PARIS, July 1 (UPI) -- The last surviving actress of Hollywood's Golden Era, Olivia de Havilland, turns 100 on Friday.
De Havilland, most known for her role as Melanie Hamilton in the Civil War epic Gone With the Wind, is considered a pioneer in Tinsel Town, paving the way for actors – men and women alike – to take control of their careers.
She was born to British parents in Tokyo and moved to the United States at the age of three, settling outside San Francisco with her mother and sister, Joan, who would later become rival actress Joan Fontaine.
De Havilland's mother remarried, and in response to her stepfather's demand that she quit the school play or never come back, de Havilland moved out of her home and in with friends. She was 16.
"I went off to school with my decision made," she said in a speech in 2001. "I spent that night and several more with friends of my mother's, went on with the play, and never again slept in the house."
De Havilland's big break came during a community production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and three months later she was under contract with Warner Bros., working on a film adaptation of the play.
From there she would land roles that portrayed her as the good girl, most often opposite her eight-time co-star Errol Flynn. Their first pairing was in 1935's Captain Blood, which was nominated for four Academy Awards and set the stage for a life-long friendship – and rumored love affair – between de Havilland and Flynn.
Her most famous role came opposite Vivien Leigh in 1939's Gone With the Wind in which de Havilland once again played the good girl, this time to Leigh's emotional and wild Scarlett O'Hara. De Havilland's performance earned her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
De Havilland forever changed the Hollywood landscape when she challenged the law that allowed studios to tack time onto an actor's contract. Bette Davis attempted to sue Warner Bros. in the 1930s, but was unsuccessful in her attempt to change the practice.
De Havilland, however, took the studio to court in 1943 and won. The decision resulted in California Labor Code Section 2855, known as the De Havilland Law, which prohibits studios for contracting actors for more than seven years.
When actor and musician Jared Leto and his band 30 Seconds to Mars used the law to maneuver a contract issue in 2009, de Havilland sent him a personal note.
Upon retirement, de Havilland took up residence in Paris where she remains.
In a 53 year career, de Havilland starred in 49 films and collected two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and an Emmy and was honored with an Academy tribute in 2006 .