Friday, November 4, 2011

THE LAST DAYS OF WILLIAM HOLDEN

It is hard to believe that William Holden has been dead now for 30 years. Holden was one of the greatest actors of our times. He burst onto the scene with his role in Golden Boy in 1939. He followed that film up with a screen version of the movie of Our Town. By the 1950s, he was starring in hit after hit like: Sunset Boulevard (1950), The Country Girl (1954), Picnic (1955), and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) to name a few. Despite the fame and winning an Academy Award in 1954, William Holden faced a lifelong battle with drinking and alcoholism.

The years of his drinking started taking its toll on Holden's chiseled looks by the 1960s. Despite being relatively young still, he was considered Hollywood old school and began losing roles to younger stars like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. This in turn caused Holden to drink more. He did continue to make some good movies like: The Wild Bunch (1969), The Towering Inferno (1974), and his last movie S.O.B. (1981). However, by that time he was no longer the handsome leading man of movies.

In 1981, Holden was living in Santa Monica, California, on Ocean Avenue. He was partial owner of the building at #535. The Shorecliff Towers. Holden's apartment was on the fourth floor, number 43. He was notoriously private. Even neighbors of many years only received a quick nod from the elusive actor. He also had the habit of disappearing for many days, without notice. That's why it took so long for someone to find him.

According to the autopsy report, Holden was last known to be alive about one week beforehand, when he spoke to his girlfriend Stephanie Powers on the telephone. She indicated that he was drinking, but seemed his normal self and was without complaints.


On Monday November 16, 1981, the building manager, Bill Martin, let curiosity get the best of him. He hadn't seen Holden in many days, and became very concerned, so he let himself in, via the passkey. As we all know, curiosity killed the cat, and Mr. Martin was sure taught a lesson that day.

From the report: "All the lights were off, except for the television, so they used flashlights to get around. Holden was found in a robe and shirt, on the floor. The robe was folded back and beneath the body, with the right arm placed through the sleeve, and the left arm "wadded up" and beneath the body, suggesting that he may have been attempting to dress himself. Examination revealed an apparent laceration on his forehead approximately 3 inches in length. Holden’s doctor showed up and theorized that he provably started vomiting blood, and possibly lacerated the lower portion of his esophagus.


On the scene they found an empty vodka bottle in the trash can, along with 4 beer bottles and a partially full bottle of vodka on the kitchen sink. There was a large quantity of blood surrounding the body as well as all over the bedding and blankets." From the condition of his body, it was decided that he had been dead for at least 4 days.

According to the medical examiner, Holden had tripped on a throw rug and hit his head on the nightstand. The scary part is that he hit it so hard, that it jammed into the wall, and left an indentation of two or three inches into the plaster. There were 8 bloody Kleenex's found next to his body, and a working telephone just inches away from him. The examiner reckoned that Holden didn't comprehend the seriousness of his injury, tried to stop the bleeding himself, and passed out from blood loss. He was probably dead within 15 minutes.

William Holden was only 63...

43 comments:

  1. I totally adore William Holden and have always thought the circumstances of his death were so very sad.

    And, yes, his drinking definitely altered his looks. Perhaps that's why I generally stay away from his 70's films. It pains me to see how poorly he aged.

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    1. I just discovered Bill H. a couple months ago and watched as he aged from Golden Boy, through the 1950's, 60's and 70's and am not so sure drinking aged him. He always looked about 10 years older than he was, even in the late 1940's/early 50's. If you look close esp. in Sizzles in Paris, you can see that he had a lot of sun damage to his skin. I think his aging is more from the sun damage than anything else. He was out doors a lot and no one used sun screen then. Also, I am sure he did drink a lot, which was common back then, but he also performed at a high level. As his character said to Bing's character in Country Girl, "I need an actor who can remember his lines and show up for work", Holden obviously remembered his lines and showed for work. A true alcoholic ( my brother) could not hold a job at a fast food restaraunt. Plus he continued to be hired his whole career, even at 60 years old, to make movies. Hard to believe any director would hire him if it was an uncontrolable problem. Another observation about him is that he was in incredible shape for the times. Easy to tell the guy worked out/lifted wieghts. Even when he was in his 40's he had a great body. Tough to work out if he was drunk. I think the combo of naturally looking older and the sun is why he appeared to age poorly. But, he was still getting good roles untill he died.

