When I think about the fact that William Holden is now my second favourite actor (after James Stewart), it makes me realize how a person’s tastes can change. We’re celebrating today what would have been his 98th anniversary and, for the occasion, I’m hosting my first William Holden Blogathon, aka The Golden Boy Blogathon. For my contribution, I’m going to explain how he became a favourite of mine, and why.
First time I saw William Holden on screen, it was in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina released in 1954. That was a good thing to start with as Holden was a Billy Wilder’s favourite, having starred in four of his films (Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, Sabrina and Fedora). Only, I decided to watch this film for Audrey Hepburn. As I wasn’t looking for him, I didn’t really pay attention to his acting (not to admit that I didn’t really care for him at the time and not to mention that his role in this film is not my favourite). Anyway, I then saw some other films with him: The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957) and The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Mark Robson, 1954). But, once again, I was paying attention to some other actors and not to him. Poor Bill! How I was cruel to him!
Title: BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE ¥ Pers: HOLDEN, WILLIAM ¥ Year: 1957 ¥ Dir: LEAN, DAVID ¥ Ref: BRI016DR ¥ Credit: [ COLUMBIA / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]
But, one day, I borrowed Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950) at my school library. I can still see myself looking at the dvd cover to see the names of the actors who were starring in this film. When I saw Holden’s name, I said to myself “Him again! I think I should pay more attention to him this time.” Of course, I had too as he is the main actor in this film…
I didn’t regret because Sunset Boulevard is the film that made him a favourite of mine. Immediately after I saw this film, I put him on my favourite actor’s list. I still think his performance in this film is one of his best. It’s so… honest! He was nominated for an Oscar, but lost it to José Ferrer for his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac.
Of course, he wasn’t very high on my favourite actors’ list, but he was here, so that’s the most important. Anyway, as I enjoyed him in Sunset Boulevard it made me want to watch more of his films. If you remember, last year, I even did a William Holden’s marathon and watched 15 of his films, plus Sunset Boulevard again and that hilarious I Love Lucy’s episode! And I watched three more for the blogathon. So, with a total of 25 films viewed, he his the actor from whom I have seen the most films.
After I did my marathon, I put him on the 5th place in my favourite actor’s list. But the more I was thinking about him, the more I was fond of him and couldn’t resist putting him in the second position. Seriously, he is really fantastic (and quite handsome too, we have to admit it)!
So, when I think that, now, he is my second favourite actor of all times and I used to “not care” about him, I really laugh at myself.
Actually, there are several reasons why he is a favourite of mine. One of the first is his versatility as an actor. To me, he will always be one of the most verstatile actors to have ever grace the screen. Of course, it’s by seeing many of his films that I realized that. He could play a tough guy (The Wild Bunch), a sensible one (Our Town), both in the same film (Golden Boy). He could be romantic (Dear Ruth) or not really (Sabrina). He could be serious (The Devil’s Brigade, Sunset Boulevard) or funny (The Remarkable Andrew), and even more. And he excelled at transmitting to us all this myriade of emotions.
He was even good at playing himself! Look at him in this I Love Lucy‘s episode: William Holden playing William Holden in an humorous way is one of the best things that ever happened to classic television.
Of course, something about William Holden that makes me completely gaga is his irresistible smile. *Sight*… He’s such a cutie pie when he smiles. I wish he was my neighbour you know. And he had the perfect ability to not only smiles with his mouth, but also with his eyes. Those beautiful blue eyes. Of course, physical appearance is not the most important thing about an actor, talent is, but I HAVE to say it: I have a big crush on him!! I love men with dark hair and blue eyes (and an irresistible smile). So Holden is pretty much the perfect model.
Except his acting talent and his beauty, I have to say Bill began to have a very important place in my heart when I saw him in one of his very early films: Golden Boy. Thanks to his co-star Barbara Stanwyck, to whom William Holden will always be her “Golden Boy”, who recognize her talent, he was able to be accepted in the world of movie stars. We don’t remember him much for this film, but it played an important role in his career. Not to mention that it was his first credited film. As he is my age in this film (21), I can sort of identity to him (and also because he plays violin and I used to play the violin). Talking about violin, there this scene which is for me one of the most touching of Bill’s career. Bill as Joe Bonaparte is back home and discovers the violin his father (Lee J. Cobb) had bought to him for his birthday. He is marvelled by this musical treasure and can’t resist playing. When he plays, there’s so much softness, so much tenderness in him. Then his family and a neighbour come to listen to him. His father has tears in his eyes when he sees him doing what he loves. We wished this beautiful and emotional scene would last forever! With his Bambi eyes, all we want is to take care of this golden boy.
I read, in one of the articles for the blogathon, that William Holden often played very independent characters. I pretty much agree. We feel he knows what he wants and will find a way to do it. Yes, he can succumb to the temptation like in Sunset Boulevard or Golden Boy, but he knows how to say no, no matter what the consequences are. Our Golden Boy certainly knew how to transmit an unique and strong personality to each one of his characters.
He, of course, started his career very young (in his early 20s) and ended it in his early 60s when he passed away. If Barbara Stanwyck, THE Barbara Stanwyck, believed in him, it’s because he indeed had something to give to us. He grew up and the screen grew with him. He took an important and significant maturity, but that never shadowed his earlier performances that sculptured his talent. Holden was one of the actors who knew perfectly how to travel in time. When the cinema modernized itself, he modernized himself with him. He’s one of these timeless actors, you know.
I told you previously that I didn’t know that much about William Holden’s personal life. That’s true. I haven’t read a biography about him and concentrated more on his films. The stuff I know about his personal life mostly is what everybody already knows: his relations with Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, his wedding to Brenda Marshall and, unfortunately, his tragic death due to reasons that I don’t want to talk about today as I’m here to honour him. Because that’s the thing: I think today William Holden would have liked to be remembered for the good he gave to this world and the history of cinema. Oh, Golden Holden was so devoted to his profession! I read about it very recently in an article from April 1956’s Photoplay written by his personal secretary. She explains how much he did for his job, too much, and how stimulating it was to work for him. He was also very independent in real life and didn’t need a servant to bring him his coffee. He wasn’t lazy, that’s for sure!
William Holden’s talent was recognized by the Academy in 1954 when they gave him a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953). Being rushed for a time’s matter, his acceptance speech is known has one of the shortest of film history, being limited to “Thanks you! Thank you!” I honestly hate the Academy for having put such pressure on him. Maybe he had important things to say! We don’t win an Oscar every night. Poor Bill, he seemed so shy. Fortunately, he seemed to have a good sense of humour. The following year, when he was presenting the Best Actress Oscar, he made a joke by saying to the public “As I was going to say last year… [Bob Hope comes whispering in his hear. He looks at his watch]…Well, time is running short again” (!) This night, he gave the Oscar to Grace Kelly, who were her co-star in The Country Girl (George Seaton, 1954). Oh! His smile when he read her name! We know he was happy for her!
Stalag 17 was William Holden’s only Oscar. He also was nominated for his performances in Sunset Boulevard and Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976). This last one proving that, 25 years after his first nomination, he hadn’t lost is talent.
I don’t know where our Golden Boy is now, but he surely is in each heart of those who love and loved him: his family, his friends, his girlfriends and even his fans. He is not with us anymore, but he would probably have been thrilled to know that people still find a way to honour him. Giving him the right remembrance was very important to me, that’s why I created the Golden Boy Blogathon. I invite you to read all the marvellous entries by clicking on the following link: