I’m happy to tell you that I have now finished my long William Holden’s films marathon. From Golden Boy to Fedora, I saw a total of 16 of his films. The only one I had seen before was Sunset Boulevard. I try to see new movies in my marathons. My introduction to this marathon was an episode of I Love Lucy where William Holden, as a guest star, plays his own role. This is really one of the funniest I Love Lucy’s episodes I’ve seen so far. Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred are going to Hollywood. Lucy and Ethel can’t wait to see movie stars. In a restaurant, William Holden is sitting at the table next to them and Lucy can’t stop watching it. William Holden, who is tired of having no privacy, decided to teach a lesson to Lucy and does to her what she does to him: watching her without discretion. The result is very funny. But now let’s go into the movies, from 1939 to 1978, almost 40 years of Holden!
Film 1: Golden Boy (Rouben Mamoulian, 1939)
Role: Joe Bonaparte
It’s the famous Barbara Stanwyck who insisted for William Holden to be part of this film. She was right to give him this chance, because William Holden didn’t really have the chance to prove he could become a great star before this film. See, Golden Boy is William Holden’s third’s film and his first film as a leading actor. His two other first films are probably forgotten, but even if Golden Boy is not his most famous film like Sunset Boulevard or The Bridge on the River Kwai, it’s really this film that shows us, for the first time, a memorable William Holden. Also, William Holden was sometimes called Bill Holden, but another of his nicknames was “Golden Boy”. When she received her honorary Oscar, Barbara Stanwyck thanked her friend William Holden by calling him “his Golden Boy“. In this movie, William Holden gives us a performance full of sensibility. He plays the part of Joe Bonaparte, a violinist who wants to start boxing because it’s a better way to have a safe financial future. His father (brilliantly played by Lee J. Cobb) opposes to this decision, because he knows that his son is made for music and not for boxing. He knows that this will make him unhappy. Barbara Stanwyck is the William Holden’s boxing agent (Adolphe Menjou) who, at first, manipulates Joe so he won’t quit the boxing. But after a visit to Joe’s family house, she understands, like Joe’s father, that he is really made for the music. She also insists for him to continue what he really likes. Joe hates boxing, but in another way, it brings him money. So, in this movie full of hard decisions, William Holden plays his part with a lot of emotions and refinement. This scene where he plays violin while closing his eyes is very beautiful; ringingly and visually. It touches me because I used to play violin when I was younger.
Film 2: Our Town ( Sam Wood, 1940)
Role: George Gibbs
In this beautiful little film, William Holden plays, one more time, a very touching character. But this time, he seems more innocent than in Golden Boy, less “tough”. However, for his sensibility, this character played by William Holden can still make us think of his character in Golden Boy. In a sad scene where is father explains to him that his mother had to chop wood because he forget to, William Holden, remorseful, cries quietly. This is a sad, but kind of beautiful scene because it doesn’t consider this rule full of nonsense that a man can’t cry.
Film 3: The Remarkable Andrew (Stuart Heisler, 1942)
Role: Andrew Long
In this movie, I met a funny Bill Holden! Like Sabrina (that I have seen before), this is a comedy, but William Holden is even more funny here than he is in Sabrina. One more time, as he was very young, he plays a young man full of innocence and imagination. In The Remarkable Andrew, Holden plays the role of Andrew Long, a young accountant who finds a $1240 discrepancy in the city budget. His superior tries to explain this, but Andrew decides to pursue his little investigation and becomes in danger of being blame himself. Then, the spirit of Andrew Jackson, his idol, visits him and tries to help him with the spirit of some great men of American history. Of course, nobody except Andrew can see them, that’s where the power of imagination is brilliantly used. One of my favourite moments is when Jackson asks Andrew for a drink and her offers him some grape juice. That was so cute.
