Posts Tagged ‘william holden’

A couple of years after making the hugely successful The Poseidon Adventure, producer Irwin Allen made The Towering Inferno, another disaster movie with a top-notch cast (Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Fred Astaire – in an Oscar nominated turn – Robert Wagner, Robert Vaughn, Richard Chamberlain, Faye Dunaway, Jennifer Jones; it’s practically a who’s who of Hollywood at the time.) Newman and McQueen share top billing (at McQueen’s insistence) as architect Doug Roberts and firefighter Chief Mike O’Halloran.  William Holden as James Duncan, is the head of the company who built the tower, and it turns out that his son-in-law Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain) has cut corners and compromised safety in order to save money.  Astaire puts in a touching performance as con artist Harlee Claiborne, who falls for his intended con victim Lisolette (Jennifer Jones).

As the name of the film indicates, these characters and others besides all find themselves trapped at the top of a skyscraper designed by Roberts, when a fire breaks out and threatens to engulf them all.  The action scenes are genuinely edge-of-the-seat stuff, and there are some truly shocking moments, and lots of tension throughout.  Despite the impressive roll call of names on the cast list, the true star of the show, as Newman himself acknowledged, is the fire itself.

It isn’t a perfect film by any means – in fact some of the dialogue is downright hammy, and feels false.  I don’t feel that the cast are at fault for this (after all, you only have to look at their other films to know just how good most of these actors are), but it’s fair to say that there isn’t much character development.  For me, McQueen is the stand-out cast member, with the best performance of the lot (and I say this as a big fan of Newman, Holden and Astaire).  But despite its flaws, there is just SO much to enjoy about this film – it’s not often that a film with a running time of almost three hours, keeps me engaged from start to finish, but this one certainly did.  It might not be the best film of any of the cast members, but on a pure entertainment level, it’s a winner, and I would definitely recommend it.

(Incidentally, there is a lot of interesting trivia about this film.  McQueen was originally pegged for the role of Doug Roberts, but he lobbied to get the part of the heroic O’Halloran – not that Roberts isn’t also a hero.  He also insisted that he get equal billing with Newman, which is why in the opening titles, his name appears on the lower left hand side of the screen, while Newman’s appears on the top right.  That way, if you read from top to bottom, Newman comes first, and if you read from left to right, McQueen comes first.  He also insisted that he be given extra lines, in order that he and Newman – with whom he always had a professional rivalry – had the same amount of dialogue!  Nonetheless, he took Newman’s son Scott, who has a small role as a nervous firefighter, under his wing during the filming.)

Year of release: 1974

Director: John Guillerman

Producers: Irwin Allen, Sidney Marshall

Writers: Richard Martin Stern (novel ‘The Tower’), Thomas N. Scortia (novel ‘The Glass Inferno’), Frank M. Robinson (novel ‘The Glass Inferno’), Stirling Silliphant

Main cast: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Fred Astaire, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn

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Richard Benson (William Holden) is a screenwriter who is due to deliver his latest script in two days time, but hasn’t even started it yet.  He hires Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn) to type the script, and she ends up helping him write it.  As they work, they imagine themselves as the characters in the screenplay, and envision each other acting the scenes out.

This was Audrey Hepburn’s least favourite of her films, and it’s fair to say that it probably is one of worst of both her films and William Holden’s films, but that is partly because they both made some truly wonderful films during their respective careers.  By all accounts, this was quite an ordeal to make, because Holden, who was in the grip of his alcoholism, tried to rekindle his previous relationship with Hepburn, but by this time she was married, and therefore not interested.  Holden was hospitalised for his drinking during filming, which probably didn’t help matters.  There’s a bittersweetness to watching this because the character Richard Benson also drinks too much alcohol; also, I think Paris When It Sizzles is the movie where you can start to see the damage that alcoholism has caused to Holden’s good looks.  He looks tired and drawn, and it’s sad to see.  Audrey, as ever, is beautiful and radiant, and just adorable.

However, the film itself is actually quite a lot of fun, despite being a flop when it was released, and being critically panned.  Hepburn and Holden were both fantastic actors (two of my favourites), and do a good job here.  The script is contrived in places, but I kind of thought that it was supposed to be – this is a hack screenwriter doing a rush job, after all.  There are quite a few in-jokes or references to other films, including some of Audrey’s, and plenty of familiar plot devices are used – but that’s kind of the point.  Tony Curtis has a very small role in the film – he agreed to do it when Holden went into  hospital, in order that the crew could keep working – and he certainly makes the most of it.  His scenes are actually some of the funniest in the film.  There is also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Marlene Dietrich, as herself.  Additionally, when Benson says that the name of his screenplay is The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower, and Frank Sinatra could sing the theme song, Sinatra’s voice is actually heard singing a few lines, including the title itself.

I would say that the film is lightweight, but still enjoyable, and is also quite clever in parts, with a few digs at the Hollywood film industry.  I’d recommend it to fans of Hepburn and/or Holden.

Year of release: 1964

Director: Richard Quine

Producers: George Axelrod, Richard Quine, John R. Coonan, Carter De Haven Jr.

Writers: Julien Duvivier (story ‘La fete a Henriette’), Henri Jeanson (story ‘La fete a Henriette’), George Axelrod

Main cast: William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Gregoire Aslan, Noel Coward, Tony Curtis

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William Holden is one of my very favourite actors, and during his lifetime, he was one of Hollywood’s favourites too.  During the 1950s, he was a huge box-office draw, and the many films he made include such classics as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Sunset Blvd., Network and Stalag 17 (for which he won an Academy Award).  Handsome, masculine and talented, William Holden nevertheless struggled with chronic alcohol addiction for much of his life.  This book is a respectful biography of the great actor, and I enjoyed reading it very much, although it was hard not to feel sad at the damage that he was doing to his body and by extension, his career and his personal relationships.

The book is an easy read, and is never dull.  However, in some aspects, it was more of an overview of events – for instance, Holden’s childhood and adolescence is covered in a couple of short chapters, although as Holden was a private man, he might have preferred it that way.  Some of his film also didn’t even get a mention, although all of the high points in his career are covered.  I loved reading about his career, and the various films he made, both successful and less so.  He came across as I have always imagined him to be – a very gifted actor, with a strong sense of right and wrong (no, he wasn’t perfect, but why should we expect him to be?).  There is no escaping the effect of his addiction however, and it would probably be impossible to tell his life story without it.

I did feel a sense of sadness while reading, probably because I knew how it would end – with Holden’s death at the age of 63, when he slipped on a rug in his home and hit his head.  His body was not immediately discovered, and this is something that always saddens me when I watch his films or read about him.  I am glad that the book dedicated time to his career and the fine work he did in films, rather than being exploitative.

As far as biographies go, this was a good read, which I would recommend to fans.  As mentioned earlier, it is thin on detail in some parts, but overall, a well-rounded story of a fascinating life.

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William Holden, Frederic March, Grace Kelly and Mickey Rooney head up the cast in this film set during the Korean War, and based on actual events.  Holden is Lieutenant Harry Brubaker, a naval reservist, who has been called away from his civilian life to serve in the US Navy during the war.  Brubaker is unhappy about fighting a war which he doesn’t necessarily believe in, and is bitter about having to leave his wife Nancy (Grace Kelly) and their two daughters behind.  Nancy does however join him when he has a week’s leave in Tokyo, but duty calls, and he has to return to the war.  Frederic March is Holden’s Admiral, who has suffered the loss of his two sons to war, and Mickey Rooney is Mike Forney, a helicopter pilot who saves Brubaker’s life at the beginning of the film.

I’m so glad I watched this film – had it not starred William Holden, I doubt I would have bothered, as war films are not a genre I particularly enjoy, but I found it utterly compelling.  Holden is excellent as ever as the brave Brubaker; he is brave because he has to be, but his fear and longing to be back with his family are all too believable.  Kelly is also good as the wife who is frightened for her husband but determines to be brave and supportive.  Frederic March, as always, is superb, giving an air of gravitas and genuine sadness at the situation in which he finds himself and his men, knowing the losses that families are suffering every day.

The scenes when the men launch their attack on the titular bridges are action packed and very tense (the film won the Academy Award for special effects), and the moments where Brubaker spends quality time with his family are perfectly placed, and show the two worlds between which Brubaker and men like him are torn.

This is definitely a film worth watching, showing the men not just as heroes, but also as people, making a sacrifice for their country.  It is emotional and satisfying, and all in glorious Technicolor.  Highly recommended.

Year of release: 1954

Director: Mark Robson

Producers: George Seaton, William Perlberg

Writers: James Michener (novel), Valentine Davies

Main cast: William Holden, Grace Kelly, Frederic March, Mickey Rooney

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Patty O’Neill (Maggie McNamara) is an aspiring actress, who meets successful architect Don Gresham (William Holden) at the top of the Empire State Building, and ends up back at his apartment, where he hopes to seduce her, but she is determined not to let that happen!  Complications arise in the shape of Don’s ex-fiancee Cynthia (Dawn Addams), who lives in the apartment above Don, with her father, the bordering-on-alcoholic playboy David Slater (David Niven).  When David Slater sets eyes on Patty, he decides he fancies her for himself, and the stage is set for some sparkling comedy.

At the time of its release, this film was considered to be risqué, due to its use of the words, “virgin,” “seduce,” and “mistress.”  It was in fact the first post-Hayes Code film to use these words, and was banned from certain cinemas, due its use of these words.  Obviously, by today’s standards, it is very tame, but if it has lost some of its shock value, it certainly has not lost any of its comedy.

McNamara is lovely as Patty – a sweet, and somewhat naive girl, who nonetheless has a habit of blurting out whatever pops into her head, be it appropriate or not!  (I was shocked to discover that McNamara committed suicide at the age of just 49 – she simply fizzed with life and wit in this role.)  Holden is great as the increasingly frustrated Don, and Niven was surely made for the role of Slater.  All three leads bounce off each other terrifically; they are the main parts of a very small cast, and in the hands of different actors, this might not have been nearly so successful, but it works brilliantly.  The only weak link in the cast was Addams as Cynthia, but as Cynthia is only a minor character, this did not affect my overall enjoyment of the film.

The film is an adaptation of a play, and I can certainly see how this would work on stage, as the vast majority of the action takes place in Gresham’s and Slater’s respective apartments, with just a couple of scenes outdoors, on top of the Empire State Building.  There is much running around and misunderstanding, and a lot of the humour comes from the rivalry between Don and David.  Holden was at his glorious best in the 1950s (frankly, I don’t know how Patty could have resisted Don), and Niven’s comedic touch is spot on – he has terrific one-liners!

Overall, the film is an absolute joy and delight, and definitely one I would recommend.

Year of release: 1953

Director: Otto Preminger

Producer: Otto Preminger

Writer: F. Hugh Herbert (play and screenplay)

Main cast: William Holden, David Niven, Maggie McNamara, Dawn Addams

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In this incredibly charming film set in colonial America, William Holden plays David Harvey, a widower who marries a servant girl named Rachel (Loretta Young), so that his son Davey will have a mother figure, and so that she can keep their cabin clean and tidy, provide meals, etc.  It is a marriage of convenience, but when David’s friend Jim (Robert Mitchum) comes to visit and shows an interest in Rachel, David comes to realise what she really means to him.

I only watched this film because it starred two of my favourite actors – William Holden and Robert Mitchum – and what a lucky lucky girl Rachel was to get to choose between the two! However, I was pleasantly surprised, because this is an absolute gem of a movie!  The always excellent Holden perfectly captures the sadness that David feels after the loss of his beloved wife, and Young is great as the woman who feels unwanted, save for the chores she does.  Mitchum is also wonderful as David’s easy-come easy-go friend.  Rounding out the main cast is child actor Gary Gray as little Davey.

The story is gentle and sweet, with some surprising moments of humour, and one of the funniest fight scenes I have ever seen!  It held my attention throughout and I really liked all of the characters.

This film doesn’t seem to get many outings on television, but I would urge anyone to try and catch it if they can.  It is really rather lovely, and I highly recommend it.

Year of release: 1948

Director: Norman Foster

Producers: Jack J. Gross, Richard H. Berger

Writers: Howard Fast (story ‘Rachel’), Waldo Salt

Main cast: William Holden, Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum, Gary Gray

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This adaptation of William Inge’s play, was brought to the big screen in 1955. It stars William Holden (swoon) as Hal Carter, an aimless drifter, who comes to a small Kansas town on the day of the Labor Day Picnic, to seek out his old schoolfriend Alan Benson. Alan is now rich, successful and going out with the prettiest girl in town, Madge Owens (Kim Novak). Madge’s pushy mother is anxious for Madge to marry Alan, so that she will have money and a luxurious lifestyle, but Madge is fed up of only being admired and wanted for her looks. And when she meets Hal, there is an undeniable attraction between them, which could threaten everyone’s plans.

I was in two minds about this film, because there are so many flaws in it, and yet it is still enjoyable in its own way. First, William Holden was a beautiful looking man, and a greatly under-rated actor, but the sad truth is that he was just too old to play Hal. The character is supposed to be a young man in his early/mid 20s – and Cliff Robertson, who played Alan, did look about the right age – but William Holden was 37 when this film was made. He himself was reluctant to take the part initially, as he felt he was too old for it, and he was right. Nonetheless, he does look great, and there are a couple of shirt-off scenes, which serve no real purpose other than to show off Holden’s physique (which is fine by me!) Kim Novak was fine as Madge, but looks slightly older than the 19 years she is supposed to be. Not really a problem to be honest, except that Susan Strasberg, who played Madge’s 16 year old sister Millie, looked young and tiny for her age (and certainly the scenes where Hal escorts Millie to the picnic looked ‘off’ somehow, as he looked like an adult man and she looked like a young girl). Also, the music in certain moments was far too dramatic, and made it all look rather silly. A specific example was when a character ripped Hal’s shirt. The music in that scene would have been more appropriate for a sudden murder scene!

BUT, for all that, I still quite enjoyed the film. The things that weren’t quite right with it, were all too obvious, but I still found myself wanting to keep watching and see how things turned out, and if it came on television I would probably watch it again, although I wouldn’t specifically seek it out. I think it was quite obvios that the fil is adapted from a play, as it did feel quite ‘stagey’ and possibly the story is better suited to a stage than a screen. This film did make it onto the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Romantic Films, and I suspect that one certain dance scene – and if you see the film, you will certainly know which scene I’m referring to – may have helped it to get onto the list! Certainly the sexual tension and atmosphere in that scene crackles, and is almost tangible.

Overall, not brilliant, but certainly not bad.

Year of release: 1955

Director: Joshua Logan

Producer: Fred Kohlmar

Writers: William Inge (play), Daniel Taradash

Main cast: William Holden, Kim Novak, Cliff Robertson, Susan Strasberg, Betty Field

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Stalag 17 is part of a prison camp in World War II, where American prisoners of war are kept. When two of them attempt to escape and their plan is foiled, a POW named J.J. Sefton (William Holden) is suspected of leaking details of the escape plan to the Germans. When the German Officers seem to be constantly one step ahead of the POW’s – finding out about the radio they have smuggled into the camp, for instance – the suspicion grows, and Sefton is ostracised by the others, especially since it is known that he trades goods with the guards in order to obtain privileges for himself. As tensions rise, it becomes clear to Sefton that he will have to find the real informant if he is to exonerate himself.

This film was not the first, nor the last collaboration between director Billy Wilder and actor William Holden. I would not even count it as the best (that honour would go to Sunset Boulevard), but still, I thoroughly enjoyed Stalag 17, and unhesitatingly would rate it 10/10.

Holden – one of the most under-rated actors of the 20th century (in my opinion, for what it’s worth) – turns in a superb performance as Sefton, a not-altogether-sympathetic or likeable character. He quite rightly won the Oscar for his performance in this film. Otto Preminger, usually known for directing films rather than starring in them – is also great as the head of the camp, and Sig Ruman, as the officer in charge of Stalag 17, is perfect in his role too.

The tension is mainained throughout – the audience becomes aware of who the informant is, quite a while before the POWs in Stalag 17, but this does not detract from the tension of the story at all. And it is quite some achievement to incorporate comedy, thrills and tension in a film about a WWII prisoner of war camp, but that is exactly what happens here. It has quite a claustrophobic atmosphere, as most of the action takes place in the hut where the POW’s live, and all of it takes place inside the camp itself. This helps to raise the sense of distrust and suspicion.

The ending is great – it rounds off the story perfectly, and I could not have predicted it.

Overall – definitely a film worth seeing!

Year of release: 1953

Director: Billy Wilder

Producers: Billy Wilder, William Schorr

Writers: Donald Bevan (play), Edmund Trzcinski (play), Billy Wilder, Edwin Blum

Main cast: William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Richard Erdman, Sig Ruman, Peter Graves

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This stars William Holden as Mark Elliott, a married American journalist in Hong Kong, in 1949. He falls in love with a widowed Doctor, Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones), who is of both British and Chinese descent (although Jones herself was all-American). They face opposition to their inter-racial relationship, and Elliot’s marital status and his job also threaten to tear them apart.

William Holden has become one of my favourite stars – I feel that he was under-rated as an actor, whereas Jennifer Jones was over-rated. She is not as convincing as Holden, although she does display some talent, because in real life, the two of them did not get on at all during the making of this film, but you wouldn’t know it from seeing them on screen together!

The storyline moves along nicely – couple meet, fall in love, face numerous obstacles to their happiness, and in the end…well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending for you. There were a few humorous moments, and a lot of moving ones. I did feel the film captured that feeling of falling in love with someone who you have recently met, and Holden was excellent in one of the two lead roles.

Not my favourite William Holden film (that would definitely be Sunset Boulevard), but well worth seeing if you are a fan.

Year of release: 1955

Director: Henry King

Producer: Buddy Adler

Writers: Han Suyin (book), John Patrick

Main cast: William Holden, Jennifer Jones

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I’m not sure whether this is a World War II movie with a romantic backdrop, or a romance with a World War II backdrop. Either way, it is thoroughly entertaining. William Holden is Joe ‘Pete’ Peterson, a Sergeant in the American Army, stationed in the Italian mountains. While on leave in Naples, he meets WAC Eleanor MacKay (Nancy Olson) and a romance develops. However, Joe still has obligations to the army, and it becomes doubtful whether he will return alive or not…

William Holden and Nancy Olson made four films together, including the brilliant Sunset Boulevard. They obviously had chemistry on-screen, and it comes into play here. Holden – an under-rated actor – is superb as Joe, combining bravery and heroics with vulnerability and hesitation, that makes for a fully rounded and believeable character. Holden was also one of the most beautiful actors around at the time that this was filmed (and before his looks were sadly ravaged by alcohol, although alcohol certainly never affected his talent for his craft). Nancy Olson also does a great job as Eleanor, somehow bringing both warmth and coolness to the role!

The romantic aspect – if slightly rushed (as often seems to be the case in films from this era) – is luscious and I did care for both characters. The war scenes are disturbing, as soldiers get picked off arbitrarily, and men see their friends dying all around them.

The blending of the two genres works well here. The film is very tender and sweet, with a perfect ending (which I won’t spoil). Definitely recommended – in fact, it has jumped straight into my top ten films of all time.

Year of release: 1951

Director: Michael Curtiz

Producer: Anthony Veiller

Writers: Orin Jannings, Richard Tregaskis

Main cast: William Holden, Nancy Olson

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