WILLIAM HOLDEN STAR OF THE MONTH GUIDE: DAY 2

holden_sunsetTo say this Monday’s lineup of films on TCM for William Holden is perfection is honestly an understatement. It starts off with three essential films in Holden’s body of work. It’s his greatest hits that begins with his breakthrough Sunset Boulevard at 8 PM, followed by his Oscar winning performance in Stalag 17 at 10 PM and then The Bridge on the River Kwai at 12:15 AM, a picture Holden made when he was at the top of his game. But after these three well-known films, you have two lesser known gems that are significant.

Toward the Unknown was the first and only film Holden produced and then there’s Force of Arms, a special film directed by Michael Curtiz. These are two different and special films. In Toward the Unknown, Holden plays a test pilot during the Korean War who was captured, tortured and released from a prison camp. He attempts to clear his name and in this journey, Holden captures his desperation and  stress from it all. The flight sequences are also very impressive for the era. The film isn’t shown as often as it should be and doesn’t have a DVD release, so you’ll definitely want to have it on your radar. It will air at 3:15 AM on Tuesday, April 10.

forceofarms

Force of Arms is the third pairing of Holden and Nancy Olson. Their first collaborationwas in Sunset Boulevard and in this film it’s nice to see them in a straight-up romantic drama. This movie is so beautiful. In this war movie, Holden is a GI on leave in Italy who meets and falls in love with WAC Olson. Their chemistry together had promise in Sunset Boulevard, and in this film it’s showcased. The film is ripe with emotional, romantic dialogue between the two but what could come off as corny in the hands of other actors is just fine for these two. You get invested in their love story because they’re so good at creating a build up and pay off. To balance the romance, this war film also features some very good action sequences that show what life is like in a war torn country. Force of Arms airs at 5:15 AM on Tuesday, April 10.

As a special feature for this week’s Holden100 guide, I spoke with New York Film Festival director and filmmaker Kent Jones about Holden’s legacy. You can listen to the interview below:

For more of Holden100, click here.

Holden_Vertical

signature

William Holden is Young and Willing

youngandwilling_posterAs part of Holden100, bloggers are guest posting on Flickin’ Out to give their take on Holden’s career. Karen Burroughs Hannsberry of Shadows and Satin is this week’s guest blogger and she’s looking at an underseen gem of Holden’s early career, Young and Willing.

If you’re a William Holden fan (and, really, how can you NOT be?), you’ve likely enjoyed this handsome and talented actor in such first-rate features as Sunset Boulevard (1950), Stalag 17 (1953) and Picnic (1955), but you haven’t lived until you’ve seen him in a little-known gem called Young and Willing. Released in 1943, this low-budget comedy focuses on the lives of six struggling, would-be actors and actresses who live in the same New York apartment while hoping for their collective big break on the stage. The screenplay was written by Virginia Van Upp who, just a few years later, would be named Executive Producer of Columbia Pictures, becoming one of only three female producers at the time. But I digress.

Holden is top-billed as Norman Reese, the unspoken leader of the motley crew. The group also consists of Tony Dennison (James Brown) and Marge Benson (Barbara Britton), who are secretly married – an act that’s in direct violation of Norman’s house rule forbidding romantic entanglements; Marge’s sexy and worldly wise sister Kate (Susan Hayward); George Bodell (Eddie Bracken), who’s completely obsessed with Stanislavsky’s Method acting; and Dottie Coburn (Martha O’Driscoll), a lovable airhead with an unutterable crush on Norman and a wealthy dad whose monthly check pays the apartment’s rent.

youngandwilling_haywardholden

Young and Willing is a screwball comedy of the highest order, featuring a variety of wacky characters and zany situations. George, for instance, is usually fully immersed in one character or another, from Othello, to an apple ripening in a “tree,” to Napoleon Bonaparte, complete with an accent that sounds like Charles Boyer. “It certainly never gets tiresome with George around here,” Marge remarks. “You never know when you come home who he’s going to be.”

The basic plot involves the six thespians and their efforts to perform a play for Arthur Kenny (Robert Benchley), a famous Broadway producer (Robert Benchley) who keeps an apartment in the building and occasionally pops in for a visit. Their apartment is located directly above Kenny’s, and they’re known to spontaneously crowd around a hole in the floor to spy on his comings and goings.

holden_youngportraitHolden’s Norman enters about three minutes into the picture. He’s clad in a buttoned-up overcoat with a cravat – very classy, very English-upper-crusty. It’s not until later that we learn he’s only wearing an undershirt beneath the coat because the week’s laundry delivery hasn’t yet arrived. When we meet him, Norman is bemoaning the outcome of his recent audition, for a role that was given to a man who was plainly too old for it.

