Saturday, April 17, 2010

Golden Boy

He could play daring (Stalag 17, 1953), dashing (Sabrina, 1954), dangerous (Picnic, 1955), dissipated (Network, 1976), or all of the above (Sunset Blvd., 1950), and all with professional panache, everyman charm and comfortable sexiness. He was William Holden, often overlooked as one of the great movie stars from the last gasp of the studio system. If his splashy debut in 1939's Golden Boy led to a disappointing string of mediocre films in the 1940's, then the back to back success of the brilliant Sunset and the hysterical Born Yesterday not only marked a glorious comeback for Gloria Swanson and the launch of Judy Holliday's stardom, but also a major career rejuvenation for Holden. From there, he went on to win an Oscar for Stalag 17, and aside from the films referenced above, also starred in such critical and commercial successes as The Country Girl (1954), Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955), and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).

By the early 1960's, however, it was all over. Despite only being in his mid-40's, Holden suddenly appeared too aged and tired to play the romantic lead; his two attempts with younger co-stars, The World of Suzie Wong (1960) with Nancy Kwan and Paris When it Sizzles (1962, released 1964) with Audrey Hepburn, merely served to drive the point embarassingly home. Unlike Gregory Peck or Cary Grant, who could convincingly woo pretty young things on film well into their fifties and sixties, Holden was an alcoholic, and the physical ravages of his disease were all too apparent on the screen.

Well-liked in the industry, Holden continued to work fairly consistently through the 1960's and 1970's, even though his leading man days were over. His startling turn in Network earned him another Oscar nod, and the kind of critical kudos he had not received in decades. He died, five years later, after suffering a fall while alone and drunk in his apartment. Hitting his head on the edge of a table, he was either unaware of how severe the injury was, or unable to call for help, and died from the loss of blood. William Holden was 63 years old.

April 17, 1918 - November 12, 1981


  1. What a man - and what great teeth!

    The car is a 1952(53 or 54) Nash-Healy, a joint venture between Nash and Healy in Great Britain. A piece of automobile history and one of the the most significant auto designs to be built in the 1950s.

    Poor Bill's face though was the by-product of years of hard living and hhard drinking. He and Glenn Ford also did whatever they could to get out of wearing make up when filming. They thought it "girly".

  2. And let's not forget he was banging wonderful Stefanie Powers!

  3. he was quite ravishing on this last picture :)

  4. This man's body in "Bridge" or "Picnic"....

    FLAMES on the side of my face

  5. Yay Stefanie Powers! Also, let's not forget about the Bill Holden Wildlife Refuge in Kenya.

  6. Of course, he will always be James Duncan to me!

    I saw Bridge on DVD for the first time about 5 years ago and was stunned by how beautiful it was and how good, even now. He had a lot of charisma in his films.

    Did we ever find out what his PROBLEM was that led to such heavy drinking??

  7. Some people don't need to have a problem to drink, they are born with an addictive personality. But boy, did he die young.

  8. In fact him and Stefanie were lovers and he left his entire estate to her.


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