skip navigation
Celeste Holm

Celeste Holm

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (4)

Recent DVDs

 
 

The Snake Pit DVD Olivia de Havilland was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

Best Picture Collection... Each year a handful of cinematic treasures are nominated for the coveted Best... more info $39.98was $39.98 Buy Now

Champagne For Caesar DVD "Champagne for Caesar" (1950) is a wildly funny story of revenge. Ronald... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

The Bluegrass Special DVD Disney captures the spirit of the classic "National Velvet" (1944) in this... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

High Society DVD The rich are generally different. But in matters of the heart, they're just as... more info $7.99was $12.98 Buy Now

The Private Files Of J. Edgar Hoover... The story of the late J. Edgar Hoover, who was head of the FBI from 1924-1972. ... more info $14.99was $19.95 Buy Now

Also Known As: Died: July 15, 2012
Born: April 29, 1917 Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: actress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A witty and gifted golden age veteran who amassed a daunting list of credits across three mediums, actress Celeste Holm initially planned to become a ballerina before developing a love of acting that blossomed when she made her mark on Broadway in "Oklahoma!" (1943-48) and "Bloomer Girl" (1944-46). Proficient at acting, singing and dancing, Holm was a natural for the movies and signed with 20th Century Fox in 1946, making her film debut in "Three Little Girls in Blue" (1946) before winning an Oscar for her supporting role in "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947). From there, she did especially fine work in "Come to the Stable" (1949) and "All About Eve" (1950), but Holm returned to the stage with "Affairs of State" (1950-52) and as a replacement lead performer in the Broadway juggernauts "The King and I" (1951-54), while appearing sporadically on screen in films like "The Tender Trap" (1955) and "High Society" (1956). Holm also worked frequently on television as a guest star and recurring performer on a handful of series that often only lasted a season, though she received acclaim for her work on "Insight" (Syndicated, 1960-1983) and "Backstairs at the White House" (NBC, 1979). Even after decades of...

A witty and gifted golden age veteran who amassed a daunting list of credits across three mediums, actress Celeste Holm initially planned to become a ballerina before developing a love of acting that blossomed when she made her mark on Broadway in "Oklahoma!" (1943-48) and "Bloomer Girl" (1944-46). Proficient at acting, singing and dancing, Holm was a natural for the movies and signed with 20th Century Fox in 1946, making her film debut in "Three Little Girls in Blue" (1946) before winning an Oscar for her supporting role in "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947). From there, she did especially fine work in "Come to the Stable" (1949) and "All About Eve" (1950), but Holm returned to the stage with "Affairs of State" (1950-52) and as a replacement lead performer in the Broadway juggernauts "The King and I" (1951-54), while appearing sporadically on screen in films like "The Tender Trap" (1955) and "High Society" (1956). Holm also worked frequently on television as a guest star and recurring performer on a handful of series that often only lasted a season, though she received acclaim for her work on "Insight" (Syndicated, 1960-1983) and "Backstairs at the White House" (NBC, 1979). Even after decades of distinguished work in a commendable variety of roles, which included one of her last appearances on the series "Promised Land" (CBS, 1996-99), Holm always displayed energy and conviction at an age when most performers happily settle into retirement and kept performing right into the next century.

Born on April 29, 1917 in New York, NY, Holm was raised by her father, Theodore, an insurance adjuster for Lloyd's of London, and her mother, Jean, a portrait artist and author. After attending University High School for Girls in Chicago, Holm received her post-secondary education at City College of New York and the University of Chicago, where she studied in the drama department. While in Paris, she attended Lycee Victor Duryui and the Sorbonne, while also spending a number of years studying singing and ballet, the latter being the discipline she originally hoped to adopt. She went on to perform summer stock in Pennsylvania, serving as an understudy for a production of "Hamlet" (1936) starring Leslie Howard and acting in a touring production of "The Women." Holm soon made her Broadway debut in the comedy "Gloriana" (1938), though she lasted only five performances. Also that year, she entered into marriage with director-actor-playwright Ralph Nelson, with whom she had a son named after her father. They divorced three years later.

After a turn in "The Time of Your Life" (1939), which offered her a more significant part, as well as additional roles in a handful of Broadway productions that had brief runs, Holm found stardom playing Ado Annie in the original cast of the Rodgers & Hammerstein smash "Oklahoma!" (1943-48). Her amusing rendition of the song "I Cain't Say No" was considered among the highlights of the show and Holm also utilized her vocal talents by performing at various swanky New York City venues, including the Plaza Hotel. Upon finishing her "Oklahoma!" obligations, Holm joined the cast of "Bloomer Girl" (1944-46), a production designed specifically for her, and enjoyed another success. Following a USO tour of Europe, Holm was courted by several movie studios and finally signed with 20th Century Fox, which had given her an expensive, Technicolor screen test alongside performers like Vincent Price and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Holm's contract with the studio got off to an inauspicious start, however, when she was placed in a pair of forgettable musicals, "Three Little Girls in Blue" (1946) and "Carnival in Costa Rica" (1947).