      Dan

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  2. He was still William Holden. I think his later movies were as great as his first. I thank him for the legacy he left us. He had so many inner demons like so many of us. He did the best he could and to me there will never be another to compare to william Holden. There was one Elvis and only one William Holden.
    Miss you,
    Dottie K.

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  3. Great memories! However William Holden died - he was really a great actor.

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  4. Wow. He had everything, and didn't realize it. Money, fame, looks, and talent. And still so depressed he had to constantly drink. So sad. He was a wonderful actor.

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    1. It's a terrible thing to be put out tp pasture.......

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  5. He is one of the greatest actors of all times
    I wish he had not spoilt his looks on account of heavy drinking He steals your heart in Sunset Boulevard Born Yesterday Love is a many splendored thing and most of the movies in the sixties. I wish there was someone besides him at the end but he is irreplacable Love you William Holden ~ Kiran

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  6. Always one of the saddest ends for a great classic film star.

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  7. Why does fame and wealth destroy so many people?

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  8. love is a many splendored thing - what a feat

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  9. Holden's ravaged looks later in life actually worked for him in The Wild Bunch and Network. He was terrific in both of those films. A most interesting and complex actor who left us with a long list of great movie roles to remember him by.

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    1. Agree. If he wasn't drinking, he would probably not be so convincing when acting disappointed, but proud "old-fashioned" Pike Bishop. His role in TV Net is basically the same. Drinking and his smooth nature left a great legacy. I love him.

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  10. Happy Birthday today William!!! You would have been 95! You were such a great man on and off the screen!

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  11. I will never forget that dance scene in "Picnic" with Kim Novak. The music and the scene touches me so much, as a man I shed tears every time I view it. I can't explain why it makes me so emotional. Mr. Holden, thanks for the memory. Wayne Clanton

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    1. In an auto-bio he stated he was a very poor dancer, and had to get very drunk to do that scene.

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  12. With the right direction and material, Bill Holden was as good an
    actor as any at the time. His performances were always believable
    and his lines delivered with an honesty and sincerity that were
    always convincing. Truly one of the best, and, in my opinion much
    under appreciated today.
    God bless you Golden Boy

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  13. I still enjoy watching William Holden's movies. Two of my favorites were Alvarez Kelly and Horse Soldiers. He was a great actor. I miss him.

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  14. What can i say about William Holden my father took me to see "Picnic" i told my father i want her job! (Kim Novak) his reply was take a number. I my very first crush was William Holden.
    Later on in life i met some of William Holden's friends we all came to the conclusion that "underneath it all there was pleasurable soul". We all miss him.

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  15. I have just discovered William Holden and I can't get enough of his beautiful soul that comes through in his acting roles. Loved him in Picnic, Love is a Many Splendored Thing and Born Yesterday. He truly let his light shine. I love you Bill.




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  16. He was great in every movie I've seen him in. The Wild Bunch is my favorite, followed by Stalag 17 and The Bridges at Toko-Ri. Thank goodness for digitized movies like DVD, where I can watch him anytime. God Bless you Bill. Mike Couch

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  17. Classy guy with intelligence.
    Excellent actor.
    Greatly missed.

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  18. Just saw "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" and loved William Holden and always remembered him for his roles with Asian women, like "World of Suzi Wong" -- Of course, I am Chinese and would have done anything for him. I did not know that he was an alcoholic until today and I am 66! I don't pay much attention to Hollywood rumors factual or otherwise. Are his children as good looking as he was?

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  19. Holden was/is one of my favourite actors.Nearly met him in late 1979 while working at the bar "Theatre Royal".He walked in on my day off and bought a bottle of Champagne after seeing Deborah Kerr (former costar) in her play "After The Fair".Kerr toured Australia with this production and Holden was in Sydney,Australia to film one of his last motion pictures "The Earthling". I believe there may have been FREEMASONRY Generational curses over Holden for him to drink so much.Any male born with the names "William""Frederick""Mason""Tyler" come automatically under the spiritual covering of Freemasonry worldwide(William of Orange,Frederik of Prussia) I think he was an aloof ,distant father to his two sons from what I've read. Holden died young but due to the decades of alcohnolic poisoning he really looked alot older.RIP Mr Holden.Now In Gods Care . (WW-Australia)

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  20. I actually prefer Holden in his later years as he really had honed the craft of believable acting. Breezy was a bit cheezy (tee hee) but I don't think any other older actor could have pulled off the role of Frank Harmon the way he did. I loved him as Max in Network, but the dialogue was way too wordy. Talk about lengthy speeches. Booze or not, he was still gorgeous even in his older years. Vodka Martini in Heaven

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    1. I prefer him in his older years too. I thought he had lost his sex appeal eventhough he was a heavy drinker. Loved him!

