William Holden came from a wealthy family (the Beedles) that moved to Pasadena, California, when he was three. His father William Franklin Beedle was an industrial chemist and his mother Mary Blanche Ball a teacher. In 1937, while studying chemistry at Pasadena Junior College, he was signed to a film contract by Paramount. His first starring role was as a young man torn between the violin and boxing in Golden Boy (1939). From then on he was typecast as the boy-next-door.
After returning from World War II military service, he got two very important roles: Joe Gillis, the gigolo, in Sunset Blvd. (1950), and the tutor in Born Yesterday (1950). These were followed by his Oscar-winning role as the cynical sergeant in Stalag 17 (1953). He stayed popular through the 1950s, appearing in such films as Picnic (1955). He spent much of his later time as co-owner of the Mount Kenya Safari Club, dividing his time between Africa and Switzerland.
|Brenda Marshall||(12 July 1941 - 1971) (divorced) 2 children|
Gravelly, smoke-burnished voice
Often infused his parts, even the more serious ones, with sardonic humor
Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#57). 
He suffered a laceration to his forehead and bled to death, after he slipped on a throw rug and hit his head on a table. Claims that he was intoxicated at the time are disputed.
Adopted his stepdaughter, Virginia Holden (Virginia Gaines), from Ardis Ankerson's (Brenda Marshall's) first marriage. He and Marshall had two sons together, Peter Westfield "West" Holden, born November 17, 1943, and Scott Holden (Scott Porter Holden, born May 2, 1946.
Not to be confused with the character actor William Holden.
Brian Donlevy was his best man when Holden married Brenda Marshall in 1941. A Congregationalist Church service was planned in Las Vegas. Since William and Brian were still filming The Remarkable Andrew (1942), there were delays and it was 3am before they arrived for the ceremony. By that time the minister had long gone to bed. It was 4pm Sunday before another preacher could be found to perform the wedding. After they were married, they had a champagne breakfast and hopped a plane back to Los Angeles so he and Brian could wrap up shooting, and Brenda was off to Canada to film some location footage that she was still working on. It would be three more months before they would have a real honeymoon (one mishap after another postponed it ... including the TWO of them having to undergo emergency appendectomies)!
He was very instrumental in animal preservation in Africa. In the 1970s he purchased a large acreage of land with his own money and began an animal sanctuary. His love of the wild animal was shared with his then companion Stefanie Powers (from "Hart to Hart" (1979)). He would appear on talk shows to promote the saving of animals and to spread the word of anti-poaching and illegal animal trade.
A hygiene fanatic, he reportedly showered up to four times daily.
Ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Family: Mother: Mary Beedle (nee Ball). Father: William Franklin Beedle, born 1892. Brother: Robert Westfield Beedle, born 1921; died January 1, 1944. Brother: Richard P. Beedle, born 1925.
Immortalized in [Canadian band], Blue Rodeo's song "Floating" with the lyric: "I need love and it's you, And I feel like William Holden floating in a pool" - Greg Keelor, the writer of the song, said this: "That sort of quiet desperation at the end of a relationship when nothing's really making sense and I sort of had the image of William Holden at the beginning of Sunset Blvd. (1950) in my head, and I'd always sort of related to that character floating in that pool. I was always hoping for the opportunity to play the gigolo for some wealthy woman. This is a song about identifying with that sort of compromised existence."
Although it is thought by some that J.D. Salinger got the name for his hero Holden Caulfield in "The Catcher in the Rye" when he saw a marquee for Dear Ruth (1947), starring William Holden and Joan Caulfield, Salinger's first Holden Caulfield story, "I'm Crazy," appeared in Collier's on December 22, 1945, a year and a half before this movie came out.
Won Best Actor for his role in Stalag 17 (1953). When accepting his statue at the Acadamy Awards, simply stated, "Thank you" and walked off.
Holden said that, at some point, he lost his passion for acting and that it eventually just became a job so that he could support himself.
He was voted the 63rd Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Considered himself to be a moderate Republican, although he was never involved in any political campaigns and never endorsed a candidate. In 1947 he joined the Committee for the First Amendment to oppose blacklisting in Hollywood, and was later very upset by the blacklisting of his close friends Dalton Trumbo and Larry Parks.
Was named #25 Actor on the 50 Greatest Screen Legends by the AFI
Was friends with photographer Peter Beard.
In the song "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega, the lyrics "I open up the paper / there's a story of an actor / who died while he was drinking / he was no one I had heard of" refer to Holden, whose death was indeed reported in the New York Post on November 18, 1981, when the song was written.
His younger brother, Robert Beedle, was actually a Navy fighter pilot who was killed in action in World War II, and after The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) was released, he was remembered by his squadron-mates as having been very much like Holden's character of Lt. Harry Brubaker in that movie.
Was an avid art collector. His private collection at his exclusive hilltop home in Palm Springs featured antique Asian art. Upon his death, the priceless collection was donated to the Palm Springs Museum of Art, where it is proudly displayed today.
He was of entirely English heritage.
Was involved in a serious road accident in Italy in July 1966.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 391-397. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
He enjoyed firework displays.