Despite Holm's obvious abilities and physical appeal, the studio never gave her the lead role in any pictures, which was odd considering her superb performance in Elia Kazan's study of anti-Semitic bigotry, "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947), which earned her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She also garnered much exposure and praise for the superior film noir "Road House" (1948) and the mental breakdown saga "The Snake Pit" (1948), while "Come to the Stable" (1949) and the much lauded Bette Davis drama, "All About Eve" (1950) brought her additional Oscar nominations. While on loan out, Holm finally enjoyed top billing as the lead actress of "Champagne for Caesar" (1950), a raucous satire of game shows that also worked as an offbeat romantic comedy. Holm preferred working on the stage and asked to be let out of her contract with Fox. The studio agreed and Holm was soon back on Broadway in "Affairs of State" (1950-52) and did a turn in the cast of "The King and I" (1951-54). She did make the occasional movie like "The Tender Trap" (1955) and "High Society" (1956), and also worked on television, where Holm's stage experience made her a prime candidate for programs like "Lux Video Theatre" (CBS/NBC, 1950-59), "Schlitz Playhouse of Stars" (CBS, 1951-59), and "Goodyear Television Playhouse" (NBC, 1951-57).

Of course, Holm made attempts to launch her own series with "Honestly, Celeste!" (CBS, 1954), only to be met with failure after only a few weeks on air. Meanwhile, around the time that she was on Broadway in "Invitation to a March" (1960-61), Holm married actor Wesley Addy, with whom she would appear in such off-Broadway productions as "A Month in the Country" (1963) and later "With Love and Laughter" (1982). Holm replaced Angela Lansbury in the title role of "Mame" (1966-70) and would return to the role in 1972 for a touring presentation of the popular musical comedy. She also found time to guest star on a number of primetime programs and played the Fairy Godmother in a television production of "Cinderella" (CBS, 1965) alongside such notables as Ginger Rogers, Walter Pidgeon, and a young Lesley Ann Warren. From there, she had another taste of episodic television as a cast member of the short-lived sitcom "Nancy" (NBC, 1970-71), which was followed by roles in "Tom Sawyer" (1973) and "Bittersweet Love" (1976). Holm went on to grace the successful miniseries "Captains and the Kings" (NBC, 1976) and "Backstairs at the White House" (NBC, 1979), the latter earning her an Emmy nomination for supporting actress.

As a guest star, Holm amassed an impressive résumé that included parts on popular shows like "Archie Bunker's Place" (CBS, 1979-1983) and "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990), while on the stage she earned acclaim for her one woman show "Paris Was Yesterday" (1979), which she performed off-Broadway. Holm made the news in 1982, when she and performers like Susan Sarandon, Michael Moriarty, and Treat Williams were arrested for civil disobedience when they tried to stop construction crews from demolishing the Helen Hayes and Morosco theatres, following an unsuccessful legal bid to the Supreme Court. Also at the time, she was appointed to the National Arts Councile by then-President Ronald Reagan, and enjoyed box office success with her first film in a decade, "Three Men and a Baby" (1987). Back on the small screen, she had a successful run as a bag lady on the soap opera "Loving" (ABC, 1983-1995), and was a regular on the primetime dramas "Promised Land" (CBS, 1996-99) and "The Beat" (UPN, 2000). Meanwhile, "I Hate Hamlet" (1991) marked her last appearance on the Great White Way.

During the latter part of her career, Holm also served on a number of boards, including the National Endowment for the Arts, and served as head of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission. But her last years were marred by a legal battle after she had a falling out with her two sons, one of whom was computer pioneer Ted Nelson. The conflict revolved around Holm's fifth husband, opera singer Frank Basile, whom she married in 2004 at the age of 87. Basile was 46 years younger than Holm, whom the children claimed was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and thus not able to properly manage her affairs. The sons alleged that Basile was intentionally cutting Holm off from the family in order to gain control of her finances. Regardless, Holm continued to act well into her 90s, including appearances in the movies "Driving Me Crazy" (2012) and "College Debts" (2012). Having suffered from ill health in her final decade, including skin cancer, ulcers, a collapsed lung, pacemaker and a hip replacement, Holm was admitted to New York's Roosevelt Hospital in June 2012 while suffering dehydration following a fire in her Central Park West building. She had a heart attack in the hospital, but asked to be released to convalesce in her home. Holm died on July 15, 2012 due to complications from her recent setbacks. She was 95 years old.

