William Holden


Actor
William Holden

About

Also Known As
Will Holden, William Franklin Beedle Jr.
Birth Place
O'Fallon, Illinois, USA
Born
April 17, 1918
Died
November 16, 1981
Cause of Death
Injuries Resulting From A Fall

Biography

Few Hollywood actors have conveyed spiritual and physical pain with the charismatic authority of William Holden. This scion of a wealthy family in the chemical business first registered in films as a clean-cut, affably handsome lead in the 1940s and he matured into more rough and tumble roles. Along the way his earnest qualities yielded to cynicism, perhaps most notably for writer-direct...

Photos & Videos

Sunset Blvd. - Publicity Stills
Stalag 17 - Movie Posters
Network - Movie Posters

Family & Companions

Brenda Marshall
Wife
Actor. Born in 1917; formerly married to actor Richard Gaines; married to Holden in 1941; divorced in 1970.
Stefanie Powers
Companion
Actor.

Bibliography

"The Complete Films of William Holden"
Lawrence J Quirk, Carol Publishing Group (1973)
"Golden Boy: The Untold Story of William Holden"
Bob Thomas
"William Holden"
Pyramid Books

Notes

From the 1950s on, Holden's interests ranged beyond film to include travel and business. He settled in Switzerland after a lengthy spell in the Far East and spent a great deal of time in Africa, where he was co-owner of the Mount Kenya Safari Club. Following his death in 1981, the William Holden Wildlife Foundation (which operates a Wildlife Education Center on land near Mount Kenya) was founded.

Biography

Few Hollywood actors have conveyed spiritual and physical pain with the charismatic authority of William Holden. This scion of a wealthy family in the chemical business first registered in films as a clean-cut, affably handsome lead in the 1940s and he matured into more rough and tumble roles. Along the way his earnest qualities yielded to cynicism, perhaps most notably for writer-director Billy Wilder in "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) and in his Oscar-winning performance in "Stalag 17" (1953). Over the years, the rigors of life and drink re-sculpted his features into an expressive leather that gave testimony to the ravages of the moral ambiguity that had characterized many of his best roles. This quality may have been most eloquently expressed by his central performance as the desperado cowboy Pike in Sam Peckinpah's violent autumnal Western classic, "The Wild Bunch" (1969).

Holden became a star with his first substantial feature role as the boxer-violinist in "Golden Boy" (1939), a part that cast him opposite screen siren Barbara Stanwyck, who would later become his mentor and life-long booster. Holden was soon getting cast in fairly innocuous roles: the boy-next-door; the quintessential All-American in such films as "Arizona" as the amiable lover of a determined corruption buster Jean Arthur; the idealistic small town hero in "Our Town"; a hell-raising Joe College in "Those Were the Days" (all 1940). He was pitted against Glenn Ford, rivaling for the affections of Claire Trevor, in "Texas" (1941), tried to heat up an ice-cool Dorothy Lamour in the musical "The Fleet's In" (1942), and was a poor boy who gets married in "Meet The Stewarts" (1942).

Holden joined the Air Force, fought in WWII and returned to the screen with a more complex personality. He starred in several films which, though unremarkable, were box-office favorites ("Dear Ruth" 1947 and "Rachel and the Stranger" 1948) before being cast against type to play a psycho killer in the low-budget noir "The Dark Past" (1949). 1950 proved to be Holden's watershed year: he starred in two career landmarks, "Born Yesterday" as Judy Holliday's culture tutor-cum-lover, and Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard," as Norma Desmond's hack screenwriter gigolo. With the latter portrayal, Holden's screen persona began to move into the gray areas that were further explored in later roles like that of the pessimistic POW suspected of being a Nazi informer in Wilder's "Stalag 17" (1953), a role which garnered Holden a Best Actor Oscar. Wilder discovered and expertly exploited the dichotomy between the actor's wholesome All-American appearance and his potential for conveying moral darkness. Holden went on to become a leading box-office star between 1954-58 and reigned as the top-grosser in 1956. Notable roles of this period included playing an ambitious company man in "Executive Suite," a ne'er-do-well playboy in Wilder's "Sabrina" (both 1954) and the drifter who breaks Kim Novak's heart in "Picnic" (1956).

