At 101, a Survivor of Hollywood’s Golden Age Throws Down the Gauntlet

Emailing from the Paris hotel where she lives, Dame Olivia de Havilland sounded defiant, and understandably so. The topic at hand was her lawsuit against the FX network and Ryan Murphy Productions over her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones in last year’s docudrama “Feud: Bette and Joan,” about the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

Ms. de Havilland’s lawyer in Los Angeles, Suzelle Smith, had arranged an electronic question and answer session ahead of a court date much anticipated by both those who remember the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, rapidly receding in a digitized and rightly diversified age. And by the many in the industry who mine recent history for dramatic purposes (consider the Oscar-nominated films “The Post,” “Darkest Hour” and “I, Tonya”).

On March 20, the California Court of Appeal will hear arguments over whether Ms. de Havilland can proceed with her suit, which alleges unauthorized use of her name and likeness to endorse a product — a “right of publicity” claim — as well as false light, which sounds like the old Vaselined lens trick but in fact is a privacy tort akin to libel and defamation.

Few expect her to win, but the action is nonetheless reverberating as a kind of last stand against the current bricolage approach to facts.

Ms. de Havilland in 1950 with the Oscars she won for “To Each His Own” and “The Heiress.”Credit…Frank Filan/Associated Press

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