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|Olivia de Havilland|
Olivia de Havilland, circa 1940
|Born||Olivia Mary de Havilland|
July 1, 1916
|Relatives||Joan Fontaine (sister, 1917–2013)|
|Olivia de Havilland|
Olivia de Havilland, circa 1940
|Born||Olivia Mary de Havilland|
July 1, 1916
|Relatives||Joan Fontaine (sister, 1917–2013)|
Olivia Mary de Havilland (born July 1, 1916) is an English-American actress known for her early ingenue roles, as well as her later more substantial roles. Born in Tokyo to English parents, de Havilland and her younger sister, actress Joan Fontaine, moved to California in 1919. She performed as Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind (1939) and in eight co-starring roles opposite Errol Flynn, including The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941). She is one of the last living actors/actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
De Havilland won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performances in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949); de Havilland and sister Fontaine are the only siblings to have won lead acting Academy Awards. She also received the National Board of Review Award, the New York Film Critics Circle Award, the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon, and the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup for her performance in The Snake Pit (1948). She was awarded the Golden Globe Award for her performance in The Heiress in 1950 and for Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna in 1987. In 1960, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in films. In 2008, she was presented with the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush.
Olivia de Havilland was born on July 1, 1916, in Tokyo, Japan, to parents from the United Kingdom. Her father, Walter Augustus de Havilland (August 31, 1872 – May 23, 1968), was educated at the University of Cambridge and served as an English professor at the Imperial University in Tokyo before becoming a patent attorney with a practice in Japan. Her mother, Lilian Augusta (née Ruse; June 11, 1886 – February 20, 1975), was educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and became a stage actress who left her career after going to Tokyo with her husband. Her mother would return to work with the stage name Lillian Fontaine after her daughters achieved fame in the 1940s. Olivia's paternal cousin was Sir Geoffrey de Havilland (1882–1965), an aircraft designer, notably of the De Havilland Mosquito, and founder of the aircraft company which bore his name. Her paternal grandfather, the Reverend Charles Richard de Havilland, was from a family from Guernsey, in the Channel Islands.
De Havilland's parents married in 1914, but the marriage was not a happy one due to her father's infidelities. Her younger sister, Joan de Havilland (later known as actress Joan Fontaine), was born on October 22, 1917. In February 1919, Lillian persuaded her husband to take the family back to England to a climate better suited for their ailing daughters. The family stopped in California to treat Olivia's bronchial condition and high temperature. After Joan developed pneumonia, Lillian decided to remain with her daughters in California, where they settled in the village of Saratoga, about 50 miles (80 km) south of San Francisco. Her father abandoned the family and returned to his Japanese housekeeper, who would eventually become his second wife. Her parents' divorce was not finalized until February 1925.
Although she left the acting profession, Lillian taught her daughters to appreciate the arts, reading Shakespeare to her children.[Note 1] She also taught them music and elocution. In April 1925, after her divorce was finalized, Lillian remarried, this time to a department store owner named George M. Fontaine, whose strict parenting soon generated animosity in his new stepdaughters. Only a year apart, the sisters also developed a rivalry between themselves that would last throughout their lives.
De Havilland was educated at Saratoga Grammar School, the Notre Dame High School in Belmont, and Los Gatos High School.[Note 2] In high school, she excelled in oratory and field hockey and participated in the school drama club. In 1933, she made her debut in amateur theatre in the lead role in Alice in Wonderland, a production of the Saratoga Community Players based on the work of Lewis Carroll. She would later remember:
For the first time I had the magic experience of feeling possessed by the character I was playing. I really felt I was Alice and that when I moved across the stage, I was actually moving in Alice's enchanted wonderland. And so for the first time I felt not only pleasure in acting but love for acting as well.
After graduating high school in 1934, de Havilland was offered the role of Puck in the Saratoga Community Theater production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. That summer, Austrian director Max Reinhardt came to California for a major new production of the same play at the Hollywood Bowl. After one of Reinhardt's assistants saw Olivia perform in the Saratoga production, he offered her the understudy position for the role of Hermia. One week before the premiere, the actress playing Hermia left to take a part in a film, and de Havilland took her place. After receiving positive reviews, she went on to play Hermia through the entire engagement, as well as the four-week tour that followed. During the tour, Reinhardt received word that he would direct the Warner Bros. film version of his stage production, and he offered de Havilland the film role of Hermia. Wanting to become an English teacher, she was going to matriculate at Mills College with a scholarship in the fall but Reinhardt persuaded her to accept. Soon after, the 18-year-old actress signed a seven-year contract with Warner Bros.