“You should have seen that ‘juvenile’ that got the part,” he complains. “Ye gods – they had to carry him up on the stage. He must have been 40 years old!”

Norman – who dropped out of dental school to pursue his acting career – is quick-thinking and crafty, with a take-charge personality and an unflappable demeanor. These characteristics come in handy when he’s trying to fend off the apartment’s ditzy landlady, Mrs. Garnett (played to the hilt by Mabel Paige), or keep Dottie’s father from learning about his daughter’s co-ed living situation. When Mrs. Garnett questions Norman about the late rent, he coolly conjures a tall tale, telling her that the money was used to bail Dottie’s father out of jail, where he’d been taken following a car accident he caused while rushing to the bedside of his dying brother. In another scene, when Norman answers the apartment telephone and learns that Dottie’s father is the caller, he adopts an Irish brogue, convincing Mr. Coburn that he’s the building’s janitor. (“It’s after fixin’ a little leak in the radiator that I came up about,” he improvises. “I imagine you’ll like to be speakin’ to your little chickadee. Well, Erin go Bragh, shamrock and shillelaghs.”)

youngandwilling_cast

Throughout the film, Holden displays a natural acting style and a flawless sense of comedic timing, totally holding his own with the showier Eddie Bracken. With his flashing dimples and his hair frequently falling over his forehead, he’s also incredibly easy on the eyes. If you only know Holden from his better-known features, do yourself a favor and check him out in this one. It’s accessible on YouTube – in English and Spanish! – and can also be found for sale on sites like iOffer and Loving the Classics.

You won’t be sorry.

You can follow Karen on Twitter @TheDarkPages. Visit her blog here.

For more of Holden100, click here.

Holden_Vertical

William Holden Star of the Month Guide: Day 1

holden100_horizontalbanner

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.

holden_goldenboyThe 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.

invisiblestripes_holdenraftbogart

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.

signature

A visit to TCM that I’ll always remember

tcm_techwood.jpgIt was a dreary southern afternoon last month when I visited the home of Turner ClassicMovies. Driving along I-85, you can easily spot Turner’s Techwood Campus. There’s a giant building featuring the logos of their anchor networks including the beloved TCM logo in its classic retro font. I had been itching to visit TCM ever since I moved to Atlanta about a year ago. I was thrilled when I received an email from TCM Backlot informing me that I had won a visit to the set last month. I figured it would be the usual visit of chatting with Ben Manckeiwicz and staff who I have come to know after last year’s TCM Classic Film Festival but NOTHING could have prepared me for the surprise that awaited inside the studio.

The day before the set visit, Ben tweeted a photo of him and Stefanie Powers. She was in the studio recording intros and outros for William Holden’s Star of the Month celebration in April. As you know from this blog, this year is Holden’s centennial. My heart sank with disappointment! THE Stefanie Powers was in my town virtually a mile away from where I was at the time I saw Ben’s tweet. I was working and my office is very close to TCM. I was bummed but I realized if I had met Stefanie Powers, I probably would have been a blubbering mess and I doubt I would have kept it together because of how much I adore Mr. Holden. I made peace with the situation and remembered that the Backlot website will probably have extended footage of their conversation when April rolls around anyway.

When I arrived at the visitor’s lobby, I met with my fellow Backlot members, many of which were from out of town. I didn’t realize this. That’s the power of TCM. It is so beloved that fans are willing to fly out for a short time just to visit the studio for such a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Everyone was so lovely and excited for what the day would bring. When Yacov from Backlot led us down to the studio, I asked him if he had met Stefanie Powers the day before and he told me that she was still there and we would be meeting her.

RECORD SCRATCH

WHOA.

I could not believe it! All of a sudden I got extremely jittery and my heart started beating rapidly. As a journalist, I’ve met many famous people from politicians to actors including some of my favorites and icons of my childhood. I’m usually pretty relaxed about this because over the years it’s become a part of my job. It’s a cool perk but it’s my job. THIS WAS DIFFERENT. First of all, I was in a setting where I could be a fan and that was a nice adjustment. Second, Holden has never been alive in my lifetime. He’s all but a memory and meeting people who actually knew him is extremely rare because they’re aging or have already passed.

