In Memory

William F "Bill" Beedle Jr (Holden) - Class Of 1937

William F Bill Beedle Jr (Holden)

Bill Beedle (William Holden)

April 17, 1918 - November 12, 1981

 

 

 



 
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05/19/09 06:26 PM #1    

Steven S Kane (1966)

William Holden (William Franklin Beedle, Jr., '37) (April 17, 1918 – November 12, 1981) was an Academy Award-winning American film actor. One of the top stars of the 1950s, he was named one of the "Top 10 stars of the year" six times (1954-1958, 1961) and appeared on the American Film Institute's AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars list as #25. Hollywood's "Golden Boy" His first starring role was in Golden Boy (1939), in which he played a violinist turned boxer. After Columbia Pictures picked up half of his contract, he alternated between starring in several minor pictures for Paramount and Columbia before serving as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, where he acted in training films. Beginning in 1950, his career rebounded when Billy Wilder tapped him to star as the down-at-the-heels screenwriter Joe Gillis who is taken in by faded silent-screen star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in Sunset Boulevard, for which Holden earned his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. Following this breakthrough film, he played a series of roles that combined good looks with cynical detachment, including a prisoner-of-war entrepreneur in Stalag 17 (1953), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, a pressured young engineer/family man in Executive Suite (1954), an acerbic stage director in The Country Girl (1954), a conflicted jet pilot in the Korean War film The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), a wandering braggart in Picnic (1955), a dashing war correspondent in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), an ill-fated prisoner in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and a WWII tug boat captain in The Key (1958). He also played a number of sunnier roles in light comedy, such as the handsome architect pursuing virginal Maggie McNamara in the controversial Production Code-breaking The Moon is Blue (1953), as Judy Holliday's tutor in Born Yesterday (1950), as a playwright captivated by Ginger Rogers' character in Forever Female (1953) and as Humphrey Bogart's younger brother, a playboy, in Sabrina (1954), which also starred Audrey Hepburn. Holden starred in his share of forgettable movies — which he was forced to do by studio contracts — such as Paris When It Sizzles (1964), also co-starring Audrey Hepburn. By the mid-1960s, his roles were having less critical and commercial impact. Later career In 1969, Holden starred in director Sam Peckinpah's graphically violent Western The Wild Bunch, winning much acclaim. Also in 1969, Holden starred in director Terence Young's family film L'Arbre de Noel, co-starring Italian actress Virna Lisi, based on the novel of the same name by Michel Bataille. This film was originally released in the United States as The Christmas Tree and on home video as When Wolves Cry. Five years later, he starred with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in The Towering Inferno. He was also praised for his Oscar-nominated leading performance in Sidney Lumet's Network (1976), playing an older version of the character type he had perfected in the 1950s, only now more jaded and aware of his own mortality. In 1980, Holden appeared in The Earthling with child actor Ricky Schroder, playing a loner dying of cancer who goes to the Australian outback to end his days, meets a young boy whose parents have been killed in an accident, and teaches him how to survive. Schroder later named one of his sons Holden.

Personal life:   Holden was married to actress Brenda Marshall from 1941 until their divorce (after many long separations) in 1971. They had two sons, Peter Westfield (born in 1944) and Scott Porter (born in 1946). He also adopted his wife's daughter Virginia from her first marriage. Holden had a busy social life; although never involved in politics himself, he was best man at the marriage of his friend Ronald Reagan to Nancy Davis in 1952. He maintained a home in Switzerland and also spent much of his time working for wildlife conservation as a managing partner in an animal preserve in Africa. His Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki, Kenya, (founded 1959) became a mecca for the international jet set. In 1974, he began a relationship with actress Stefanie Powers which sparked her interest in animal welfare. After his death, Powers set up the William Holden Wildlife Foundation at Holden's Mount Kenya Game Ranch. Holden suffered from alcoholism and depression. In 1966, he was involved in a car accident in Italy in which the other driver was killed. It was determined that Holden had been driving under the influence of alcohol; he was charged with vehicular manslaughter and received an eight-month suspended prison sentence. Overcome with guilt, friends said this led the actor to even heavier bouts of drinking. His younger brother, Robert W. "Bobbie" Beedle, was a Navy fighter pilot who was killed in action in World War II, on January 5, 1945. After The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955) was released, Beedle was remembered by his squadron-mates as having been very much like Holden's character Lt. Harry Brubaker.