Olivia de Havilland made her screen debut in Max Reinhardt's film A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was released in October 1935, following the release of her second and third films, Alibi Ike with Joe E. Brown and The Irish in Us with James Cagney, respectively. All three films received mixed reviews and disappointing public response. At this point, Warner Bros. made a decision that would have a profound impact on her career, pairing her with an unknown Tasmanian actor named Errol Flynn in Captain Blood (1935). The casting of de Havilland was due to producer Hal B. Wallis wanting to showcase his "protege". The popular success of the film, as well as the critical response to the on-screen couple, led to seven additional collaborations, including The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941).
Throughout the late 1930s, de Havilland appeared in a variety of light romantic comedy films, including Call It a Day (1937), Four's a Crowd (1938), and Hard to Get (1938), as well as period films such as Anthony Adverse (1936) and The Great Garrick (1937). Her refined demeanor and beautiful diction made her particularly effective in the latter films. While her performances were generally well received by critics and the public, they did not advance her career toward the more serious roles she desired. One such role was the character of Melanie Hamilton in David O. Selznick's upcoming film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's epic novel Gone with the Wind. Having read the novel, de Havilland knew she could bring the character to life on the screen. According to some sources, her sister Joan Fontaine was approached by director George Cukor to audition for the role. Interested more in playing Scarlett O'Hara, Fontaine reportedly turned him down, recommending her sister. Ultimately, Jack Warner's wife Ann was instrumental in de Havilland getting the part. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
Following the critical acclaim she received for her performance in Gone with the Wind, de Havilland sought more serious and challenging roles, but was not supported in her efforts by Warner Bros. After receiving third billing in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn, she was loaned out to Samuel Goldwyn for the crime drama Raffles (1939), and then assigned to the light musical comedy My Love Came Back (1940). Throughout the early 1940s, de Havilland was becoming increasingly frustrated by the roles assigned to her, which she felt were unchallenging and insubstantial. Feeling she had proven herself capable of playing more than the demure ingénues and damsels in distress that were typecasting her, she began to reject scripts that offered her this type of role and actively sought out better roles. She concluded her long series of popular films with Errol Flynn with Santa Fe Trail (1940) and They Died with Their Boots On (1941), which contained some of their most telling scenes together. Other highlights from this period include The Strawberry Blonde (1941) with James Cagney, Hold Back the Dawn (1941) with Charles Boyer for which she received fine reviews, and Princess O'Rourke (1943), which she considered one of the few truly satisfying characters she played for Warner Bros.[Note 3] In 1942, de Havilland received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in Hold Back the Dawn.
After fulfilling her seven-year Warner Bros. contract with The Male Animal (1942), In This Our Life (1942), Government Girl (1944), and Devotion (1946), her last Warner Bros. film completed in 1943 and released in 1946, de Havilland was informed that six months had been added to her contract for times she had been on suspension. The law then allowed studios to suspend contract players for rejecting a role, and the period of suspension could be added to the contract period. Most contract players accepted this, but a few tried to change the system, including Bette Davis who mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit against Warner Bros. in the 1930s. In August 1943, on the advice of her lawyer, de Havilland took Warner Bros. to court and was supported by the Screen Actors Guild. The Supreme Court of California ruled in her favor (case #487, 685). The decision was one of the most significant and far-reaching legal rulings in Hollywood, reducing the power of the studios and extending greater creative freedom to performers. California's resulting "seven-year rule", also known as Labor Code Section 2855, is still known today as the De Havilland Law. Her legal victory won de Havilland the respect and admiration of her peers, among them her own sister Joan Fontaine, who later commented, "Hollywood owes Olivia a great deal". Warner Bros. reacted to the decision by circulating a letter to other studios that had the effect of a "virtual blacklisting". As a consequence, de Havilland did not work in a film studio for two years.
Following the release of Devotion—a highly fictionalized biography of the Brontë sisters filmed in 1943 but withheld from release during the suspension and litigation—de Havilland signed a three picture deal with Paramount Pictures. The quality and variety of her roles began to improve. In his review of The Dark Mirror (1946), James Agee noted the change, writing that although she had always been "one of the prettiest women in movies", her recent performances had proven her acting ability. He also noted that while not possessing "any remarkable talent", her performances are "thoughtful, quiet, detailed, and well sustained". Agee concluded that her acting is "founded, as some more talented playing is not, in an unusually healthful-seeming and likable temperament, it is an undivided pleasure to see". De Havilland received the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performances in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949), and was also widely praised for her Academy Award–nominated performance in The Snake Pit (1948), one of the earliest films to attempt a realistic portrayal of mental illness and an "historically important Hollywood exposé of the grim conditions in state mental hospitals". De Havilland was lauded for her willingness to play a role that was completely devoid of glamor and that confronted such controversial subject matter. She won the New York Film Critics Award for both The Snake Pit and The Heiress.
After becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States on November 28, 1941, de Havilland became involved in politics as a way of exercising her civic responsibilities. She campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt's re-election in 1944 and traveled overseas to support the American troops. After the war, she joined the Independent Citizens' Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, a national public policy advocacy group that included Bette Davis, Gregory Peck, and Humphrey Bogart in its Hollywood chapter. In June 1946, she was asked to deliver speeches for the committee that reflected the Communist Party line (the group was later identified as a communist front organization). Disturbed by the reports of Stalinist atrocities and how a small group of Communist members were manipulating the committee, de Havilland removed the pro-Communist material from her speeches and rewrote them to reflect Harry S. Truman's anti-Communist program. She later recalled, "I realized a nucleus of people was controlling the organization without a majority of the members of the board being aware of it. And I knew they had to be communists." She organized a fight to regain control of the committee from its pro-Soviet leadership, but her reform efforts failed. Her resignation from the committee triggering a wave of resignations from other Hollywood figures, including her own star recruit to the reform camp, Ronald Reagan, whose political trajectory after 1952 would be far more dramatic. Despite galvanising Hollywood resistance to Soviet influence, de Havilland was denounced that same year—along with Danny Kaye, Fredric March, and Edward G. Robinson—as a "swimming-pool pink" in Time magazine for her involvement in the committee. In 1958, she was secretly called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and recountered her experiences with the Independent Citizens' Committee.
In the 1950s, de Havilland made fewer films in order to raise her two children. She declined the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, later explaining: "I had just given birth to my son. That was a transforming experience, and when the script was presented to me, I couldn't relate to it." The role went to her Gone with the Wind co-star, Vivien Leigh, who won her second Academy Award for her performance. During the decade, de Havilland starred in six films, including My Cousin Rachel (1952), for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination, That Lady (1955), Not as a Stranger (1955) with Robert Mitchum and Frank Sinatra, The Ambassador's Daughter (1956) with John Forsythe, The Proud Rebel (1958), and Libel (1959) with Dirk Bogarde.
Of her few film appearances in the 1960s, chiefly notable are de Havilland's role in Lady in a Cage (1964) as a crippled widow trapped in a lift and terrorised by intruders, Robert Aldrich's Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and Sam Peckinpah's TV film of Katherine Anne Porter's novella Noon Wine (1966). In 1965, de Havilland was the first woman to preside over a Cannes jury. She was the subject of This Is Your Life in April 1964 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in central London.
She continued acting on film until the late 1970s, afterward continuing her career on television until the late 1980s, highlighted by her Golden Globe win and Emmy Award nomination for her performance as the Dowager Empress Maria in the 1986 miniseries Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. In 2008, she was awarded the United States National Medal of Arts.
Although known as one of Hollywood's most exciting on-screen couples—having appeared in eight films together—de Havilland and Errol Flynn were never linked romantically. The eight films in which they co-starred are Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood and Four's a Crowd (1938), Dodge City and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940) and They Died with Their Boots On (1941). Of her feelings for her co-star, de Havilland once observed:
He never guessed I had a crush on him. And it didn't get better either. In fact, I read in something that he wrote that he was in love with me when we made The Charge of the Light Brigade the next year, in 1936. I was amazed to read that, for it never occurred to me that he was smitten with me, too, even though we did all those pictures together.
In another interview, however, de Havilland claimed she knew the crush was reciprocal and stated that Flynn proposed, though de Havilland turned down the proposal as Flynn was still married to actress Lili Damita at the time. From December 1939 to March 1942, she was romantically involved with single actor James Stewart. At the request of Irene Mayer Selznick, the actor's agent asked Stewart to escort de Havilland to the New York premiere of Gone with the Wind at the Astor Theater on December 19, 1939. Over the next few days, Stewart took her to the theater several times and to the 21 Club. They continued to see each other back in Los Angeles, where Stewart provided occasional flying lessons and romance. According to de Havilland, Stewart in fact proposed marriage to her in 1940, but she felt that he was not ready to settle down. Their relationship was interrupted by Stewart's military enlistment in March 1941, but would continue on and off until March 1942, when de Havilland fell in love with director John Huston.
The Mexican film director Emilio Fernandez was deeply in love with de Havilland, whom he never met. Fernandez asked the then president of Mexico Miguel Aleman to prolong a street in Coyoacán, in Mexico City to his mansion to then name it Sweet Olivia.