Holden was cast as Pike Bishop in The Wild Bunch (1969) after the role had been turned down by Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, James Stewart, Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Sterling Hayden, Richard Boone and Robert Mitchum. Marvin actually accepted the role but pulled out after he was offered a larger pay deal to star in Paint Your Wagon (1969).
He was so grateful to Barbara Stanwyck for her insistence on casting him in Golden Boy (1939), his first big role, that he reportedly sent her flowers every year on the anniversary of the first day of the filming.
Starred alongside Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. (1950) and Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday (1950). Both actresses were nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for their performances in these films. Holliday won.
Starred alongside Grace Kelly in The Country Girl (1954) and Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina (1954). Both actresses were nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for their performances in these films. Kelly won.
He had a daughter, Arlene, in 1937 with actress Eva May Hoffman. Arlene was raised by her mother and her stepfather, composer Emil Newman.
Moved to Switzerland for tax reasons in 1959, and did not return to live in Hollywood until 1967.
He appeared among the top ten box office stars six times, as ranked by Quigley Publications' annual poll of movie exhibitors, The Top Ten Money-Making Stars, the definitive list of movie stars' pull at the box office. He actually topped the list in 1956, two years after entering it at #7 in 1954, the year he won the Best Actor Oscar with his performance in Stalag 17 (1953). In 1955, he was ranked #4, then hit #1 for the first and only time in 1956, and then dropped to #7 in 1957 before rebounding slightly to #6 in 1958. After five straight years in the Top 10, he dropped off the list in 1959 and 1960, but reappeared in the Top Ten in 1961, ranked in eighth place. His 1961 appearance among the Top Ten Box Office stars was his last.
Was the Top Box Office Star of 1956, as ranked by Quigley Publications' annual poll of movie exhibitors, The Top Ten Money-Making Stars, the definitive list of movie stars' pull at the box office.
Father of Scott Holden, Arlene Holden and Peter Holden.
For The Horse Soldiers (1959) both Holden and John Wayne received $775,000, plus twenty per cent of the overall profits, an unheard-of sum for that time. The final contract, heralded as marking the beginning of mega-deals for Hollywood stars, involved six companies and numbered twice the pages of the movie's script. The film, however, was a critical and commercial failure, with no profits to be shared in the end.
Died one day before his eldest son Peter's 38th birthday.
A Japanophile, someone preoccupied with Japanese culture, he befriended actor Toshirô Mifune on a visit to Japan in 1954. After seeing the film Mifune was working on at that time, Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954/I), Holden offered to distribute the film in America. The producers agreed to let Holden record a narration to explain the film when it was released in America. This addition led American critics to wrongly think that Holden had recut the film for American distribution.
Held a press conference in late 1980 to deny newspaper reports that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
In the last years of his life he increasingly suffered from emphysema.
Was considered for the role of "Maurice Novak" in Career (1959).
Felt he didn't deserve the Academy Award for Best Actor for Stalag 17 (1953), and that the award should have gone to Burt Lancaster for From Here to Eternity (1953). His wife also felt that the honor was just a belated apology for snubbing his nomination for Sunset Blvd. (1950).
Toward the Unknown (1956) was the only movie made by his production company, "Toluca Productions".
Holden acted with wife Brenda Marshall professionally for the only time in a "Theater Guild on the Air" production of "The Lost Weekend.".
Holden was vice-president of the Screen Actors Guild and Parks Commissioner for Los Angeles.
Holden did not legally change his name from Beedle until he joined the USAF in 1942.
He was a favorite actor of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy but disappointed her immensely when she discovered he was a Republican.
For me, acting is not an all-consuming thing, except for the moment when I am actually doing it.
Take any picture you can. One out of four will be good, one out of ten will be very good, and one out of 15 will get you an Academy Award.
Movie acting may not have a certain kind of glory as true art, but it is damn hard work.
I don't really know why, but danger has always been an important thing in my life - to see how far I could lean without falling, how fast I could go without cracking up.
I'm a whore, all actors are whores. We sell our bodies to the highest bidder.
[on Barbara Stanwyck] Thirty-nine years ago this month, we were working in a film together called Golden Boy (1939). It wasn't going so well and I was going to be replaced. But due to this lovely human being and her encouragement and above all her generosity, I'm here tonight.
[on working with Clint Eastwood on Breezy (1973)] He's even-tempered -- a personality trait not much in evidence among directors. The crew is totally behind him and that really helps things go smoothly.
[on Humphrey Bogart] I hated that bastard.
I found the jungle a beautiful and fascinating place to be, I like to come here because I want to stay away from the jungle as much as I can.
I made "Toward the Unknown" as an actor by day and, by night, a caster, a cuter, and a producer. I'll never do anything like that again.
|Sunset Blvd. (1950)||$30,000|
|The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)||$250,000 + 10% of the gross (World-wide)|
|The Horse Soldiers (1959)||$750,000 + 20% of profits|
|The Counterfeit Traitor (1962)||$750,000|
|The Wild Bunch (1969)||$250,000|
|The Towering Inferno (1974)||$750,000|
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