Death In late 1981:  It was widely reported that Holden had been diagnosed with lung cancer after visiting a lung specialist in Hanover.   Holden died as the result of a fall in his high-rise apartment on the seaside cliffs of Santa Monica, California, in November 1981. Holden was alone and heavily intoxicated when he apparently slipped on a throw rug, severely lacerated his head on a night table, and bled to death. Evidence suggests he was conscious for at least half-an-hour after the fall but may not have realized the severity of the injury and did not summon aid or was unable to call for help. His body was found on November 16, however forensic evidence suggested he most likely died on November 12. He was 63 years old. Holden was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

Filmography Features:

* Prison Farm (1938) (uncredited)

* Million Dollar Legs (1939) (uncredited)

* Golden Boy (1939)

* Invisible Stripes (1939)

* Our Town (1940) * Those Were the Days! (1940)

* Arizona (1940)

* I Wanted Wings (1941)

* Texas (1941)

* The Fleet's In (1942)

* The Remarkable Andrew (1942)

* Meet the Stewarts (1942)

* Young and Willing (1943)

* Blaze of Noon (1947)

* Dear Ruth (1947)

* Variety Girl (1947)

* The Man from Colorado (1948)

* Rachel and the Stranger (1948)

* Apartment for Peggy (1948)

* The Dark Past (1948)

* Streets of Laredo (1949)

* Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949)

* Dear Wife (1949)

* Father Is a Bachelor (1950)

* Sunset Boulevard (1950)

* Union Station (1950)

* Born Yesterday (1950)

* Force of Arms (1951)

* Submarine Command (1951)

* Boots Malone (1952)

*The Turning Point (1952)

* Stalag 17 (1953)

* The Moon Is Blue (1953)

* Forever Female (1953)

* Escape from Fort Bravo (1953)

* Executive Suite (1954)

* Sabrina (1954)

* The Country Girl (1954)

* The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

* Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)

* Picnic (1955)

* The Proud and Profane (1956)

* Toward the Unknown (1956)

* The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

* The Key (1958)

* The Horse Soldiers (1959)

* The World of Suzie Wong (1960)

* Satan Never Sleeps (1962)

* The Counterfeit Traitor (1962)

* The Lion (1962)

* Paris, When It Sizzles (1964)

* The 7th Dawn (1964)

* Alvarez Kelly (1966)

* Casino Royale (1967)

* The Devil's Brigade (1968)

* The Wild Bunch (1969)

* The Christmas Tree (1969)

* The Revengers (1972)

* Open Season (1972)

* Breezy (1973)

* The Towering Inferno (1974)

* Network (1976)

* Fedora (1978)

* Damien: Omen II (1978)

* Ashanti (1979)

* The Earthling (1980)

* When Time Ran Out (1980)

* S.O.B. (1981)

Short subjects:

* Reconnaissance Pilot (1943)

* Wings Up (1943)

* You Can Change the World (1951)

Academy Awards and nominations:

* Best Actor Nomination for Sunset Boulevard (1951)

* Best Actor Award for Stalag 17 (1954)

* Best Actor Nomination for Network (1977)

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In Miss Anne Spellicy's 8th grade homeroom in 1962 at SPJHS, carved under the top of my old inkwell-equipped desk was the name "Billy Beedle." Miss Spellicy confirmed that he was her student exactly 30 years earlier. As shown above, William Holden received the Academy Award for best actor for his performance in "Stalag 17" in 1954, but in my opinion he should have had it for "Sunset Boulevard" in 1951. There is no other film quite like it. Very creepy. Gloria Swanson playing the demented has-been silent film star Norma Desmond with her pet monkey, along with Erich Von Stroheim as the Charles Adams-like butler in the weird decaying house on Sunset Boulevard create a mood of dread not matched even by the master, Alfred Hitchcock. If you never saw it, get the DVD. You will not be disappointed. I had the pleasure of meeting Gloria Swanson while walking on Fair Oaks with my grandmother in about 1961. Ms. Swanson was promoting a health food product. She was about 62 at that time, but looked great and was a legendary figure from a by-gone era. Although not as well known and remembered today as some other stars of his era such as Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne, William Holden, '37, occupies a solid place in American film history.

Steve Kane, '66

 


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