Olivia de Havilland was married twice. On January 24, 1946, she married Marcus Goodrich, a Navy veteran, author, and screenwriter. They had one child, Benjamin Goodrich, who was born on December 1, 1949. The marriage ended in divorce in 1952. Their son Benjamin died on October 1, 1991 (aged 41) of Hodgkin's lymphoma, three weeks before the death of his father.
On April 2, 1955, de Havilland married Pierre Galante, a journalist and editor of Paris Match. They had one child, Gisèle Galante, who was born on July 18, 1956. Her marriage to Galante prompted de Havilland to move to Paris. She recounted her adjustments to Parisian life in her memoir, Every Frenchman Has One. The couple separated in 1962, but did not divorce until 1979.
De Havilland was lifelong best friends with Bette Davis with whom she starred in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), It's Love I'm After (1937), and In This Our Life (1942). She remained a close friend of actress Gloria Stuart until Stuart's death in 2010, at the age of 100. In April 2008, she attended the Los Angeles funeral of Charlton Heston. In 2008, she was a surprise guest at the centennial tribute to Bette Davis.
Olivia de Havilland and her sister, Joan Fontaine, are the only siblings to have won lead acting Academy Awards. Of the two sisters, de Havilland was the first to become an actress. When Fontaine tried to follow her lead, their mother, who allegedly favoured de Havilland, refused to let her use the family name professionally. According to biographer Charles Higham, the sisters always had an uneasy relationship, starting in early childhood when de Havilland would rip up the clothes Fontaine had to wear as hand-me-downs, forcing Fontaine to sew them back together. A large part of the resentment between the sisters allegedly stemmed from Fontaine's belief that de Havilland was their mother's favorite child.
De Havilland and Fontaine were both nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1942. Fontaine won that year for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion over de Havilland's performance in Hold Back the Dawn. According to Higham, as Fontaine stepped forward to receive her award, she pointedly rejected de Havilland's attempts at congratulating her, and that de Havilland was both offended and embarrassed by her behavior. Their relationship was further strained when Fontaine made negative comments to an interviewer about de Havilland's husband. Several years later, when de Havilland stepped up to accept her Academy Award for Best Actress, she brushed past Fontaine, who was waiting with her hand extended. The relationship between the sisters continued to deteriorate, and may have caused the estrangement between Fontaine and her own daughters, who secretly maintained a relationship with de Havilland. For years, both sisters refused to comment publicly about their relationship.
The final break between the sisters occurred in 1975. According to Fontaine, they stopped speaking because of a disagreement over their mother's cancer treatment. While de Havilland wanted their mother to be treated surgically, Fontaine opposed surgery due to their mother's advanced age. Fontaine also claimed that after their mother died, de Havilland did not make an effort to notify Fontaine, who was touring with a play at the time. Instead, de Havilland sent a telegram, which did not reach her sister until two weeks later at Fontaine's next engagement.
The sibling feud ended with Fontaine's death in December 2013. Determined to have the last word on the matter, Fontaine once noted, "I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she'll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it!" Following her sister's death, de Havilland released a statement saying she was "shocked and saddened" by the news.
According to her book, de Havilland has been living in Paris since 1960. In recent years, she has made only rare public appearances. In 2003, she appeared as a presenter at the 75th Annual Academy Awards, earning a four minute-long standing ovation upon her entrance. In June 2006, she made appearances at tributes for her 90th birthday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 2004, Turner Classic Movies produced a retrospective piece called Melanie Remembers in which de Havilland was interviewed for the 65th anniversary of the original release of Gone with the Wind. The film's only other surviving cast member is supporting actor Mickey Kuhn. De Havilland remembered every detail of her casting as well as filming. The 40-minute documentary is included in the film's four-disc special collector's edition.
On November 17, 2008, at the age of 92, de Havilland received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States. The medal was presented to her by President George W. Bush "for her persuasive and compelling skill as an actress in roles from Shakespeare's Hermia to Margaret Mitchell's Melanie. Her independence, integrity, and grace won creative freedom for herself and her fellow film actors."
In 2009, de Havilland narrated the documentary I Remember Better When I Paint, a film about the importance of art in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. On March 22, 2011, she presented the film at a special screening in Paris.
On September 9, 2010, de Havilland was appointed a chevalier (or knight) of the Légion d'honneur, the highest decoration in France, awarded by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who told the 94-year-old actress, "You honor France for having chosen us."