When we arrived at the studio, she and Ben were still wrapping up the taping so we stood by waiting. In my mind, I kept reminding myself to stay calm and relaxed but I was freaking out. William Holden means a lot to me in a way that is much different from being “just a fan” but not in a way that’s obsessive. His story has always touched me because he suffered from such a terrible disease most of his life but was able to be a productive member of society despite all of that. Even though as a man, he was an enigma, he changed the way we think of actors and masculinity and he also was an influential force in wildlife conservation. Because of his programs, communities have been enriched and animals have been saved.

I’ve met Ben before at the TCM Classic Film Festival. At my last job, I did the digital campaign for a show that was to include him but due to scheduling conflicts it didn’t work out. Ben is a very nice and professional gentleman. When we went inside the studio, he remembered me and we chatted for a bit…until I saw Stefanie Powers. I don’t know what came over me but when she showed up behind him I just blurted out “Hi Stefanie” as if I knew her. Ben introduced her to all of us and I told her that William Holden is my favorite actor and tried very hard to not let nerves get the best of me. This exact moment was captured on camera and as you can see in this photo, I did a terrible job:

26408_004_0015.JPG

Stefanie was as nice and gracious as I had hoped. She laughed and said “You have great taste,” in such a beautiful and classy way. You know how some people just radiate with charm and beauty? She has that kind of presence. She followed that up with, let’s talk at lunch. I thought “Oh, how nice that she’s being so nice but we’ll probably not see her later on during this trip.” Oh, how naive and wrong I was!

At lunch, the Backlot members and I sat with Yacov and Ben met us later. Because he had just wrapped up shooting the William Holden segments, I asked him about his research and what stood out to him during his binge watch. TCM will air 34 William Holden films during the month of April. Ben said he watched all the films that would be airing on primetime except for Network and The Moon is Blue. He chose not to watch Network because he has seen it countless times but he could not get a copy of The Moon is Blue in time. Of his rewatch, he walked away with a deeper appreciation for Sunset Boulevard commenting on how good the script is and he added that he was glad the film version of Our Town changed the ending so it wasn’t as sad as the play. What stood out to him as he watch these films was how much Holden’s face had changed due to his alcoholism point out that Holden was in his 50s when he made Network but looks like he’s 100. He said that while he was watching these films, sometimes his wife would walk into the room and not even realize it was a William Holden movie because she couldn’t recognize him. Ben added that even in those parts, Holden was as charming as ever.

As Ben went to throw away his lunch, I walked up to him and asked him if he could introduce me to Stefanie as I am such a big fan of William Holden and he said, “Of course” and asked if I wanted a picture and said he’s make it happen. He took my phone and told me to sit next to her and when I did he called out her name and introduced us. It was at this moment that something happen that I was not prepared for. For some reason my eyes welled up. I wasn’t flat out crying but my emotions did take hold of me as she said hello gave me a hug and posed for our picture. After it was taken, I used the moment to tell her just how much he means to me explaining just how moved I am by his story. She was so sweet and kind. I could tell she was visibly touched by this. I went on to comment about how much I loved her book and how I thought it painted a beautiful picture of their relationship despite its ending and also went told her about how her struggle in Hollywood and her relationship with her mother reminded me of my own also touched me. She asked me about my mom and other questions. I was so moved by this whole exchange. Not only did I get to tell her these deep thoughts and feelings, she took an interest in me. And that meant a great deal. When I asked her what favorite movie of Bill’s is her favorite, without a beat she said Picnic. Someone from TCM came up behind me and said they were getting ready to take the Backlot tour group back, Stefanie told him she’d take me down so she took me and her escort back to the studio and chatted with us on the way back. It was the most surreal thing. I honestly can’t believe it happened.

tcmvisit_stefaniepowers.jpg

Back at the studio, the Backlot producer asked me to film a segment with Ben to be used on social media. I tried to get back on track and be composed but I was a mess. When I sat with Ben as the crew was getting the set and lighting ready, I was visibly frazzled still on the high of speaking with Stefanie that I kept apologizing. It was the most bizarre thing. Ben told me to relax and was so gracious. He is a really nice man and understands what it means to be a TCM fan. He understands that this network means so much to many people because of the connection we have to these movies. It was hard for audiences to accept Ben when he first started as the second host to Robert Osborne but I hope that audiences appreciate him. Watching him film his intros also gave me a deeper appreciation for how hard it is. As an on-camera reporter, I can tell you first hand how difficult it is to be in front of a camera doing a live report but it’s much different to narrate and host. It’s a skill that you can learn but the best ones are the ones who make it look easy and have the “it” factor. Ben has it, and his predecessor Robert excelled in it. What struck me when watching the intros being filmed is the crew. Everyone from the women who brings water to the dolly camera operator is the utmost professional yet they still have fun. Many of them have worked there since the network started which is a testament to the type of community TCM has cultivated. It’s nice to see that a network of such talented people not only feels like a family but is one.

