Born William Franklin Beedle in O’Fallon, Illinois, he initially followed in his father’s footsteps by studying chemistry at Pasadena Junior College before he signed a contract with Paramount in 1937. His first role was an unaccredited appearance 1938’s “Prison Farm” but he became a star almost effortlessly by virtue of his starring role in 1939’s “Golden Boy”. During World War II he served in the United States Army Air Corps, where he acted in training films. After returning to Hollywood, he alternated between Paramount and Columbia studio projects before his career was reborn when he was cast in “Sunset Boulevard” for which he earned an Academy Award Best Actor nomination. He quickly followed that success with “Born Yesterday”. In 1953 he was cast in “Stalag 17” for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor. He released “Sabrina” and “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” in 1954, apparently basing his character in the latter upon his younger brother, Robert Beedle, a United States Navy fighter pilot who was killed in action in 1944. He gained another critical success with “Picnic: in 1955. William Holden also became a heavy drinker and womanizer, being linked with actresses Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Capucine, Shelley Winters, and Eva May Hoffman among others. The combination led to a decline in his interest in his work and the end of his thirty year marriage. Through out the 1960s he starred in a dozen films, including the notorious “The Wild Bunch” in 1969, but his productivity was on the decline as other interests became more important. An avid traveler, he became a managing partner in an animal preserve country club in Kenya where he began to spend much of his time. He had a hit with the made for television movie “The Blue Knight” in 1973 and earned an Emmy Award for his performance. He also appeared in the multi-star disaster film “The Towering Inferno” in 1974. His last critically acclaimed performance was 1976’s “Network”, for which he earned his third and final nomination for a Best Actor Academy Award. His last film appearance was in Blake Edward’s “S.O.B.” which was released in 1981. That November, his apartment manager noticed he had not seen Holden in several days. Concerned, he let himself into the actor’s apartment and discovered Holden’s body. The coroner’s report indicated that William Holden had died as a result of an accidental fall contributed to by a blood alcohol level of .22. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 1651 Vine Street.
- April, 17, 1918
- O'Fallon, Illinois
- November, 12, 1981
- Santa Monica, California
Cause of Death
- Blood loss due to injuries from a fall
- Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea