William Holden

Filmography

1938      

Prison Farm

 

1939      

Million Dollar Legs

Golden Boy

Invisible Stripes

 

1940      

Those Were the Days!

Our Town

Arizona

 

1941      

I Wanted Wings

Texas

 

1942      

The Fleet’s In

The Remarkable Andrew

Meet the Stewarts

 

1943      

Young and Willing

 

1947      

Blaze of Noon

Dear Ruth

Variety Girl

 

1948      

The Man from Colorado

Rachel and the Stranger

Apartment for Peggy

The Dark Past

 

1949      

Streets of Laredo

Miss Grant Takes Richmond

Dear Wife

 

1950      

Father Is a Bachelor

Sunset Boulevard

Union Station

Born Yesterday

 

1951      

Force of Arms

Submarine Command

 

1952      

Boots Malone

The Turning Point

 

1953      

Stalag 17

The Moon Is Blue

Forever Female

Escape from Fort Bravo

 

1954      

Executive Suite

Sabrina

The Bridges at Toko-Ri

The Country Girl

 

1955      

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Picnic

 

1956      

The Proud and Profane

Toward the Unknown

 

1957      

The Bridge on the River Kwai

 

1958      

The Key

 

1959      

The Horse Soldiers

 

1960      

The World of Suzie Wong

 

1962      

Satan Never Sleeps

The Counterfeit Traitor

The Lion

 

1964      

Paris When It Sizzles

The 7th Dawn

 

1966      

Alvarez Kelly

 

1967      

Casino Royale

 

1968      

The Devil’s Brigade

 

1969      

The Wild Bunch

The Christmas Tree

 

1971      

Wild Rovers

 

1972      

The Revengers

 

1973      

Breezy

 

1974      

Open Season

The Towering Inferno

 

1976      

Network

 

1978      

Fedora

Damien: Omen II

 

1979      

Ashanti

 

1980      

When Time Ran Out

The Earthling

 

1981      

S.O.B.

Awards

William Holden was nominated for three Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Awards and won one.

 

Aging is an inevitable process. I surely wouldn’t want to grow younger. The older you become, the more you know; your bank account of knowledge is much richer. ~William Holden

William Holden: Learn more about him, review his filmography and more

Actors, Biographies

William Holden was born William Franklin Beedle, Jr., (April 17, 1918 – November 12, 1981) in O’Fallon, Illinois, son of William Franklin Beedle, an industrial chemist, and his wife Mary Blanche Ball, a schoolteacher. He had two younger brothers, Robert Westfield Beedle and Richard P. Beedle.

His family moved to South Pasadena when he was three. After graduating from South Pasadena High School, Holden attended Pasadena Junior College, where he became involved in local radio plays.

Holden’s first starring role was in Golden Boy (1939), costarring Barbara Stanwyck, in which he played a violinist-turned-boxer. He was still an unknown actor at the time, while Stanwyck was already a film star. She liked Holden and went out of her way to help him succeed, devoting her personal time to coaching and encouraging him, which made them into lifelong friends.

Golden Boy

Next he starred with George Raft and Humphrey Bogart in the Warner Bros. gangster epic Invisible Stripes later the same year, followed by the role of George Gibbs in the film adaptation of Our Town.  After Columbia Pictures picked up half of his contract, he alternated between starring in several minor pictures for Paramount and Columbia before serving as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, where he acted in training films for the First Motion Picture Unit. His career took off in 1950 when Billy Wilder tapped him to star in Sunset Boulevard, in which he played a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who gets taken in by a faded silent-screen star, played by Gloria Swanson. Holden earned his first Best Actor Oscar nomination with the part.

Getting the part was a lucky break for Holden, as the role was initially cast with Montgomery Clift, who backed out of his contract. Following this breakthrough film, his career quickly grew as Holden played a series of roles that combined good looks with cynical detachment, including a prisoner-of-war entrepreneur in Stalag 17 (1953), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, a pressured young engineer/family man in Executive Suite (1954), an acerbic stage director in The Country Girl (1954) with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly, a conflicted jet pilot in the Korean War film The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), a wandering college football star in Picnic (1955), a dashing war correspondent in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), his most widely recognized role as an ill-fated prisoner in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) with Alec Guinness, a World War II tug boat captain in The Key (1958), and an American Civil War military surgeon in John Ford’s The Horse Soldiers (1959) opposite John Wayne. He played a number of sunnier roles in light comedy, such as the handsome architect pursuing virginal Maggie McNamara in the controversial Production Code-breaking The Moon Is Blue (1953), as Judy Holliday’s tutor in Born Yesterday (1950), and as a playwright captivated by Ginger Rogers‘ character in Forever Female (1953).

Sabrina

He co-starred as Humphrey Bogart‘s younger brother, a carefree playboy, in Sabrina (1954), played by Audrey Hepburn. It was Holden’s third film with director Billy Wilder. Holden and Hepburn became romantically involved during the filming, unbeknown to Wilder. The interactions between Bogart, Hepburn, and Holden made shooting less than pleasant, however, as Bogart originally had wanted his wife, Lauren Bacall, to play Sabrina.

In 1954, Holden was featured on the cover of Life. On February 7, 1955, Holden appeared as a guest star on I Love Lucy as himself. His career peaked in 1957 with the enormous success of The Bridge on the River Kwai, but Holden spent the next several years starring in a number of films that rarely succeeded commercially or critically. By the mid-1960s, the quality of his roles and films had noticeably diminished. A heavy drinker most of his life, Holden descended into alcoholism in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1969, Holden made a comeback when he starred in director Sam Peckinpah’s graphically violent Western The Wild Bunch, winning much acclaim. Also in 1969, Holden starred in director Terence Young’s family film L’Arbre de Noël, co-starring Italian actress Virna Lisi and French actor Bourvil, based on the novel of the same name by Michel Bataille. This film was originally released in the United States as The Christmas Tree and on home video as When Wolves Cry.

For television roles in 1974, Holden won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his portrayal of a cynical, tough veteran LAPD street cop in the television film The Blue Knight, based upon the best-selling Joseph Wambaugh novel of the same name.

In 1973, Holden starred with Kay Lenz in movie directed by Clint Eastwood called Breezy, which was considered a box-office flop. Also in 1974, Holden starred with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in the critically acclaimed disaster film The Towering Inferno, which became a box-office smash and one of the highest-grossing films of Holden’s career. Two years later, he was praised for his Oscar-nominated leading performance in Sidney Lumet’s classic Network (1976), an examination of the media written by Paddy Chayefsky, playing an older version of the character type for which he had become iconic in the 1950s, only now more jaded and aware of his own mortality. In 1980, Holden appeared in The Earthling with popular child actor Ricky Schroder, playing a loner dying of cancer who goes to the Australian outback to end his days, meets a young boy whose parents have been killed in an accident, and teaches him how to survive.

During his last years, he appeared in his second Irwin Allen film, When Time Ran Out, a critical and commercial failure and heavily disliked by Holden himself. Blake Edwards’ S.O.B., was more successful. In 1981, Holden was offered the role of Coach Daniel B. Delaney in That Championship Season. He became very depressed when filming was delayed, and drank even more heavily.

Holden was married to actress Ardis Ankerson (stage name Brenda Marshall) from 1941 until their divorce 30 years later, in 1971. They had two sons, Peter Westfield “West” Holden and Scott Porter Holden. He adopted his wife’s daughter, Virginia, from her first marriage with actor Richard Gaines. During the filming of the film Sabrina (1954), costar Audrey Hepburn and he had a brief but passionate affair. Holden met French actress Capucine in the early 1960s. The two starred in the films The Lion (1962) and The 7th Dawn (1964). They reportedly began a two-year affair, which is alleged to have ended due to Holden’s alcoholism. Capucine and Holden remained friends until his death in 1981.

In 1972, Holden began a nine-year relationship with actress Stefanie Powers, which sparked her interest in animal welfare. After his death, Powers set up the William Holden Wildlife Foundation at Holden’s Mount Kenya Game Ranch.

According to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s autopsy report, Holden was alone and intoxicated in his apartment in Santa Monica, California, on November 12, 1981, when he slipped on a rug, severely lacerating his forehead on a teak bedside table, and bled to death. Evidence suggests he was conscious for at least half an hour after the fall. He likely may not have realized the severity of the injury and did not summon aid, or was unable to call for help. His body was found four days later. The causes of death were given as “exsanguination” and “blunt laceration of scalp”. Rumors existed that he was suffering from lung cancer, which Holden himself had denied at a 1980 press conference. His death certificate made no mention of any cancer. He had dictated in his will that the Neptune Society cremate him and scatter his ashes in the Pacific Ocean. In accordance with his wishes, no funeral or memorial service was held.

In Our Bookstore

Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden