"THE PEACE AND quiet of coming home to lovely possessions instead of to children, dogs and husbands is nice," joked Oscar-winning actess Joan Fontaine. "They don't talk back and you look at them when you want to and you don't have to look at them if you don't want to. . .they just sit there waiting for you."
Fontaine has been a collector of plates from the time she was 5. As part of the 1982 Washington Antique Show at the Shoreham Hotel, next Sunday at noon she will lecture on the subject of Chines arts. She spent time in China taking her own slides and researching the parts of China she likes best -- the arts: cloisonne', glass painting, etc.
She was in Washington earlier to open a nationwide tour of the World Plate Collectors Fair at Tysons Corner Center in McLean.
Fontaine says she began her collection "when I was about 5 years old. I was given a Dresden tea set. If grownups would only realize what they give kids is so important -- books, dolls, trains -- these form lifelong habits."See FONTAINE, Page 2, Col. X FONTAINE, From Page 1
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland (she borrowed "Fontaine" from her stepfather, according to the "Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World's Great Movie Stars and Their Films" by Ken Wlaschin) is related to Frederick Haviland of Havilland china. (The correct spelling of Havilland is with two "l's." However, according to Fontaine, "the American branch couldn't spell and dropped one of the 'l's.' ")
"We're all from Guernsey [a British island in the English Channel, near Normandy]," she explained. "One branch of the family went to England and began the De Havilland Aircraft Factory; the other ended up in New York. Frederick Haviland of the New York branch was a chemist as well as a china expert. He traveled to France in search of a Limoges pattern cup -- about 200 years ago. He bought out a bankrupt china factory and began the official Havilland china."
But Joan Fontaine's family tree goes farther back than this.
"You know I happen to be distantly related to the leading character lady Eleanor of Aquitaine of 'The Lion in Winter.' I've always wanted to perform the play at the National Theatre, but they're being very stuffy about releasing the rights. It would be pretty exciting to play your own ancestor," she said.
"When I was writing my book her 1978 autobiography: "No Bed of Roses" I called up the New York Public library to check on whether my family tree was correct in stating that I was related to Henry II, Edward II and Henry VIII. The archivist called me back saying: 'Ms. Fontaine?' I said 'Yes?' He asked 'Are you sitting down?' I said 'Yes.' He continued, 'Indeed you are related! But so am I related to the same kings, so is my assistant and so is Richard Nixon.' "
Now 64 years old, Fontaine, whose classic high cheekbones and perfectly sculpted nose portray elegance and sophistication, said she likes to work.
"I like to be busy. Everybody says, 'When are you going to retire?' And I say, 'Never, because I don't play bridge.' I would hate to have nothing to do but look forward to a bridge game."
In the last nine months, Fontaine was in the play "Janus" in Louisville, Ky.; performed in "On Golden Pond"; taped a segment of the television series "Love Boat" in Hollywood; flew to Sydney, Australia, to be on the Michael Parkinson show; spoke in Honolulu to the Society of American Travel Agents.
The performer was scheduled to be in town last week to narrate Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" with the Fairfax County Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.
Fontaine is the youngest leading lady to win an Oscar. She won it at the age of 23 for Alfred Hitchcock's 1941 thriller "Suspicion," which initiated the feud between Fontaine and her actress-sister Olivia de Havilland, also up for the best actress Oscar that year.
Looking back on her career, Fontaine said, "You know it's amazing to win an Oscar when you really don't know what you're doing. You really don't know your art for many, many years. And the sad part about my profession is that to play any juicy part you have to be very young. They don't write -- as Glenda Jackson said the other day -- they just don't write plays for people over 40, much. That's why 'Golden Pond' is so marvelous.
"In fact," Fontaine boasts, "I'm much too young. She's supposed to be 79 in the play. I had a great compliment today. One person asked me, 'Are you playing the daughter?' I nearly kissed her! I guess I'll have to develop acute arthritis."
Fontaine hopes the days are returning when people will once again go to the movies and theater to see their favorite actor or actress. "If the star system is coming back -- that would be very, very fine. We were the draws once. In recent decades the directors became the draws. It had to be a Mike Nichols production or a George Stevens. I think the average public not only like their favorites but like the kinds of things they do . . . I was a Garbo fan -- everything she did I went to see."
"Now I'm a Redford fan -- anything he does, acting or directing, I'll go see. He's simply delicious to me. 'Ordinary People' was one of the best American films I've ever seen."