Today kicks off TCM’s month long celebration of William Holden for his centennial. 34 films are scheduled to air Mondays in April. All of them are worth watching but none of us are super human and we’ll miss a few. What I love about the lineup of films is that it contains an array of his work. You get the well-known hits Sunset Boulevard, The Bridge on the River-Kwai, Network and Stalag 17 but there are some lesser known gems like The Fleet’s In, Dear Ruth, Boots Malone and Miss Grant Takes Richmond. William Holden in the 1940s is an era of his body of work that often gets overlooked. We know Holden famously referred to his characters during this time of his life as ‘Smiling Jims’ basically characters that didn’t encounter any real conflict but I think these films showcase an actor whose promise was on display yet no one could have predicted the roles that were to come.
Here are my picks for the first day of the celebration on Monday, April 2nd.
The primetime lineup starts with his first starring role in Golden Boy. If you’ve never seen this film, now is the time. Holden is so young, he’s almost unrecognizable. Even his voice is different. As Joe Bonaparte, Holden brings a combination of cocky naivete and sensitivity to the role of an amateur boxer who dreams of making it big.
Dear Ruth is a sweet romantic comedy costarring Joan Caulfield. This one you have to try to catch because it’s not on DVD and difficult to find! In it, Holden plays a soldier who sets out to meet his pen pal he’s fallen in love with. Unbeknownst to him, Ruth isn’t who he’s been in contact with. It’s actually her kid sister that’s been writing him letters. Holden made more comedies in the early days of his career and his charm is on full display. Plus, he’s in uniform.
The Fleet’s In is notable as being Betty Hutton’s first film and first pairing with Eddie Bracken. Hutton steals the show but Holden is adorable as ever as a lovelorn sailor who is hoping to romance Dorothy Lamour.
Miss Grant Takes Richmond. Before their famous I Love Lucy episode together, L.A. at Last, Holden and Lucille Ball starred in the comedy Miss Grant Takes Richmond. Ball is hilarious as a ditzy secretary who lands a job at a real estate firm. Holden plays her boss but little does she know that the firm is just a front for a large betting operation. If you thought these two had great rapport from I Love Lucy, this is where that laid the groundwork. These two play off each other so well and make this a enjoyable comedy.
Invisible Stripes. I recently saw this film as part of the Great Holden-Binge-a-thon and it stood out to me. Holden followed Golden Boy with this gritty gangster film opposite George Raft and Humphrey Bogart. As Raft’s younger brother, Holden more than holds his own in Raft’s ‘shadow.’ His character initially comes off as unfavorably but Holden showcases his character’s insecurity as he grapples with trying to be a provider for his fiance without having the means. Raft is an ex-con who is trying to go straight and the two have a great dynamic to pull off a believable bond as brothers.
I hope you get the chance to enjoy all the William Holden April has to offer! I will be livetweeting the films airing in primetime over on Twitter. Keep the conversation going using #Holden100.