In 1960, de Havilland published her first memoir, Every Frenchman Has One. According to John Lichfield, she was working on an autobiography and had hoped to have a first draft by September 2009.
|1935||Alibi Ike||Dolly Stevens|
|Irish in Us, TheThe Irish in Us||Lucille Jackson|
|Midsummer Night's Dream, AA Midsummer Night's Dream||Hermia, in Love with Lysander||Credited as Olivia de Haviland (film debut)|
|Captain Blood||Arabella Bishop|
|1936||Anthony Adverse||Angela Giuseppe|
|Charge of the Light Brigade, TheThe Charge of the Light Brigade||Elsa Campbell||Credited as Olivia De Havilland|
|1937||Call It a Day||Catherine 'Cath' Hilton|
|It's Love I'm After||Marcia West|
|Great Garrick, TheThe Great Garrick||Germaine de la Corbe|
|1938||Gold Is Where You Find It||Serena 'Sprat' Ferris|
|Adventures of Robin Hood, TheThe Adventures of Robin Hood||Lady Marian Fitzwalter|
|Four's a Crowd||Lorri Dillingwell|
|Hard to Get||Margaret Richards||Credited as Olivia De Havilland|
|1939||Wings of the Navy||Irene Dale|
|Dodge City||Abbie Irving|
|Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, TheThe Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex||Lady Penelope Gray|
|Gone with the Wind||Melanie Hamilton Wilkes||Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1940||My Love Came Back||Amelia Cornell|
|Santa Fe Trail||Kit Carson Holliday|
|1941||Strawberry Blonde, TheThe Strawberry Blonde||Amy Lind Grimes|
|Hold Back the Dawn||Emmy Brown||New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress (2nd place)|
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
|They Died with Their Boots On||Elizabeth Bacon Custer|
|1942||Male Animal, TheThe Male Animal||Ellen Turner|
|In This Our Life||Roy Timberlake|
|1943||Thank Your Lucky Stars||Herself|
|Princess O'Rourke||Princess Maria – aka Mary Williams||Credited as Olivia DeHavilland|
|1943||Government Girl||Elizabeth 'Smokey' Allard|
|1946||To Each His Own||Miss Josephine 'Jody' Norris||Won - Academy Award for Best Actress|
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress (2nd place)
|Well-Groomed Bride, TheThe Well-Groomed Bride||Margie Dawson|
|Dark Mirror, TheThe Dark Mirror||Terry/Ruth Collins|
|1948||Snake Pit, TheThe Snake Pit||Virginia Stuart Cunningham|
|1949||Heiress, TheThe Heiress||Catherine Sloper|
|1952||My Cousin Rachel||Rachel Sangalletti Ashley||Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama|
|1955||That Lady||Ana de Mendoza|
|Not as a Stranger||Kristina Hedvigson|
|1956||The Ambassador's Daughter||Joan Fisk|
|1958||Proud Rebel, TheThe Proud Rebel||Linnett Moore|
|1959||Libel||Lady Margaret Loddon|
|1962||Light in the Piazza||Meg Johnson|
|1964||Lady in a Cage||Mrs. Cornelia Hilyard|
|Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte||Miriam Deering||Credited as Olivia deHavilland|
|1970||Adventurers, TheThe Adventurers||Deborah Hadley||Credited as Olivia De Havilland|
|1972||Pope Joan||Mother Superior|
|1977||Airport '77||Emily Livingston|
|1978||Swarm, TheThe Swarm||Maureen Schuster||Credited as Olivia De Havilland|
|1979||Fifth Musketeer, TheThe Fifth Musketeer||Queen (Mary) Mother|
|2009||I Remember Better When I Paint||Narrator|
|1935||Dream Comes True, AA Dream Comes True||Herself (uncredited)||About the making of A Midsummer Night's Dream|
|1936||Making of a Great Motion Picture, TheThe Making of a Great Motion Picture||Herself (uncredited)||About the making of Anthony Adverse|
|1937||Day at Santa Anita, AA Day at Santa Anita||Herself (uncredited)||Stars attended a horse race at the famed racetrack|
|1937||Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 10||Herself||Stars and their pets attend a swim meet|
|1943||Show Business at War||Herself||Newsreel about progress of the Hollywood war effort|
|1966||Noon Wine||Ellie Thompson||ABC Stage 67|
|1972||The Screaming Woman||Laura Wynant|
|1979||Roots: The Next Generations||Mrs. Warner||Miniseries|
|1981||The Love Boat||Aunt Hilly||Season 4, episode 23|
|1982||Murder Is Easy||Honoria Waynflete||Credited as Olivia De Havilland|
|1982||Royal Romance of Charles and Diana, TheThe Royal Romance of Charles and Diana||Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother|
|1986||North and South II||Mrs. Neal||Miniseries|
|1986||Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna||Dowager Empress Maria|
|1988||The Woman He Loved||Aunt Bessie|
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