William Holden

For the North Carolina Governor by this name, please see William Woods Holden. For the California Lieutenant Governor by this name, please see William Holden (politician).
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William Holden

William Holden (April 17, 1918November 12, 1981; body found November 16, 1981) was an American film actor.



Born William Franklin Beedle Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois, he moved with his wealthy family to Pasadena, California when he was three. His father was an industrial chemist and his mother a teacher. While attending Pasadena Junior College, he became involved in local radio plays and the Pasadena Playhouse, leading to his discovery by a talent scout from Paramount Pictures in 1937. His first role was in Prison Farm the following year.

His first starring role was in 1939's Golden Boy, in which he played a boxer who wants to be a violinist. After Columbia Pictures picked up half of his contract, he alternated between starring in several forgetable pictures for Paramount and Columbia before serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Upon returning from the war, his career entered a new and more satisfying phase when Billy Wilder tapped him to star as the down at the heels screenwriter in Sunset Boulevard. Following this breakthrough, he played a series of roles that mixed his good looks and cynical detachment: the prisoner of war entrepreneur in Stalag 17, the dangerous wanderer in Picnic and the ill-fated prisoner in The Bridge on the River Kwai. He also played a number of sunnier parts in light comedy with just as much success, such as the tutor in Born Yesterday and Humphrey Bogart's younger brother in Sabrina.

Holden also starred in more than his share of forgettable movies, forced by the studios that held his contract to keep him working. Holden had for many years suffered from alcoholism and severe depression. By the early 1960s he appeared to be sleepwalking through many of his roles. In 1966, Holden was involved in a serious car accident in Italy in which the other driver was killed. It was determined that Holden was driving under the influence of alcohol and he was charged with vehicular manslaughter. He was given an eight-month suspended prison sentence. Holden was overcome with guilt and friends said this led to even heavier drinking. Another reportedly secret aspect of the actor's life is that for many years he did undercover work for the CIA. Holden secretly delivered messages to many foreign leaders in his travels.

That led in turn to the last phase of his career, beginning with The Wild Bunch and ending with Network, in which Holden played the older version of the character he had perfected in the 1950s, now more jaded and aware of his own mortality. In 1980, Holden appeared in The Earthling with child actor Ricky Schroder. Holden played a jaded loner dying of cancer who goes to the Australian Outback to end his days. He meets a young boy whose parents have been killed in an accident and teaches him to survive. Schroder thought so highly of Holden that he named one of his sons after him.

Holden was married to the actress Brenda Marshall from 1941 to 1971, when they divorced. The couple had two sons, and he adopted the daughter of his wife's first marriage. Holden maintained a home in Switzerland and also spent much of his time working for wildlife conservation as a managing partner in an animal preserve in Africa. He began a relationship with actress Stefanie Powers who shared his interest in animal welfare. Following his death in 1981, Powers became President of the "William Holden Wildlife Foundation" and a director of their Mount Kenya Game Ranch.

William Holden died of a fall at his home in Santa Monica, California in 1981 (his body was found on 16 November, but forensic evidence suggested he had died on 12 November). Holden had been heavily intoxicated and slipped on a rug in his apartment gashing his head on a table. He bled to death from this injury. Evidence suggests that he was conscious for at least half an hour after the fall, but may not have realized the severity of the injury and failed to summon aid.

Holden was cremated; his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.


It is believed that Holden's death is mentioned in the song Tom's Diner by Suzanne Vega: "I open up the paper there's a story of an actor / Who had died While he was drinking it was no one I had heard of".

Academy Awards and Nominations

It is noted that William Holden kept a secret. He had an affair for seven years with Eva May Hoffman, married to composer Emil Newman, uncle of Randy Newman. They had two children together, Arlene Newman and William Robert Newman. Arlene was told by Irving Newman, Randy Newman's father that William Holden was her father, but William Robert Newman, who was named after William Holden, was not told. He has a resemblance to William Holden. Arlene Newman, (wife of Dennis Crosby, now deceased) refuses to take a DNA test to determine if he is also a second child. She also refuses all emails from Jill Newman (William Robert Newman's daughter, aka "Bill") and sometimes even her brother, Bill Newman. Her children are Erin Colleen Crosby, Katherine Denise Crosby and Kelly Lee Crosby.


External link

es:William Holden it:William Holden sv:William Holden


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