I’d like to thank Ben, Yacov, Turner Classic Movies and the TCM Backlot for such a delightful afternoon that I will never forget. You truly made another dream come true in my life and I’m so grateful.

26408_004_0159.JPG

 

signature

THE GREAT HOLDEN BINGE-A-THON: Invisible Stripes

Invisible Stripes is William Holden’s second credited performance. In it, he stars opposite legendary tough guy George Raft and Humphrey Bogart in one of his early roles. At this point, Raft was one of the biggest stars of the era known for playing gangster. He was in the original Scarface. To see him opposite a young Bogart (in a role of a gangster) feels like a passing of the torch. Holden, still very much fresh-faced, portrays his younger brother.

invisiblestripes_title

The film is the story of Cliff Taylor, an ex-con who recently got out of the infamous Sing Sing prison and is trying to go straight. This proves to not be such an easy journey and Invisible Stripes leans into the melodrama of it all. Raft has a hard time keeping a steady job because of his past and his family doesn’t have much means. As the young brother, Tim, Holden at first comes off like a jerk to his longtime girlfriend whom he wants to marry but we are able to understand his character as the film unfolds. Tim is insecure and worried about being a provider. He can not afford to marry his girlfriend and is enticed by the “getting rich quick” life of crime. Afraid that his brother might go down that same road, Cliff decides to help him find the money to settle down but this has consequences down the line.

At 22, Holden is still very young trying to figure out what kind of performer he wanted to become. The scenes with him and Raft are excellent. While they may not look like brothers at first glance, the two are able to create a believable bond. In an introduction by TCM’s Robert Osborne, Osborne said director Lloyd Bacon was tough on Holden but Raft came to Holden’s defense telling the director to “lay off the kid.” Another note about the production is in the scene where Holden and Raft get into a fist fight, Holden accidentally hit Raft in the eye and the injury opened a gash.

Invisible Stripes is a surprisingly gritty film. The climactic set piece features a well choreographed shootout and ensuing chase. Although it’s not a particularly great film, it is a solid one with a message that’s still relevant.

signature

Spend Valentine’s Day with a ‘Picnic’

In my ongoing series celebrating William Holden, Trudy Ring guestblogs with a post about her favorite romantic Holden movie, Picnic.

Many thanks to Judy for contributing her thoughts!

If you want a romantic William Holden movie to watch for Valentine’s Day or any day, you can’t go wrong with Picnic.

Yes, I know many people adore Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, but as far as I’m concerned, nothing beats the chemistry between Holden and Kim Novak in this 1955 release. Plus it has a compelling plot, a well-drawn setting, great supporting characters, wonderful acting all around, and oh, that music and cinematography.
For those who haven’t seen the film or just need a refresher, a brief synopsis: It’s Labor Day in the 1950s in a small Kansas town. Hal Carter, who has drifted around the country since flunking out of college, rides into town on a freight train he’s hopped. He’s hoping to meet up with his old college roommate, Alan Benson, who’s from one of the richest families in the community – Alan’s father is an “elevator man,” owner of several grain elevators, an important business in the agriculture-heavy area. Hal initially just wants a job from Alan. But he soon decides he also wants Alan’s girlfriend, the ravishing Madge Owens, who lives on the wrong side of the tracks with her single mother, Flo; brainy younger sister, Millie; and Rosemary Sydney, the “old maid schoolteacher” who rents a room in the family’s home. Over the course of the day, which includes the annual Labor Day picnic, complications ensue, to say the least.

The funny thing is, William Inge, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning play on which the film is based, didn’t really think of it as tomantic. According to Joshua Logan, who directed the play in its Broadway debut as well as the film, audiences weren’t supposed to look on Hal, a rather uncouth braggart, as a hero, or think it would be a good idea for Madge to end up with him (and another comment for those who haven’t seen the movie: I’m not going to reveal if she does or not). Inge even rewrote the play late in his career as Summer Brave, which, without giving spoilers, I can say is considerably more downbeat. Inge also reportedly didn’t care for what Logan and screenwriter Daniel Taradash did in adapting Picnic into a movie. I think Inge is a great playwright (and screenwriter, having written Splendor in the Grass directly for film) and deserves to be rated up there with his mid-century peers Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, but I have to say I much prefer Picnic, the film, which I’ve viewed dozens of times since I was about 10 years old (and a lot of it went over my head) to Picnic, the play.

