Having lost in their only appellate court appearance and also denied review of their client’s case by the state and U.S. Supreme Courts, lawyers for Olivia de Havilland agreed with attorneys for FX Networks Wednesday that a judgment should be entered in the studio’s favor in a lawsuit that alleged she was falsely portrayed in an anthology series about the feud between fellow actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
The concession came during a status conference before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine Lu. The state Supreme Court denied review of the case in July 2018 and the U.S. Supreme Court did the same on Jan. 19.
FX Networks attorney Kelly Max Klaus told the judge a motion will be filed for attorneys’ fees.
The 103-year-old actress obtained her only court victory in September 2017, when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly Kendig rejected FX Networks’ claims the suit she filed that June should be dismissed on free-speech grounds. The judge ruled that although the series “Feud: Bette and Joan” was aired in the public forum of television and dealt with a subject of public interest, de Havilland still showed a likelihood of “prevailing on the merits” and that her case should go to trial.
Kendig also found that de Havilland — who under the law is a public figure — showed that the network either knew that aspects of the series were false, or did not care whether they were true or not.
FX Networks appealed and Kendig’s decision was overturned by a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
De Havilland’s U.S. Supreme Court petition stated that if left to stand, the appellate decision would allow “knowing falsehoods about living persons in profitable docudramas.”
Catherine Zeta-Jones portrayed de Havilland in the series, which starred Jessica Lange as Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Davis.
Crawford died in May 1977 and Davis in October 1989.
In the complaint filed on behalf of De Havilland, whose 49 feature film roles included portraying Melanie Hamilton in “Gone with the Wind” and Oscar-winning turns in “To Each His Own” and “The Heiress,” her attorneys argued she “has built a professional reputation for integrity, honesty, generosity, self-sacrifice and dignity. A key reason for the public’s deep respect for Olivia de Havilland is that in her 80-plus year career, she has steadfastly refused to engage in typical Hollywood gossip about the relationships of other actors.”
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