A Tribute to William Holden
If ever there was such a thing as an “overnight success” in the movie business, it was William Holden. Not that he didn’t deserve it, of course. Three Oscar nominations are proof that he did.
Born on April 17, 1918, Holden came from a wealthy Pasadena family, and began acting for fun while studying chemistry at Pasadena Junior College. He was discovered there by a Paramount executive, signed to a contract, and, after a couple of minor roles, cast as the title character opposite Barbara Stanwyck in Golden Boy (1939), beating out a mob of actors, including John Garfield. It was during the making of this film that Stanwyck earned Holden’s everlasting gratitude by coaching the neophyte and going to bat for him with studio executives. He was a star from that point on.
After serving with the U.S. Army during World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant, Holden returned to star in Sunset Boulevard (1950), gaining his first Oscar nomination, and Born Yesterday (1950). In 1953 he won a Best Actor Oscar for Stalag 17. His popularity continued through the 1950s, in films such as Sabrina (1954), Picnic (1955) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
But gradually he seemed to lose his earlier fire and enthusiasm, and his best roles in his later years were those which took advantage of an increasing maturity and weariness, including The Wild Bunch (1969) and Network (1976), the latter gaining him his third Oscar nomination. He would only make a half dozen more films after that Oscar win, instead spending much of his time in Africa, as co-owner of the Mount Kenya Safari Club and a strong advocate for wildlife conservation. He died on November 16, 1981, as a result of an accidental fall which reportedly took place following a drinking bout.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Posters