LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The day before her 101st birthday on Saturday, July 1, two-time Best Actress Academy Award winner, recently named by the Queen of England to a Damehood, Olivia de Havilland has filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Los Angeles against Los Angeles-based FX Networks, LLC and Ryan Murphy Productions, case number BC667011. Miss de Havilland, now Dame Olivia, who lives in Paris, is represented by Suzelle M. Smith and Don Howarth of the Los Angeles firm, Howarth & Smith.
The de Havilland lawsuit is based on the unauthorized commercial use of Dame Olivia’s name and identity in the FX hit series, “Feud: Bette and Joan.” The series purports to tell the story of a hostile relationship between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. In “Feud,” Catherine Zeta-Jones portrays Olivia de Havilland, appearing numerous times in most episodes of the series and in its extensive advertising campaign for FX. Every other main character whose identity is used in the series is deceased, as are all the other lead actors in the film classic, “Gone with the Wind,” in which Miss de Havilland starred as Melanie Hamilton.
The lawsuit alleges that Miss de Havilland was not asked by FX for permission to use her name and identity and was not compensated for such use. Further, the FX series puts words in the mouth of Miss de Havilland which are inaccurate and contrary to the reputation she has built over an 80-year professional life, specifically refusing to engage in gossip mongering about other actors in order to generate media attention for herself. FX and its partners appropriated Miss de Havilland’s name and identity and placed her in a false light to sensationalize the series and to promote their own businesses, including the FX network and brand, ignoring Miss de Havilland’s interests entirely.
“A living celebrity has the right to protect her name and identity from unauthorized, false, commercial exploitation under both common law and the specific ‘right to publicity’ statute in California,” stated Miss de Havilland’s attorney, Suzelle Smith, asserting that, “FX was wrong to ignore Miss de Havilland and proceed without her permission for its own profit.” Smith reported that Miss de Havilland believes FX’s actions raise important principles that go beyond her personally, and affect many other celebrities. Miss de Havilland is no stranger to controversy with the powerful Hollywood production industry. In 1943, as a young actress, she sued Warner Bros., and is recognized for breaking the studio indentured servant contract system with that action.
Howarth & Smith will be filing a motion seeking an expedited trial date due to Dame Olivia’s advanced age. At 101, she is the oldest recipient of the Queen’s honor of a Damehood, the female equivalent of a Knighthood.