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Academy Award winner Joan Fontaine dead at 96

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Joan Fontaine passed away Sunday from natural causes, she was 96 years old. She's best known for being the only actor or actress to ever win an Academy Award (for the film "Suspicion")under the direction of acclaimed English director Alfred Hitchcock and her long running feud with her older sister a fellow actress Olivia de Havilland. Fontaine was nominated three times for an Academy award ("Rebecca", "Suspicion" and "The Constant Nymph"). She was also nominated for a daytime Emmy for her role on the TV soap opera "Ryan's Hope" in 1980 and was married four times and had one daughter and adopted another.

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Born on October 22, 1917 in Tokyo, Japan to English parents. She grew up a sickly child who lived in the shadow of her older sister Olivia (whom her mother favored) and when she became an actress used the name "Joan Burfield" before settling on the stage name Fontaine (Her stepfather's surname). After screen testing around Hollywood, she signed a screen contract with R.K.O. (Radio-Keith-Opheum) Pictures and was touted as their newest star. But her big co-starring role in the film "A Damsel in Distress" failed to make an impression with the audience and the studio heads and her contract wasn't renewed. Fontaine found success with David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock with the film "Rebecca". She was nominated for an Oscar for her role and made waves in Hollywood with her performance.

Fontaine would win an Academy Award for her role as Lina in the Alfred Hitchcock film "Suspicion". Two years later she would be nominated again for the part of Tessa Sanger in the film "The Constant Nymph". Her career would wind down during the fifties and she would find success on the small screen by appear in guest starring roles in TV productions such as "Wagon Train", "Cannon" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour". Fontaine would be nominated once again for her work, a Daytime Emmy for her part on the soap opera "Ryan's Hope". She would sporadically appear on film and television until unofficially retiring in 1994. During her down time from appearing on film, she acted on stage and appeared in a few Broadway productions and wrote an autobiography about her earlier life and work in Hollywood titled "No Bed of Roses: An Autobiography".

Joan Fontaine was a phenomenal actress who's often overlooked and underrated. She always brought her "A" game to the table no matter how small the role. Her performances in "Rebecca" and "Suspicion" is must viewing for those who either fancy themselves as film critics or aspiring actresses. Ms. Fontaine's grace and screen presence will surely be missed.


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