Casino Royale (1967)
[William Holden] began as a handsome juvenile but by the early ’50s he already seemed older than his years. Maybe it wasn’t his appearance as much as his manner — intelligent, charming, terminally disenchanted and [this was the key] privately experiencing a sea of emotion beneath the surface. It was often exciting to watch him playing a role — sometimes it was like a movie within a movie. He sounded notes that no other actor could sound, in comedies and romantic melodramas, war pictures and westerns, no matter what the setting or the situation. He was “hard-bitten,” as people used to say, and urbane, and his elegant, ironic dialogue readings often had a musical lilt. He was, in all ways, a remarkable star and actor, right up to the end.
1952: William Holden sitting on a hotel bed after a press reception at the Savoy Hotel in London.
Sunset Boulevard (1950).
William Holden | April 17, 1918 — November 12, 1981
He faced life courageously, and he wasn’t fearful of it. — Blake Edwards
He had gotten steadily better, greater, and was more widely accepted. He became more valuable to us every time we saw him, and it was—you know, the cut was in the wrong place. — Robert Mitchum
“By the time Holden died in 1981, personal indifference to acting had yielded to a particular fascination with African wildlife conservation. Unfortunately, what had been youthful carousing had also given way to binge drinking. The fatal fall that ended his life was due to a drunken misstep during a solo bout with the bottle in his bedroom. ‘To be killed by a vodka bottle and a night table,’ Wilder reasoned at the time. ‘What a lousy fade-out to a great guy.’
“Reeking as it does of the cruel ironies of Hollywood Babylon-style excess, as well as the private agony of someone who perhaps never found personal fulfillment in plying his craft to equal the considerable skill with which he practiced it, Holden’s lonesome, wasteful death was an awful tragedy. But decades later, it seems perversely fitting that a man who specialized in uneasy on-screen personae—vanquished by their own weaknesses and pitiless circumstance—was himself brought low by a single wrong move during one of many lost weekends.
“‘They came too late and stayed too long,’ observed the tagline introducing Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch. Having arrived at the dawn of a new fatalism in American movies, and inadvertently bowed out as the ’70s and the age of the anti-hero ended, Holden’s tragic timing was perfect both on-screen and off.” — Bill Bennett
Really, half this business is putting a rectangle around things. Put a square around something someone is looking at and he’ll say in surprise, “Oh, how beautiful.” And I don’t think it’s the photographer who provides the square. I do. - David Lean
Escape from Fort Bravo (1953)
William Holden, 1952.