American Legends : The Life of William Holden
*Includes pictures *Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading *Includes a table of contents "Aging is an inevitable process. I surely wouldn't want to grow younger. The older you become, the more you know; your bank account of knowledge is much richer." - Holden The fantasy world of Hollywood of the 1940s that continued to fascinate the American public through the following two decades typified the golden age of old-style American machismo. The movies were filled with rugged, intimidating men who had a rough style adored by female screen characters and moviegoers alike. Unlike their European counterparts, the evolving subgenres of the American leading man began to include individuals with iconic quirks in general appearance, voice and humor, as an alternative to the rugged, understated, and sometimes reluctant "man of the people." Actors such as Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, and Dean Martin ably represented the new, more suave male, while John Wayne covered the spectrum of the rural hero, and Anthony Quinn lent a broad ethnicity to his characters. However, it was William Holden who became America's first choice among films requiring a shy, cynical, and sexually potent "broken hero" on the screen, less thoughtful, perhaps, than Gregory Peck, and less rigid than Gary Cooper. Once finding his niche in the early '40s, the actor with no discernible quirks to rely on for identification, unlike his counterparts, sauntered onto the screen with an "easy masculine manner." Perhaps Holden's many unwilling heroes filmed over a 40 year career were aided by the reality that Holden was much like them, an actor who was uncomfortable on the set and terrified of screen intimacy, on certain occasions requiring lengthy alcoholic binges to get through some of the steamier love scenes and sexualized dances with co-stars such as Kim Novak, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly. In a career during which Holden sought out roles that could only be played by more seasoned, facially-lined men, his destructive off-screen behavior eventually granted his wish, and he prematurely entered a second career as a prematurely-aged character actor after a decade or more as America's adored heartthrob in a long line of less than substantial film offerings. In Holden's era, the studio was king, and owned the artists outright, leaving precious little wiggle room for creative development. As corporations they could hoard artists, or share contracts with other studios, as in Holden's case. They could refuse to loan any artist for individual projects, and could force whatever type of role they wished upon an actor, who could do little to break out or expand. If he or she refused too many roles, it could result in punishment by being lowered to the bottom of the list for future consideration. As with other artists of the time, Holden, therefore, was cast in a myriad of inconsequential parts with mediocre, forgettable screenplays. He referred, not so affectionately, to many of his early appearances as "Smiling Jim" roles, but was able to make his mark in works such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Picnic, Sunset Boulevard, and Stalag 17, which would eventually find its way onto television as the farcical Hogan's Heroes. Holden's interests grew to become international in scope, and he entertained enduring fascinations with sites such as Hong Kong and much of the African continent, where he came to establish a wildlife game preserve. A collector of fine Asian art, he held a lifelong love for that part of the world. Colleagues and audiences made note of his decreased passion for acting as time went on, and only a subject of particular social importance, or an enticing piece of geography, could pique his interest in his later days. And yet, he is remembered by fellow actors as possessing a sense of personal good will and amiability, despite his shyness. Holden's passing was a shock to his film audience, and in no way fit his screen persona.
- Paperback | 46 pages
- 152.4 x 228.6 x 2.54mm | 117.93g
- 02 Jun 2015
- Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
- United States
- black & white illustrations