Peter Graves narrates this account of the life and career of William Franklin Beedle, Jr., from his 1918 birth, in O'Fallon, Illinois, to his formative years in Monrovia and South Pasadena, California, where William enters Pasadena Playhouse to begin his acting career, for which he would later become famous as screen star William Holden.
While assisting his father in the family's fertilization product business with his two younger brothers, Robert and Richard, William also continues at Pasadena Playhouse, where, in 1937, he is spotted by talent scouts from Paramount Pictures, which leads to his arrival at the studio, at which he is signed to a seven-year acting contract immediately.
When a Paramount executive discusses the new discovery with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, the executive remarks that the kid has talent but a very long name. The reporter asks, "Why not just give him my name: William Holden?"
From here, William gladly accepts whichever roles Paramount casts for him, as well as a loan-out to Columbia Pictures in 1939, to work on the film "Golden Boy."
But when Studio Chief Harry Cohn expresses dissatisfaction with William's early scenes and threatens to fire him from the film, it is leading lady Barbara Stanwyck, who does what very few others would dare, when she stands up to Cohn and says, "If you say 'good-bye' to William Holden, you say 'good-bye' to me."
William performs to audience and critical acclaim in this resulting film, which makes him an overnight success, leading to his dual contract with Paramount and Columbia.
William continues to receive rave reviews with his boyish innocence in his well-received "Our Town" (1940) performance, and soon afterward marries actress Brenda Marshall, adopting her daughter, and welcoming two sons during the 1940's. (Brenda is repeatedly referred to as Ardis, her birth name, during the remainder of this episode.)
But World War II interrupts William Holden's acting career, as he becomes the first married Hollywood star to enlist in the U.S. Service and is sent to serve upon a film crew in Texas, while his brother Robert is sent to war and never seen again, a fact which William regrets, saying that his life is spared because of his stardom, and actors deserve no special treatment nor recognition.
This episode continues to reveal events from his life which even William Holden's life-long, more than casual, fans may not have been aware, as he returns to post-War Hollywood to face many challenges for decades to follow, in his acting, business career, family life, and adventures around the world, which include his moving the family to Switzerland, and purchasing a 2000-acre wildlife reserve in Kenya, to found the Mount Kenya Game Ranch William Holden Wildlife Foundation.
Interview Guests for this episode consist of Scott Holden (Son), Actresses Patricia Morison, Nancy Olson-Livingston and Stefanie Powers, Actors Ernest Borgnine, Cliff Robertson and Rick Schroder, James Bacon (Journalist), and A.C. Lyles (Paramount Executive).
Archive footage includes William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Martha Scott, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jeanne Crain, Gloria Swanson, Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Grace Kelly, Brenda Marshall, Peter Westfield and Scott Porter Holden, Jennifer Jones, Cliff Robertson, Kim Novak, Capucine, Pamela Franklin, Trevor Howard, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Jonathan Scott-Taylor, and Lee Grant.
Film Clips include Newsreel footage of the Stockmarket Crash of 1929, plus a screen glimpse of William through the years, in scenes from "Golden Boy" (1939), "Our Town" (1940), "Apartment for Peggy" (1948), "Sunset Blvd." (1950), "Stalag 17" (1953), "Sabrina" (1954), "The Bridges at Toko-Ri" (1954), "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" (1955), "Picnic" (1955), "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957), "The Lion" (1962), "The Towering Inferno" (1974), and "Damien: Omen II" (1978), in addition to television coverage of "The 26th Annual Academy Awards (1954), a 1956 awards ceremony, and a report focusing upon the William Holden Wildlife Foundation at Mount Kenya Game Ranch.
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