Celeste Holm


Actress
Celeste Holm

About

Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
April 29, 1917
Died
July 15, 2012
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

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 wi...

Photos & Videos

High Society - Publicity Stills
High Society - Grace Kelly Behind-the-Scenes Stills
The Tender Trap - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Family & Companions

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

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."

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 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

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

College Debts (2009)
Still Breathing (1997)
Once You Meet a Stranger (1996)
Only the Good Die Young (1990)
Samantha Cromwell
Polly Comin' Home! (1990)
In Vino Veritas (1990)
Things That Go Bump in the Night (1989)
Polly (1989)
Easy Come, Easy Go (1989)
Murder By the Book (1987)
Claire Mercer
Three Men and a Baby (1987)
Marilyn Monroe: Beyond the Legend (1986)
Interviewee
This Girl For Hire (1983)
Midnight Lace (1981)
Sylvia Randall
The Private Files Of J. Edgar Hoover (1977)
Florence Hollister
The Love Boat II (1977)
Eva Mcfarland
Bittersweet Love (1976)
Marian
Death Cruise (1974)
Elizabeth Mason
The Underground Man (1974)
Beatrice Broadhurst
Tom Sawyer (1973)
The Delphi Bureau (1972)
Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (1967)
Louise Halloran
Bachelor Flat (1962)
Helen Bushmill
High Society (1956)
Liz Imbrie
The Tender Trap (1955)
Sylvia Crewes
Champagne for Caesar (1950)
Flame O'Neil
All About Eve (1950)
Karen [Richards]
A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
Voice of Addie Ross
Come to the Stable (1949)
Sister Scolastica
Chicken Every Sunday (1949)
Emily Hefferen
Everybody Does It (1949)
Doris Borland
Road House (1948)
Susie Smith
The Snake Pit (1948)
Grace
Gentleman's Agreement (1948)
Anne Dettrey
Carnival in Costa Rica (1947)
Celeste
Three Little Girls in Blue (1946)
Miriam Harrington

Cast (Special)

The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story (2000)
Voice
Hometown Heroes (1998)
Interviewee
The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998)
Performer
Talking With (1995)
The Hollywood Fashion Machine (1995)
The 65th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1993)
Performer
The 19th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards (1992)
Presenter
Road Show (1989)
Nora's Christmas Gift (1989)
Nora
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (1986)
The Shady Hill Kidnapping (1982)
Celebrity
Swing Out, Sweet Land (1976)
Fun Fair (1960)
Host
The Man in the Dog Suit (1960)
Martha Walling
The Right Man (1960)
Victoria Woodhull
The Yeoman of the Guard (1957)
Phoebe Merry Ii
Carolyn (1956)
Carolyn Daniels
Jack and the Beanstalk (1956)
Mad Meggie

Misc. Crew (Special)

Hometown Heroes (1998)
Film Clips

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Backstairs at the White House (1979)
Captains and the Kings (1976)
Captains and the Kings Part 5 & 6 (1976)

Life Events

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

Co-starred with Olivia de Havilland in "The Snake Pit"

1948

Voiced Addie Ross, the unseen woman who authored the title letter in "A Letter to Three Wives"

1949

Portrayed a French nun opposite Loretta Young in "Come to the Stable"; earned a Best Supporting Oscar nomination

1950

Returned to the Broadway stage with "Affairs of State"

1950

Played a supporting role in the classic film "All About Eve"; received third Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination

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

Succeeded Angela Lansbury in the title role of the Broadway musical "Mame"; toured in the part from 1967 until 1969

1966

Co-starred in the ABC adaptation of the musical "Meet Me in St. Louis"