Film 4: Dear Ruth (William D. Russell, 1947)
Role: Lieutenant William Seacroft
This is another comedy with a really funny William Holden. The funniest I must say. Even more funny than his character in The Remarkable Andrew. What’s make Bill funny here, it’s his big passion for a girl he had never met before… Miriam Wilkins (Mona Freeman), a teenage girl who want to help the world and fight for causes has a soldier for a pen pal. However, she used her sister Ruth’s signature in those letters that becomes love letters. Everything will be out of control when this soldier, William Seacroft (William Holden) decides to show up to Ruth’s place during a two-day leave. Ruth (Joan Caulfield) has to pretend, but she will have to tell him the truth sooner or later. William is really in love with her and all he wants is to marry her and be alone with her. Ruth is also engaged to another man, Albert Kummer (Billy De Wolfe). Some of the very funny Bill Holden’s moments in this film is when he kisses his dear Ruth. That’s full of passion, but also full of indiscretion because he does it in front of everybody. Well, as we say, love is blind! This movie was a great surprise and a very nice one to watch.
Film 5: Apartment for Peggy ( George Seaton, 1948)
Role: Jason Taylor
This film was the first of four movie collaborations between Holden and Seaton. I must admit, as much as this was a beautiful film, I haven’t much to say about William Holden’s performance here. Not necessarily because he had a supporting role, but, even if his performance was right in this film, it wasn’t outstanding neither. Also, let’s admit that, in this film, Edmund Gwen, who plays the main character, steals the show.
Film 6: Miss Grant Takes Richmond (Lloyd Bacon, 1949)
Role: Dick Richmond
One more time, in this nice and easy comedy, William Holden gives us a good performance, but nothing extraordinary neither. William Holden is an excellent actor, but here, he seems to respect what we told him to do without going out of his limits. Lucille Ball, who plays Dick’s secretary, steals the show here, really. However, I must say that his team work with Mrs Ball seems to have worked pretty well. They were great together and it was nice to see them together in a movie after having watched this delightful I Love Lucy‘s episode.
Film 7: Father Is a Bachelor ( Aby Berlin and Norman Foster, 1950)
Role: Johnny Rutledge
This is really not William Holden’s most famous film, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Well, let me tell you that I adored it! It’s now my second favourite Holden’s film after Sunset Boulevard. I wish more people will see it because it is a very nice and touching movie. It’s what we call a beautiful family movie also. In this film, you will see William Holden singing! Unfortunately, it is not his real singing voice, but it remains fun to watch and listen. Johnny Rutledge (William Holden) is a carefree vagabond. One day, his employer Professor Mordecai Ford is put in jail so Johnny has to continue his road alone. In a small town in the country, he meets a young girl named May. She lives alone with her four brothers: January, February, March and April. They are orphans. Quickly, the kids, especially May, will find a friend in Johnny, but also a father. Johnny who is, at first, not sure this is a good idea, will see himself taking care of them just like they were his real children. This movie was just so heartwarming. William Holden plays someone with a great heart who will do everything, even steal, for these children. He is very tender behind his tough attitude and it’s fantastic to see him a very kind person who take care of those poor children. He really is a hero in this film.
