Now that so many of the show's episodes can be sourced online, we can treat ourselves to a fascinating time travel experience, when even well-acquainted men and women addressed each other primarily as "Mister", "Miss" or "Missus." The primary portion of the show was devoted to panelists asking non-celebrities questions to identify their 'line' of work. Often these were unusual, like, 'Mud Bath Attendent' or 'Dynamite Salesman'. The later part of the show always featured celebrity 'mystery guests'. I find it fascinating to watch these classic stars as they were in real life, interacting with the host, John Daly, or the panelists, who, while blindfolded, tried to guess the star's identity using only yes or no questions. Despite the stars' often humorous attempts to disguise their voices, they could not conceal their basic personalities, nor their natural wit (when present). It was a special joy to see the lovely Ms. de Havilland in her four appearances on the program between 1958 and 1965, when she was an already long-established star in semi-retirement, but only halfway through her life to that point.
Her first appearance: May 25, 1958.
Note for this and the other clips -- fast forward to about 2/3 of the way through
Panelist Arlene Francis: "Are you a happily married actress?"
de Havilland: "OUI!" (with a big smile). And "call me madame!"
THE PROUD REBEL?" which Ms. Francis and long-time panelist Bennett Cerf had just seen the night before; both commented about how much they loved it, to which de Havilland said "I haven't seen it yet." Cerf then made the insightful comment "It's a tender, beautiful picture". In this western, featured in the blogathon here, De Havilland starred with Alan and David Ladd, and according to Ladd's biographer, Beverly Linet, had warmed the elder Ladd considerably when she told him she thought he'd have made a great Ashley Wilkes.
2nd Appearance: March 4, 1962
In this appearance Ms. de Havilland is as charming as before, but she seemed a bit more worldly, or less coquettish. After eight years of marriage, this is the year she would separate from her husband. Instead of French, she put on a rather Appalachian-sounding accent -- instead of 'yes', it's 'YAY - ess' . It's delightful how she surprised herself with that accent, almost chuckling after her answers.At this time, de Havilland was in New York starring in the Garson Kanin play "A Gift of Time" alongside Henry Fonda. The play ran 92 performances and about three months. It was common for Hollywood stars, when acting in a show in New York, to stop by 'What's My Line?'; if so, it was easy for the panelists to ask about this and quickly identify the guest. In this episode we learn that Random House, panelist Bennett Cerf's company, was in the process of publishing de Havilland's memoir Every Frenchman Has One. He very shrewdly mentioned the book, without its title, to what I expect was a very interested audience.
3rd Appearance: August 9, 1964
While appearing in this episode, de Havilland had recently finished LADY IN A CAGE, a horror/thriller also starring James Caan, released a couple months before the show aired. She seemed a bit embarrassed when the film was brought up, and no wonder -- it hadn't been particularly well received. New York Times critic A.H. Weiler had commented on its "aimless brutality", although he said some positive things about de Havilland's performance. Kilgallen was nice enough to compliment de Havilland by stating 'Another wonderful performance, Olivia."
4th Appearance: August 8, 1965
Almost a year to the day since her previous appearance, and now an 'old friend' according to John Daly, de Havilland joined the show again as mystery guest. She now answered the questions in Russian, using the familiar 'Da' and 'Nyet', and some other longer Russian words that were the source of great amusement for the panel. The guest panelist this time was the humorous Carol Channing. In quite the contrast from her previous film, de Havilland was now fresh off the critical success of HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE, with Bette Davis, Robert Aldrich's follow-up to the highly successful WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? This one was nominated for seven Oscars and won a Golden Globe for Agnes Moorehead. Check out this post on the film for the current blogathon.
One glimpse into de Havilland's acting style and preference could be gained from her definitive 'Nyet! when asked whether she had been associated with the Actors' Studio, at this point quite notorious for turning out a new style of method actor like Marlon Brando. She also denied being anything other than a serious, as opposed to comic, actress, and also to not being associated with singing or dancing in her films. Interestingly, despite this being her fourth time on the program, none of the panelists guessed her identity and Daly had to call time and reveal her.
It was fun to learn more about Ms de Havilland through her appearances on this popular show. While there were no great revelations, my image of her as a gracious, generous, strong, and charming woman were all reinforced, and I felt as if I had met her, even for only a brief moment. Here's adding my wish for her for many more years of health and happiness!