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  21. I just discovered William Holden in November of 2013. Watched Stalag 17 with my wife and two teenage sons. My sons said it was the best black and white movue he had ever seen. Since then we have been looking for and watching every Holden movie we can rent or buy. My 14 year old asked for Stalag for Christmas this year. We now have Stalag, Toko RI, Bridge on River Kwi, Paris, Sabrina, and Picnic under our belts. Stalag is my favorite but have liked them all. Wish I discovered Bill years ago.

    Dan

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    1. Hey Dan,
      Do yourself a favour and check out The Country Girl from the same era. Bill Holden was great with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly!

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    2. David,
      Thanks, bought the movie on Amazon and we watched it twice this weekend. Loved the begining scene, the acting was so good. What a pleasure to watch Holden, Crosby and Grace Kelly in the same picture. Told everyone at work about it and one bought it also. I also watched Golden Boy and Horse Soldiers this weekend. Both very good. Dan

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  22. Years ago, as a teenager, I worked at Blockbuster Video (when they were still around), and I was/still am a huge Quentin Tarantino fan. I remember reading an interview in which Tarantino said one of his favorite films was "The Wild Bunch." I immediately checked it out from the store (on VHS), and was completely blown away by the performance of William Holden. He had such a natural way of presenting himself, that even in the company of the other co-stars like Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Warren Oates, and Ben Johnson he still appeared to be the one you turned your focus on. He was just so damn believable. After doing some internet research, and learning about the manslaughter issue he had in Europe, I wonder if that accelerated his dependence on alcohol. In the end, though, I guess no one really knows to the full extent why people do the things they do. It's unfortunate, but at least his work can still be enjoyed to this day.

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  23. Cry your heart out Leonrado Di Caprio. . . .Bill Holden was the real deal.

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  24. Long gone, but never forgotten. I shall always have great memories... Thanks for a lifetime filled with magical memories of life as it was and could be.
    .

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  25. Thanks for all the magical memories.

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  26. One of my late Mom's favorite actors. Born the same year as her. Great actor, troubled soul. God bless you, Mr. Holden. They don't make them like that anymore







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  27. Also fantastic movie never mentioned here "Earthling" probably 1981.

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    1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080671/?ref_=nv_sr_2 link to info about above movie

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  28. I too have discovered William Holden very late, just the past year and I've seen a few of his films and have become a great fan in the process. Picnic, The moon is blue, Golden boy, Breezy, The world of Suzie Wong, Love is a many splendored thing, Born Yesterday (my favorite so far), Escape from Fort Bravo, Streets of Loredo, The country Girl and Sabrina. Such a versatile and wonderful actor.

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  29. I rank Bill Holden & Gregory Peck, equally as the greatest actors I have ever seen. These guys didn't act, they lived the parts. Holden in Stalag 17 & Peck in The Guns Of Navarone....just magnificent!

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  30. agree with Gary R... One of my favorite was the I Love Lucy show in 1955. Thanks for the memories. You are truly missed Mr. Holden.

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  31. I Love William Holden. We all have issues just being a regular person or a actor and what a great actor but a human man , no one is perfect , we all have our issues , Love you Mr. Holden thank you for all the movies I still watch. No matter what the world thinks you were a good actor and man.

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  32. Only he could make Pike Bishop so believable!

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  33. He was the best ....as Nancy Olsen (young co-star in SUNSET BOULEVARD) stated about him , " He was the perfect movie star !"

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  34. Loved William Holden and I am heading to Santa Monica in January 2015.My dream has always been to get to California and to see his hand and footprints somewhere in Hollywood. They do not make movie stars like him anymore. I watch his movies time and time again and my favourite is "Picnic". The Theme from Picnic and Moonglow I can listen to for hours.

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  35. Bill Holden was a beautiful classy man, loved the wild life of Africa, brilliant actor, will always be handsome, and that wonderful voice. His films are classics. I always feel as though he and the other wonderful actors, actresses, dancers of the period are friends they had brought me so much joy, understanding, laughter and I cry whenever I read of another passing of these talented souls. We are grateful to you Bill, and all the others. Thank you.

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