The Most Unusual Example Of Longevity Risk, Ever!

Are you concerned about longevity risk? If not, you might wish to consider your priorities. After all, your lifestyle may be severely damaged if you outlive your retirement savings.

Pension plans and life insurance companies are often concerned about longevity risk as well. They establish plan contribution and premium levels that are based on assumptions about the life spans of covered members. If they under-estimate the longevity of those members, they may “under-price” their financial obligations.

But one of the most unusual examples of longevity risk was recently experienced by an organization that provides no financial services at all. The organization was the cable television network FX, which produced a series entitled Feud: Betty and Joan.

The series elaborately portrayed the bitter rivalry that existed between Hollywood film legends Olivia de Havilland and Joan Crawford. The actresses’ careers blossomed in the 1930s, when de Havilland starred in movies like The Adventures of Robin Hood and Gone With The Wind, and Crawford appeared in numerous romantic comedies with Clark Gable.

So how did longevity risk affect an FX series that portrayed the lives of film stars who feuded eighty years ago? Apparently, a lawsuit was filed by someone who claimed that FX misrepresented the relationship between the actresses. And who was the person who sued FX?

Olivia de Havilland herself.

Olivia de Havilland? The famed actress in films of the 1930s? How is that possible?

Apparently, de Havilland remains alive. She was born more than a century ago, and she still remembers the feud that she experienced with Joan Crawford. She sued FX, claiming that they defamed her personal character in their series.

FX was vindicated by the legal system. The Court decided that de Havilland may have lived through her experiences with Joan Crawford, but that she “does not own history.” Nevertheless, FX learned an unusual lesson about longevity risk.

And what is that lesson? Before any film studio produces a film about historical characters, it should always take the time to confirm that those characters have actually died.