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William Holden was born William Franklin Beedle Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois in 1918, but his family moved to Pasadena, California, when he was three. After high school, he went to Pasadena Junior College and started acting. He was in a play where he was seen by a talent scout from Paramount Pictures in 1937, who signed him to a contract.

After two uncredited parts, he had his first giant break when he was given the lead in Columbia's Golden Boy, about a young man who is torn between being a violinist or a boxer (it had been written by Clifford Odets for John Garfield).

The star of the movie was Barbara Stanwyck, and she insisted on casting Holden, and after filming began the studio didn't like him, but Stanwyck insisted he be kept, and he was!

Holden made 9 not very memorable film appearances over the next 4 years, and then joined the Army Air Force in 1943. After the war, he picked up where he had left off, making another 10 not so great movies, but then in 1950, he got his second big break when he was given the part of Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd. (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film)

Holden was wonderful, as was the movie, which is surely one of the handful of finest movies ever made, That same year he played the lead in Born Yesterday, opposite Judy Holliday, and he was a major star. While he still made a few "lesser" movies, he had a remarkable run of great ones in a short period, including Stalag 17 (for which he won the Best Actor Oscar), Executive Suite, Sabrina, The Country Girl, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, and Picnic, all of which were made in a three year period!

In 1957, Columbia was about to make The Bridge on the River Kwai, and they felt they badly needed a major American star to increase the box office of this story of English prisoners of war in a Japanese prison camp. They turned to Holden, who was able to negotiate a salary of $300,000, plus 10% of the gross, especially remarkable because the entire budget for the movie was three million dollars, and the bridge itself cost $250,000 to build. Of course the movie was a huge success, and Holden made a fortune from his deal.

In 1959, Holden and co-star John Wayne used their considerable box office clout to negotiate a $775,000 contract, plus 20% of the profits for each of them for making The Horse Soldiers, and that deal marked the beginning of major stars getting out of this world deals. Ironically, the movie was a real dud!

In the late 1960s, Holden's career appeared to be waning, but he made the great move of taking the lead in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, and Holden and the movie were wonderful. He was a great aging street cop Bumper Morgan in TV's The Blue Knight, and he took a supporting role in The Towering Inferno.

He had one more great role in him, as Max Schumacher in Network (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film) in 1976. He starred with Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway (and an incredible supporting cast), and the movie was wonderful on all levels!

William Holden passed away in 1981 at the age of 63. He is not considered one of the all-time greatest actors by many, and his name does not come to mind when you think of the most charismatic actors ever, and yet he was in more truly great movies playing very different roles than almost any other actor (perhaps second only to Humphrey Bogart). He left behind a remarkable body of work, and I highly recommend all the movies named above!
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