By John Charles

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 College Debts (2009)
2.
 Still Breathing (1997) Ida
3.
 Once You Meet a Stranger (1996) Clara
4.
 Polly Comin' Home! (1990) Miss Snow
5.
 In Vino Veritas (1990) Samantha Cromwell
6.
 Only the Good Die Young (1990) Samantha Cromwell
7.
 Polly (1989) Miss Snow
8.
 Things That Go Bump in the Night (1989) Samantha Cromwell
9.
 Easy Come, Easy Go (1989) Samantha Cromwell
10.
 Three Men and a Baby (1987) Jack'S Mother
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1936:
First professional role was in a production of "Hamlet," starring Leslie Howard
1938:
Made Broadway debut in "Glorianna"
1940:
Landed featured role in the Broadway play "The Time of Your Life" opposite fellow newcomer Gene Kelly
1943:
Originated the role of Ado Annie in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma!"
1944:
Starred in the Broadway production of "Bloomer Girl"
1946:
Signed to a movie contract under 20th Century Fox
1946:
Made film debut in "Three Little Girls in Blue"
1947:
Received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in "Gentleman's Agreement"
1948:
Voiced Addie Ross, the unseen woman who authored the title letter in "A Letter to Three Wives"
1948:
Co-starred with Olivia de Havilland in "The Snake Pit"
1949:
Portrayed a French nun opposite Loretta Young in "Come to the Stable"; earned a Best Supporting Oscar nomination
1950:
Played a supporting role in the classic film "All About Eve"; received third Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination
1950:
Returned to the Broadway stage with "Affairs of State"
1952:
Played the role of Anna in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I"
1954:
Starred in the CBS series "Honestly, Celeste!"
1955:
Offered a fine supporting turn in "The Tender Trap"; first of two films with Frank Sinatra
1956:
Co-starred in a TV production of "Jack and the Beanstalk" (NBC)
1956:
Supported Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby in the musical "High Society"; last film for six years
1965:
Starred alongside Lesley Ann Warren as the Fairy Godmother in the CBS television production of "Cinderella"
1966:
Co-starred in the ABC adaptation of the musical "Meet Me in St. Louis"
1966:
Succeeded Angela Lansbury in the title role of the Broadway musical "Mame"; toured in the part from 1967 until 1969
1968:
Earned an Emmy nomination for an appearance on the syndicated religious-themed program "Insight"
1970:
Played the press secretary of the First Lady on the NBC sitcom "Nancy"
1972:
Played a regular role on the ABC series "The Delphi Bureau"
1973:
Resumed feature film career after six year absence, playing Aunt Polly in the musical "Tom Sawyer"
1975:
Returned to Broadway as part of the American cast of the British hit "Habeas Corpus"
1976:
Portrayed a nun in the NBC miniseries "Captains and the Kings"
1977:
Last film for ten years, "The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover"
1977:
First played writer Janet Flanner in the one-woman show "Paris Was Yesterday" at the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey; reprised role briefly off-Broadway in 1979
1979:
Returned to stage musicals in the Broadway flop "The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall"
1979:
Cast as First Lady Florence Harding in "Backstairs at the White House" (NBC); earned Emmy nomination
1986:
Briefly joined the cast of the ABC soap opera "Loving"; co-starring her fourth husband Wesley Addy
1987:
Made one-shot return to films after a decade in "Three Men and a Baby"
1989:
Portrayed Jaclyn Smith's mom on the TV series "Christine Cromwell" (ABC)
1989:
Landed role of Miss Snow in "Polly," the NBC remake of "Pollyanna"
1990:
Reprised role of Miss Snow in "Polly Comin' Home!" (NBC)
1991:
Returned to Broadway in "I Hate Hamlet"
1996:
Played mother of Gerald McRaney on the CBS series "Promised Land"; also made appearances in the same role on CBS' "Touched By and Angel"
1997:
Again made one-shot return to films as Brendan Fraser's grandmother in "Still Breathing"
2000:
Appeared in recurring role on the UPN police drama "The Beat"
2000:
Returned to the stage as co-star of "Don Juan in Hell" at off-Broadway's Irish Repertory Theater
2005:
Appeared in the romantic comedy "Alchemy," starring Tom Cavanagh and Sarah Chalke
2009:
Announced retirement from big screen roles
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University High School for Girls: Chicago , Illinois -
Lycee Victor Duruy: -
City College of New York: New York , New York -
University of Chicago: Chicago , Illinois -
Sorbonne: -

Notes

"In this country, there is currently too much emphasis on sports, which brings out aggression, whereas the arts bring us together in harmony. Is there ant better example of disciplined cooperation than a symphony orchestra?" --Celeste Holm, quoted in The New York Times, April 25, 1996.

About the making of "All About Eve", Holm was quoted in Vanity Fair (April 1999):

"Bette Davis was so rude, so constantly rude. . . . Why I walked onto the set about the first or second day and said 'Good morning,' and do you know her reply? She said, 'Oh shit, good manners.' I never spoke to her again--ever."

"There was one bitch in the cast [of "All About Eve"]: Celeste Holm." --Bette Davis

Holm was knighted by King Olav of Norway in 1979.

Holm was arrested for protesting the demolition of two classic Broadway theaters in 1982.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Ralph Nelson. Director. Married in 1938; divorced.
husband:
Francis E E Davis. Married in January 1940; divorced.
husband:
A Schuyler Dunning. Married in 1946; divorced in 1952.
husband:
Wesley Addy. Actor. Married from May 26, 1966 until his death on December 31, 1996.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Theodor Holm. Insurance executive. Born in Norway.
mother:
Jean Holm. Portrait artist, writer.
son:
Theodore Nelson. Writer, computer programmer. Father, Ralph Nelson.
son:
Daniel Dunning. Father, A Schuyler Dunning.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute