Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Professor Tamara Venit-Shelton

Reader 2

Professor James Morrison

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Rights Information

2018 Alexander C. Reisfield


Olivia de Havilland’s legal victory over Warner Brothers in 1943 set a new precedent for labor relations in Hollywood. Not an isolated piece of litigation, the resulting law now is referred to by her name. It was the culmination of long struggle for actors in the studio system for representation and fair treatment under the law. Much of the work during Hollywood’s studio era was undertaken by women. They used their positions on screen both to appeal to their individual audiences. More than any other, the female star defined the pictures they performed in and the brand of the studios that employed them.

Hollywood’s studio system bound stars like de Havilland contractually for a period of up to seven years, which was the legal limit at the time. This did not stop studios from abusing those legal limits through loopholes like the suspension clause. In 1943, the suspension clause was what Warner Brothers used to keep Olivia de Havilland beyond the seven calendar years she had worked for the studio. Actors rejoiced when the powerful suspension clause was declared unlawful by de Havilland’s suite. With the De Havilland Law, actors were entitled to independence that had previously be reserved for the lucky few.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.