I discovered William Holden the day he died. I was in the 10th grade. Not a novice to gruesome celebrity deaths, at first I thought this one was just another crazy Hollywood dude gone wrong. I'd heard his name before but never took notice the way I already had with Grant, Cooper, Stewart, Cotten.
The first few movies of Holden's that I saw bored me a little, though it was easy to see that he had a handsome, affable charm. He just wasn't my type.
Born Yesterday changed my mind first. I didn't appreciate Judy Holliday then as I do now (and I do, a lot!) but Holden's ease and sharp charm grabbed hold of me.
And now that I'm so much older and see many movies differently than I once did, I love him in Executive Suite, Picnic, Sabrina (did you know Joseph Cotten played the older Linus role on Broadway? I wish he'd done so in the movie as well, instead of Humphrey Bogart,) even Paris When it Sizzles, though that movie is not nearly as good as it should be. I don't recommend it unless you're being completionist about Holden or about Audrey Hepburn. It is a very pretty movie, to be sure.
My favorite Holden films are from what I believe is a visually captivating era. This is a still taken for Sabrina.
That era is known for creating overwhelming sexual tension on film, as well, particularly in the blue collar setting found in Picnic.
I love him less in Stalag 17 and Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, but those are good movies I can recommend. When I saw The Moon Is Blue I was disappointed by it (kinda like they were in M*A*S*H,) but it's a piece of film history you may want to look into if you're a student of how the Code was applied in different eras.
And I still have mixed feelings about Sunset Boulevard. I get why it's so good. But I just don't really enjoy it. However, Holden is so handsome and pathetic in it, the sets are perfect, Gloria Swanson is fairly awesome in her role, and the whole thing builds in a sort of thick intensity. If you can watch biting dramas, you have to see it. It's another important piece of film history.
When you think about it, William Holden appeared in quite a few important films. I've actually seen only about half of his films so far; he made 70 or so. There are at least a dozen more I hope to view. Maybe I'll count them up sometime.
Watch this when you have a quiet moment in which to bite your lip:
Watch this, too, if you have time. It's actually the penultimate scene from Executive Suite, carefully worded to suit both your economic view and mine...and grippingly well-delivered.
My type hasn't changed much over the past 30-35 years, but I will say it's matured and better-developed. I don't miss being a youth who didn't understand how to appreciate this:
William Holden was a long-time alcoholic and it did him in at the end, but he has an amazing film legacy for us to appreciate. Check it out in an interesting blog post here.