Film 8 : Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
Role: Joe Gillis
As I just said, Sunset Boulevard is my favourite William Holden’s film. In this film, he gives us another memorable performance for which he received a Best Actor Oscar’s nomination. I think this movie is just fascinating. I mean, everything is perfectly set. I love the narration in it and I think Holden did it brilliantly. He talks with a good fluidity and express himself very clearly. What I like about his acting in this film is to see how his behaviour is different depending of who he is talking to. With Betty, Joe is not the same person as he is with Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), the fallen actress. His acting in this film is just fine because it is very thoughtful, nothing is exaggerated. We can feel he knew what he was doing. What is also fantastic about this film is the complicity between Holden and Nancy Olson. In the movie, Holden’s character, Joe Gillis, and Olson character, Betty Schafer begin to write a screenplay together and they just make a great team. Unfortunately, because of Norma’s jealousy, the project doesn’t go very far, well, not for Joe. Believe it or not, this movie is one of the reasons that made me want to study screen writing. It’s a movie about screenwriters, but also a brilliant screenplay, my favourite one I must say. It won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Film 9 : Born Yesterday (George Cukor, 1950)
Role: Paul Verrall
This was a very interesting movie and, one more time, William Holden plays the role of someone who care about other people. Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday) is engaged to Harry Brock, a rich man with strange money business. Billie is not very intelligent and Harry takes the occasion and makes her responsible of his maneuvering. Unfortunately for him, Billie’s stupidity becomes very embarrassing for him and his business. So, he decides to ask Paul Verrall (William Holden), a brilliant journalism, to help Billie to be more cultivated. Unfortunately, this will go too far for Harry because Billie will become more intelligent than he would have wished and less docile too. Judy Holliday won the Best Actress Oscar for this role. William Holden was great too and he had a good chemistry with the actress. He plays someone very nice, actually the nicest man in this story.
Film 10: Boots Malone (William Dietrele, 1952)
Role : Boots Malone
The movie by itself was ok, but not my favourite one. However, I liked William Holden’s performance in it. He plays the tough guy who also has a great heart. So, because of that, it was a touching movie. Some parts were a little long or repetitive, that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy the movie too much. I loved the ending tho.
Film 11: The Turning Point (William Dietrele, 1952)
Role: Jerry McKibbon
Really, I don’t have much to say about this film either. When I watched it, it didn’t really captivate me. Not that it was not a good movie, but it was not the best noir I ever saw either. Holden was good, played his role rightly, but honestly, I remember more Edmond O’Brien in this film. I have seen it since a less long time that Golden Boy, but I remember Golden Boy best as it was a movie that captivated me much more. Sometimes my parents don’t remember a movie just after a week, well, for me it’s rare, but it is the case for this one.
Film 12: Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953)
Role: Sgt. J.J. Sefton
What a great performance we have here! Well, so great that William won the Best Actor Oscar for it! This comedy tells the story of a group of American soldiers who are made prisoners in a German World War II prisoner of war camp. Their objective is to escape by many strategies, but they become suspect that one of them is an informant and Sergeant J.J Sefton (William Holden) is the first one to receive the accusations. Of course, as we love Holden, we don’t want him to be guilty! This was a fantastic performance by him because he expresses his character’s emotions rightly, without exaggerate anything. This was really a TRUE performance, I believed in it. One more time, Billy Wilder directed him perfectly. What I also love about this performance, it’s that it’s a good one to see Holden’s versatility. Sometime Sefton is serious, sometime he has a good sense of humour or is deliciously mocker. An interesting fact about this film is that, when Holden received his Oscar, his speech was the shortest speech in Academy Awards history. He simply said “Thank you.” He hurried to much because TV broadcast had a strict cutoff time, but he explained after that he really wanted to thank the people he worked with, especially Billy Wilder.
Film 13: The Proud and Profane (George Seaton, 1956)
Role: Lt. Col. Colin Black
Honestly, it was strange to see William Holden with a moustache! Well, that doesn’t make him a bad actor of course. In this film, William Holden was very different than in the other movies of him I had seen before. He plays someone that we will not really like at first. However, his character has a good evolution through the event of the film. Here, the public will probably share Deborah Kerr’s emotion depending of Holden’s actions. He is hard to follow, because sometimes he’s a real bastard, but sometimes he is quite lovable. It’s interesting to see that, in the 50’s, Holden really started to play in war movies like this one or Stalag 17 or The Bridge on the River Kwai. The funniest Holden was the Holden of the 40’s. I was also happy to see this film because of Deborah Kerr gives us a brilliant performance. Her team work with Holden was also very interesting.
