Day 345 of Colourisation Project – April 17
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
Nicknamed the ‘Golden Boy’ and ‘Golden Holden’, he was chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history and named in the “Top 10 Stars of the Year” six times (1954–1958, 1961).
Born this day, April 17, 1918, William Holden was one of Hollywood’s biggest box office draw cards of the 1950s. Three times nominated for the Best Actor Award, he won his only Oscar in 1953 for his role in Stalag 17.
Holden starred in some of Hollywood’s most popular and critically acclaimed films, including the blockbusters, Sunset Boulevard (1950) which earned him a Best Actor nomination, Picnic (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Wild Bunch (1969), The Towering Inferno (1974), and Network (1976), for which he received his third Best Actor nomination
Other notable films during his peak in the 1950s, included Born Yesterday (1950) with Judy Holliday; Sabrina (1954) with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart; The Country Girl (1954), with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly; and Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) with Jennifer Jones. Holden made over 70 films in a career that spanned over four decades.
It seems that he was able to bring out the best performances from many of his leading ladies: Martha Scott (Our Town), Gloria Swanson (Sunset Blvd), Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday), Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina), Grace Kelly (The Country Girl), Jennifer Jones (Love is a Many-Splendored Thing), and Faye Dunaway (Network), all of whom were nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. Kelly, Holliday and Dunaway went on to win the Best Actress awards.
Holden said that, at some point, he lost his passion for acting and that eventually it was just a means to an end–a job with which he could support himself. When accepting his statue at the Academy Awards for Stalag 17, all he could muster was a “Thank you” before walking off.
Although married, he became romantically involved during the filming of Sabrina with his co-star, Audrey Hepburn who wanted to marry and have children with him. However the relationship ended when Holden revealed he had undergone a vasectomy. Hepburn allegedly claimed that Holden was the love of her life. Holden was devastated that he could not have Hepburn.
Like so many Hollywood stars, Holden faced a lifelong battle with alcohol and was driven to alcoholic binges which in the end contributed to his early demise.
William Holden died in the most unfortunate circumstances in his Santa Monica home on November 12, 1981. The Coroner’s report concluded that he may have slipped on a throw rug and hit his head on a side table, causing him to bleed to death from a 2 inch laceration to his forehead. He had been dead for possibly three or four days before being found; his body in a pool of blood on the floor beside his bed. His blood alcohol level registered .22.
Holden was only 63. Speculation at the time was rife and still persists today about the cause of death and whether or not foul play may have been involved.
Commenting on Holden’s death, Billy Wilder his director in Stalag 17, said: “If someone had said to me, ‘Holden’s dead,’ I would have assumed that he had been gored by a water buffalo in Kenya, that he had died in a plane crash approaching Hong Kong, that a crazed, jealous woman had shot him, and he drowned in a swimming pool. But to be killed by a bottle of vodka and a night table – what a lousy fade-out of a great guy!”
In accordance with Holden’s wishes, no funeral or memorial service was held and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Holden has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1651 Vine Street.