Holden remained active for nearly three more decades, showing up in a pivotal role in "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957). While many of his 60s credits were routine and worse (e.g. "Paris When It Sizzles" 1963), the decade also boasted some undeniable triumphs, including his portrayal of a double agent in the fine thriller "The Counterfeit Traitor" (1962) and a career highlight in Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" (1969). The 70s found Holden in a number of mediocre action and adventure vehicles ("Towering Inferno" 1974, "Ashanti" 1979, "The Earthling" 1980) as well as a few winners including the highly acclaimed "Network" (1976), as a conscientious TV executive, and Wilder's sadly underrated "Fedora" (1978), as a producer trying to encourage a Garbo-esque star to come out of self-imposed retirement. Fairly late in his career, Holden made his TV debut, winning an Emmy for his work in the detective miniseries about the L.A. police department "The Blue Knights" (1973). His final film performance came in Blake Edwards' caustically comic look at Hollywood, "S.O.B." (1981).

Holden died from an accidental fall in his apartment in 1981.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

William Holden: The Golden Boy (1989)
S.O.B. (1981)
Tim Culley
The Earthling (1981)
When Time Ran Out (1980)
Escape to Athena (1979)
Ashanti (1979)
Jim Sandell
Fedora (1978)
Damien - Omen II (1978)
21 Hours At Munich (1976)
Chief Of Police Manfred Schreiber
Network (1976)
Max Schumacher
Open Season (1974)
Wolkowski
The Towering Inferno (1974)
Breezy (1973)
Frank Harmon
The Revengers (1972)
John Benedict
Wild Rovers (1971)
Ross Bodine
The Christmas Tree (1969)
Laurent
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Pike Bishop
The Devil's Brigade (1968)
Lt. Col. Robert T. Frederick
Casino Royale (1967)
Ransome
Alvarez Kelly (1966)
Alvarez Kelly
The 7th Dawn (1964)
Ferris
Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
Richard Benson
The Counterfeit Traitor (1962)
Eric Erickson
Satan Never Sleeps (1962)
Father O'Banion
The Lion (1962)
Robert Hayward
The World of Suzie Wong (1961)
Robert Lomax
Report on Hong Kong (1961)
The Horse Soldiers (1959)
Maj. Henry Kendall
The Key (1958)
David Ross
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Shears
Toward the Unknown (1956)
Maj. Lincoln Bond
The Proud and Profane (1956)
Lt. Col. Colin Black
The Country Girl (1955)
Bernie Dodd
The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955)
Lt. Harry Brubaker
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
Mark Elliott
Picnic (1955)
Hal Carter
Sabrina (1954)
David Larrabee
Forever Female (1954)
Stanley Krown
Executive Suite (1954)
McDonald Walling
Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)
Narration
The Moon Is Blue (1953)
Donald Gresham
Stalag 17 (1953)
Sgt. J. J. Sefton
Escape from Fort Bravo (1953)
Capt. Roper
The Turning Point (1952)
Jerry McKibbon
Boots Malone (1952)
Boots Malone
Force of Arms (1951)
"Pete" Peterson
Submarine Command (1951)
Commander Ken White
Born Yesterday (1950)
Paul Verrall
Union Station (1950)
Lt. William Calhoun
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Joe [C.] Gillis
Father Is a Bachelor (1950)
Johnny Rutledge
Dear Wife (1950)
Bill Seacroft
The Dark Past (1949)
Al Walker
Streets of Laredo (1949)
Jim Dawkins
Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949)
Dick Richmond
The Man from Colorado (1948)
Captain Del Stewart
Rachel and the Stranger (1948)
Big Davey
Apartment for Peggy (1948)
Jason Taylor
Variety Girl (1947)
Dear Ruth (1947)
Lieut. William Seacroft
Blaze of Noon (1947)
Colin McDonald
Young and Willing (1943)
Norman Reese
Meet the Stewarts (1942)
Michael "Mike" Stewart
The Fleet's In (1942)
Casey Kirby
The Remarkable Andrew (1942)
Andrew Long
Texas (1941)
Dan Thomas
I Wanted Wings (1941)
Al Ludlow
Those Were the Days! (1940)
P. J. "Petey" Simmons
Arizona (1940)
Peter Muncie
Our Town (1940)
George Gibbs
Invisible Stripes (1939)
Tim Taylor
Golden Boy (1939)
Joe Bonaparte

Editing (Feature Film)

In a Valley of Violence (2015)
Assistant Editor
Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)
Editor

Cast (Special)

Operation Entertainment (1954)

Cast (Short)

The Moviemakers (1971)
Himself

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Blue Knight (1973)

Life Events

1938

Debut as extra in "Prison Farm"

1939

Film acting debut in "Golden Boy"

1950

Cast in Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" and George Cukor's "Born Yesterday"

1956

Top grossing box office star of the year

1973

Debut in a TV miniseries, "The Blue Knight"

1976

Starred in "Network"; one of his last notable film roles

1976

TV-movie debut, "21 Hours at Munich"

Photo Collections

Sunset Blvd. - Publicity Stills
Sunset Blvd. - Publicity Stills
Stalag 17 - Movie Posters
Stalag 17 - Movie Posters
Network - Movie Posters
Here are a few original American movie posters from Network (1976), starring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall.
Sabrina - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release movie posters from Billy Wilder's Sabrina (1954), starring Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden.
Rachel and the Stranger - Scene Stills
Here are some scene stills from RKO's Rachel and the Stranger (1948), starring Loretta Young, William Holden and Robert Mitchum.
The Undercover Man - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
The Undercover Man - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
The Fleet's In - Movie Posters
The Fleet's In - Movie Posters
Executive Suite - Group Publicity Stills
Here is a series of publicity stills taken of the all-star cast of Executive Suite (1954). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Rachel and the Stranger - Lobby Cards
Here are a few lobby cards from RKO's Rachel and the Stranger (1948), starring Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum and William Holden. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Love is a Many Splendored Thing - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955), starring Jennifer Jones and William Holden. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Born Yesterday - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release movie posters from Born Yesterday (1950), directed by George Cukor and starring Judy Holliday, William Holden, and Broderick Crawford.
The World of Suzie Wong - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Five Miles to Midnight (1961), starring Nancy Kwan and William Holden. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Executive Suite - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Executive Suite (1954). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Wild Rovers - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Wild Rovers (1971). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Horse Soldiers, The (1959) - Sense of Justice Showcase for Confederate deserters (Denver Pyle and Strother Martin) whom Colonel Marlowe (John Wayne) uses and abuses, impressing Miss Hannah (Constance Towers) and Kendall (William Holden) in John Ford's The Horse Soldiers, 1959.
Wild Bunch, The (1969) - Shall We Gather At The River Part of Sam Peckinpah's preposterous opening, in which the prayer meeting enters the incipient shootout, Crazy Lee (Bo Hopkins) abuses hostages, and rivals Thornton (Robert Ryan) and Pike (William Holden) miss shots at each other, in The Wild Bunch, 1969.
Horse Soldiers, The (1959) - Quite Enough of Both Southerner Hannah Hunter (Constance Towers) entertains Union officers Marlowe (John Wayne), Secord (Willis Bouchey), Gray (William Leslie) and Kendall (William Holden) in John Ford's The Horse Soldiers, 1959.
The Wild Bunch (1969) - You're My Judas Goat After the disastrous failed bank-heist ambush, bounty broker Harrigan (Albert Dekker), working for the railroad, chews out the goofy crew (Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones as Coffer and C.T.) and threatens to send their angered leader Thornton (Robert Ryan), the former partner of the hunted Pike, back to prison, in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, 1969.
Wild Bunch, The (1969) - Even The Worst Of Us Riding into the home village of Angel (Jaime Sanchez), the bunch (William Holden as Pike leads Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson and Warren Oates) gets a grim update from Chano Urueta, a leading Mexican director and producer since the 1930’s, as crusty Don Jose, in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, 1969.
Wild Bunch, The (1969) - He Was After The Girl We’ve just met the grossly corrupt federal general Mapache (Emilio Fernandez) who’s taken over the Mexican home village of Angel (Jaime Sanchez) where Pike, Dutch, Sykes and the gang (William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Edmond O’Brien, Ben Johnson, Warren Oates) are hiding when Teresa (Sonia Amelio), his former fianceè appears, sparking more trouble, with Fernando Wagner as the German agent, in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, 1969.
Father Was A Bachelor (1950) - MacNamara's Band With his informally adopted clan (Gary and Billy Gray, Warren and Wayne Farlow and Mary Jane Saunders), drifter and singer Johnny (William Holden, dubbed by the popular singer Buddy Clark, who had died in a plane crash by the time the picture was released) offers the 1889 Irish music-hall standard (by Shamus O’Connor and John J. Stamford) , producing an unexpected job offer (from Sig Ruman), in Father Was A Bachelor, 1950.
Father Was A Bachelor (1950) - We Don't Have Shoes! Still not committed to the Chalotte kids (Gary Gray with Billy Gray, Warren and Wayne Farlow and Mary Jane Saunders) who have mostly adopted him, drifter-singer Johnny (William Holden) is assailed by do-gooder Prudence (second billed Colleen Gray, in her first scene) in Father Was A Bachelor, 1950.
Father Was A Bachelor (1950) - I Kinda Steer Clear Of Houses After an opening scene singing in blackface in a minstrel-medicine show, in which his colleague (Charles Winninger) wound up jailed, Johnny (William Holden) takes up fishing and meets the Chalotte kids (Mary Jane Saunders, Gary Gray and Billy Gray, Warren and Wayne Farlow) in Father Was A Bachelor, 1950.
Network (1976) - Open, Howard Beale Howard K. Smith, John Chancellor and Walter Cronkite appear in narrated opening to Sidney Lumet's Network, 1976, which also introduces Howard (Peter Finch) and Max (William Holden), from Paddy Chayefsky's script.
Wild Bunch, The (1969) - Plain And Fancy They After the bank job, still in military disguise, the Gorch's (Warren Oates, Ben Johnson) tangle with Pike (William Holden) and Angel (Jaime Sanchez), and bad news about the loot sends Sykes (Edmond O'Brien) into a rant, in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, 1969.
S.O.B. (1981) - Open, Sally Miles Blake Edwards directs his wife Julie Andrews playing wholesome movie star Sally Miles, in a scene from the fictional musical that will become an enormous flop, produced by her husband, played by Richard Mulligan, opening the seething Hollywood satire S.O.B.,1981.

Trailer

Stalag 17 -- (Re-issue Trailer) He's a cynic but is he a traitor? William Holden won a Best Actor award as the hard-boiled POW running scams in Billy Wilder's Stalag 17 (1953).
S.O.B. (1981) -- (Original Trailer) Emphasis on the writer-director, his wife Julie Andrews, his company of Hollywood veteran pals, and Robert Preston getting the best lines, the original trailer for Blake Edwards’ indulgent satire, S.O.B., 1981.
Born Yesterday (1950) - Inspecting Your Wing Crooked titan Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford) blowing into D.C., girlfriend Billie (Judy Holliday), reporter Verrall (William Holden) and hotel concierge (Grandon Rhodes) also introduced, opening George Cukor's Born Yesterday, 1950.
Moon is Blue, The - (Original Trailer) Two womanizers (William Holden, David Niven) fall for a woman determined to keep her virginity in The Moon is Blue (1953).
Wild Bunch, The - (Original Trailer) A group of aging cowboys look for one last score in a corrupt border town in director Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969).
Force of Arms - (Original Trailer) An Army sergeant (William Holden) romances a WAC (Nancy Olsen) in World War II Italy in Force of Arms (1951).
Devil's Brigade, The - (Original Trailer) Experienced Canadian soldiers and misfit Americans join to beat the Nazis in The Devil's Brigade (1968).
Bridges At Toko-Ri, The - (Re-Issue Trailer) Two jet pilots forge a lasting friendship while fighting the Korean War in The Bridges At Toko-Ri (1954).
Fleet's In, The - (Original Trailer) Sailor William Holden is after songstress Dorothy Lamour in the comedy The Fleet's In (1942) introducing Betty Hutton.
Alvarez Kelly - (Original Trailer) A suave Mexican cattleman (William Holden) inadvertently gets involved in the Civil War in Alvarez Kelly (1966) co-starring Richard Widmark.
Union Station - (Original Trailer) A secretary gets caught up in the hunt for kidnappers at Union Station (1950) starring William Holden.
Escape From Fort Bravo -- (Original Trailer) William Holden has to keep Confederate prisoners in while keeping Apaches out in the color western Escape From Fort Bravo (1953).

Family

Mary Beedle
Mother
William Franklin Beedle
Father
Born in 1892.
Robert Westfield Beedle
Brother
Born in 1921; died on January 1, 1944.
Richard Beedle
Brother
Born c. 1925.
Peter Westfield Holden
Son
Businessman. Born on November 17, 1943.
Scott Porter Holden
Son
Actor. Born on May 2, 1946; began career early 70s; appeared as a veterinarian in "Breezy" (1973), starring his father.
Virginia Holden
Step-Daughter
Actor. Daughter of Holden's wife, Brenda Marshall, by her previous marriage to actor Richard Gaines; Holden adopted her after marrying Marshall.

Companions

Brenda Marshall
Wife
Actor. Born in 1917; formerly married to actor Richard Gaines; married to Holden in 1941; divorced in 1970.
Stefanie Powers
Companion
Actor.

Bibliography

"The Complete Films of William Holden"
Lawrence J Quirk, Carol Publishing Group (1973)
"Golden Boy: The Untold Story of William Holden"
Bob Thomas
"William Holden"
Pyramid Books

Notes

From the 1950s on, Holden's interests ranged beyond film to include travel and business. He settled in Switzerland after a lengthy spell in the Far East and spent a great deal of time in Africa, where he was co-owner of the Mount Kenya Safari Club. Following his death in 1981, the William Holden Wildlife Foundation (which operates a Wildlife Education Center on land near Mount Kenya) was founded.