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

Photo Collections

High Society - Publicity Stills
Here are several Publicity Stills from High Society (1956). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
High Society - Grace Kelly Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are several photos of Grace Kelly taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's High Society (1956), costarring Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, and directed by Charles Walters.
The Tender Trap - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of The Tender Trap (1955), starring Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, David Wayne, and Celeste Holm.
The Tender Trap - Publicity Stills
Here are several stills taken to help publicize MGM's The Tender Trap (1955), starring Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, David Wayne, and Celeste Holm. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Come To The Stable (1949) - Sisters From France Jumped by director Henry Koster from the idyllic village where they first arrived, the sisters (Loretta Young and Celeste Holm as Margaret and Scolastica), seeking land for their school, appear in the offices of a New England bishop (Basil Ruysdael), received by his aide (Regis Toomey), in Come To The Stable, 1949.
All About Eve (1950) - We Theater Folk At the party hosted by well-lit Margo (Bette Davis), her husband, director Bill (Gary Merrill) and critic Addison (George Sanders) hold court for the plucky Miss Casswell (Marilyn Monroe) and ambitious assistant Eve (Anne Baxter), et al, in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve, 1950.
All About Eve (1950) - Fasten Your Seat Belts Friend Karen (Celeste Holm), her playwright husband (Hugh Marlowe) and producer Max (Gregory Ratoff) stand back as actress-hostess Margo (Bette Davis) delivers her famous line in All About Eve, 1950, then joins critic DeWitt (George Sanders), Marilyn Monroe on his arm, and protegè Eve (Anne Baxter).
High Society (1956) - Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Outsiders Liz (Celeste Holm) and Mike (Frank Sinatra) convey a lively distaste for wealth with Cole Porter's song "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" in the musical High Society, 1956.
Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (1967) - Open, Five Of You! Nutty 60's comic opening leading to three suitors (Bill Bixby, Dwayne Hickman, Dick Kallman) rushing pregnant Sandra Dee, and her mother Celeste Holm, to the hospital, in Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding, 1967.
Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (1967) - Strong Little Girl Heather grows up to be (Sandra Dee), first with stage-mother Louise (Celeste Holm) in the elevator she operates, then narrating her college career, then neighbor Dick (Bill Bixby) dropping by, in Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding, 1967.
Snake Pit, The (1948) - I Don't Like A Zoo Apparent in this very early scene just how deluded Virginia (Olivia De Havilland) is, even to her fellow mental patient Grace (Celeste Holm), in Anatole Litvak's chilling The Snake Pit, 1948.
All About Eve (1950) - When She Gets Like This Karen (Celeste Holm), wife of the playwright (Hugh Marlowe) and leader of the entourage of Broadway diva Margo (Bette Davis), exercises privilege, introducing the devoted fan and title character (Anne Baxter), Thelma Ritter as non-plussed Birdie, early in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve, 1950.
All About Eve (1950) - The Sarah Siddons Award Nothing beats a George Sanders opening narration, as critic Addison DeWitt, writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz introducing indirectly Hugh Marlowe and Garry Merrill, then Celeste Holm, Gregory Ratoff and Bette Davis, with reference to star Anne Baxter, in the celebrated showbiz melodrama, All About Eve, 1950.
Letter To Three Wives, A -- (1948) - Women Are So Silly Opening scene from writer and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, leading with sublime narration by Celeste Holm, and introducing first wife Deborah (Jeanne Crain) and husband Brad (Jeffrey Lynn), in A Letter To Three Wives, 1948.
Letter To Three Wives, A -- (1948) - One Of Your Husbands First scene for third wife Lora (Linda Darnell), joined by friends Rita (Ann Sothern) and Deborah (Jeanne Crain) for the charity picnic, receiving the key note, as read by Celeste Holm, in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's A Letter To Three Wives, 1948.
Come To The Stable (1949) - You Can Take Your Wings Off Straight from the credits, director Henry Koster doing nothing to dispel the other worldly aspects of the setting, nuns Margaret (Loretta Young) and Scolastica (Celeste Holm) meet spacey New England artist Amelia (Elsa Lanchester) and her models (Gary Pagett as "Johnnie"), in Come To The Stable, 1949, from the Clare Booth Luce story.

Trailer

Family

Theodor Holm
Father
Insurance executive. Born in Norway.
Jean Holm
Mother
Portrait artist, writer.
Theodore Nelson
Son
Writer, computer programmer. Father, Ralph Nelson.
Daniel Dunning
Son
Father, A Schuyler Dunning.

Companions

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

Bibliography

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.