Film 14: The Devil’s Brigade (Andrew V. McLaglen, 1968)
Role: Lt. Col. Robert T. Frederick
As you can see, here I skipped 12 years of William Holden’s films. However, like in The Proud and Profane, this is also a war movie. This film tells the true story of The Devil’s Brigade during the World War II. The American Lieutenant Colonel Robert T. Frederick (Holden) has the mission to form a commando force with both American and Canadian soldiers specialized in mountain combat. The first part of the film is the training and the second part is the combat between the Americans and the Germans in Italy. Really, I didn’t know what to expect from this film because I had never really heard of before. Honestly, I enjoy it. It was interesting to see the difference between the American soldiers and the Canadian soldiers. At the beginning, they don’t really like each other, but they will learn to appreciate each other and be a real team. The music in this film was very good also. About Holden, I liked his performance, because he plays someone very wise. Someone who thinks before doing anything, he is the real war hero of this picture. This is an older Holden, but this performance just makes me realized that this actor was talented at all ages.
Film 15: Breezy (Clint Eastwood, 1973)
Role: Frank Harmon
Breezy is a beautiful and very simple film directed by the one and only Clint Eastwood. I had only seen three of the movies he directed (Breezy, The Bridge of Madison County and Mystic River) and really, I can say, without hesitation, that Breezy is my favourite one. Breezy ( Kay Lenz) is a young hippie who fells in love with a forties man played by our William Holden. Her love for him is so true that it makes you forget their age difference. Both actors give us a beautiful performance in this film and they make a beautiful couple together. One of my favourite moments of this film is when they go to the beach together, I also love those lines:
Frank: “Hello my love.”
Breezy: “Hello my life.”
I mean, who would like Holden to tell us “Hello my love” whatever his age?! After seeing three war films with Holden, it was nice to see something different, it was nice to see him as someone more “ordinary”, closer to us. In this film, his relation with a young girl can make us think a little about his relation with Faye Dunaway character in Network.
Film 16: Fedora (Billy Wilder, 1978)
Role: Barry “Dutch” Detweiler
Wow! What a fantastic way to finish my marathon! One more time, this was another brilliant film directed by my second favourite movie director, the incredible Billy Wilder. This was also Holden’s last film under the direction of this movie director. In Fedora, Holden stars as Barry “Dutch” Detweiler, an independent producer and movie writer who learn the death of the famous actress Fedora. Then, he remembers his unsuccessful tentative to bring her back to screen two weeks ago. Meeting Fedora was difficult because she seemed to be trapped by the occupants of the isolated villa on a Greek island where she lives. But soon, Barry will learn the truth about Fedora. Really, what I like about this film is the fact that it’s a movie full of surprises. I expected nothing about what happen. It’s captivating and you really want to know what will happen, what Barry will discover about Fedora. This movie makes me think a little of Sunset Boulevard as it is about a fallen actress. Holden was brilliant in this film. His performance is strong and it’s interesting to see how he makes his character reacts to the things he learns about Fedora. It was nice to compare my reactions to his reactions.
So, that was it for this famous William Holden’s films marathon. As you can see, I eliminated some films ( The Lion, The Revengers, The Earthling and The Bridges at Toko-Ri), but don’t worry, I had seen The Bridges at Toko-Ri before and I will see the other ones another time. This is really just a question of time because I really have to start another marathon. As you can see, Network, Sabrina, Paris When it Sizzles, The Country Girl and The Bridge on the River Kwai were not on my list. The reason is just that I had seen these films before and I try to see new movies in my marathons. I would have liked to see Picnic and The Wild Bunch, but I didn’t find them, so it will be for another time. Seeing William Holden’s on FIVE decades was very interesting. I realized he was a very versatile actor. Thanks to this marathon, I have now seen a total of 22 William Holden’s films! Really, he was a fantastic actor. To finish this text, I would like to do a top 10 of all the movies I have seen during this marathon. So there it goes:
Next week, the Dolores Hart’s films marathon will REALLY start. I promise!