ad for DeVilbiss perfume atomizers. De Havilland is shown looking quite glamorous while holding DeVilbiss model C#300-83, which retailed for $3.00 in 1940.

Photography by Don Brinn, 1965

My favorite bit of de Havilland perfume intel (so far) is this short Associated Press item from September 1964:

Olivia de Havilland says perfume helps her get into the mood for her movie roles. She uses a different type for each type of role, spraying it on before takes and also saturating her dressing room with it.

Currently for “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” she uses Ma Griffe—My Claw.

“This helps me create an aura of evil, makes me sinister,” says the two-time Oscar winner. “Sometimes it even makes me nasty around my friends—I feel so evil.”

Ma Griffe was created for Carven by perfumer Jean Carles and was launched in 1946.

If I figure out what de Havilland is holding in that 1964 photo, or come across any other details about her love for fragrance, I’ll update this post!


  1. I knew that Olivia had dated Jimmy Stewart, one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors, and I thought she had broken up with him because he didn’t want to get married. Apparently, he did propose and she turned him down because she thought he wasn’t ready for marriage!

    They were an adorable couple, but I’m glad she ultimately married a Frenchman and went on to live out her very long life in Paris! I really enjoyed her book, Every Frenchman Has One (“one” referring to the liver, as in “une crise de foie”).


    • I really love the quote about “matching” perfumes to different weights and textures of clothing. I completely understand that!

      I agree…her later (and very long) life in Paris sounds like a perfect “second act.” I might need to read that memoir!


  2. I love good perfume sleuthing like this, and a tribute to a very beautiful and talented person. I was thinking I would revisit her in The Heiress, which was based on Henry James’ Washington Square. As I recall, she captured the emotions of the novel very well. Regarding poor Ma Griffe, I see it as formal, but not cold. Official advertising has not always suggested the claw was a Harpy’s claw (but some of the ads for it gross me out). I remember my first sniff, around 2012, from a vintage mini. I had never heard of it, having just gone down the rabbit hole. It gave memories of the maternal, well-dressed women of my childhood.


      • Thanks, Jessica, for the link! I think I would have been fooled, if I had seen the advertisement. Your report also made me wonder was there some ordinary event that inspired it for Yoko Ono?! I always love the detail and focus on insects and tiny creatures that I have seen in Japanese art. Perhaps with that cultural background, she saw a fly land on her Ma Griffe bottle and things “took off” from there? BTW, I dabbed on a little of the last of my vintage Ma Griffe last night, just for a “buzz.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this. I am obsessed with knowing what scent all these glamour ladies lo e. Wanting to know Maura Tierney and Diane Lane and Emily Mortimer a as well…


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