Logan and Taradash opened up the action; the play is pretty much confined to the Owens home, and we don’t even see the picnic. OK, the picnic is a bit over the top; as the New Yorker critic wrote, “Mr. Logan’s notion of an outing in the corn country includes a choir of at least 100 voices, and a sound track let loose in the most formidable music I’ve heard in my time at the movies.” But the opening-up also allows for some glorious camera work by the master cinematographer James Wong Howe; several shots are downright breathtaking. And then, of course, there’s the acting.

Holden is not only at the peak of his sex appeal as Hal; he also makes us see the insecurity underlying the character’s braggadocio. We sympathize with him, as we do with Kim Novak’s Madge, who’s tired of only being told she’s pretty. And I have to disagree with someone else I admire; the late, great reviewer Roger Ebert thought Madge’s protestations rang hollow in view of the intense erotic chemistry between Novak and Holden, but I think they convince us that the characters’ attraction is not simply physical. I’ve also been told by an Inge scholar that the playwright thought Holden was too old to play Hal – he was 37 at the time, 15 years older than Novak. But with his looks, his physique, and his talent, he passes for a much younger man, and we can certainly see how he Madge would be drawn to him. Their dance to George Duning’s soaring Picnic theme, laid over the jazz standard “Moonglow,” is one of the steamiest moments ever put on screen. And Novak, who in her prime was praised more for her beauty than her acting ability, gives an excellent performance as well, conveying the vulnerability beneath the gorgeous exterior.

 

 

The supporting players are likewise fine. Cliff Robertson, in his film debut, is a believable spoiled rich boy as Alan (and, by the way, he was 10 years older than Novak). I had the pleasure of meeting Robertson at a screening of some of his early TV dramas back in 2006, and he was one of the nicest celebrities I’ve ever encountered – he stayed around for two extra hours to answer fans’ questions. I of course had to ask him about Picnic, and he said he came to the production as a snooty stage actor, looking down on movies, but he soon developed a respect for film acting. He also said he and Bill Holden became lifelong friends. Another standout is Susan Strasberg as Millie, who has confidence in her intellect but feels unattractive compared to Madge, although Strasberg was actually very pretty. At one point Millie says that she’s never going to fall in love, but after college she’s going to go to New York and “write novels that’ll shock people right out of their senses.” I like to think of her doing that in a Greenwich Village apartment, but hope she found love as well.

Rosalind Russell, playing the “old maid schoolteacher” Rosemary – yes, the film is very much of its time, when being unmarried after a certain age was a fate worse than death – hams it up a bit, but I can’t fail to love Roz Russell. Arthur O’Connell exudes likability as her easygoing beau, Howard Bevans, and he got a well-deserved Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor, ultimately losing to the Jack Lemmon, who gave a terrific performance as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts. Betty Field does a good job as Flo, and Verna Felton is a highlight as the Owenses’ sweet next-door neighbor, Helen Potts.

Picnic was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Logan for Best Director; Marty and its director, Delbert Mann, prevailed in those categories. It did win for Best Art Direction and Set Decoration in a color film (there were then separate categories for color and black-and-white), with William Flannery, Jo Mielziner, and Robert Priestley all receiving statuettes. That award was certainly merited, as the movie, shot partly on location in Kansas, has an authentic Midwestern small-town atmosphere. Charles Nelson and William A. Lyon won the Oscar for Best Film Editing.

James Wong Howe was robbed, with not even a nomination for his cinematography; the film’s final shot alone should have assured him of one. Those of you who’ve seen Picnic will know what I’m talking about, and those of you who haven’t, well, you can look forward to it. Duning’s music complements Howe’s camera work perfectly in that scene and enhances the entire movie; he got an Oscar nomination but lost to the redoubtable Alfred Newman for that year’s other romantic Bill Holden picture, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.

And yes, Holden deserved a nomination, but at least he’d won two years earlier for Stalag 17. Picnic added to his string of memorable films – Sunset Boulevard, Born Yesterday, The Bridge on the River Kwai, up through Network and his final movie, S.O.B., in which he acts rings around most of his castmates. With ample talent in addition to his good looks and charisma, he’s worth watching even in his lesser films, but Picnic is certainly one of his best as well as perhaps his most romantic. Queue it up whenever you’re in the mood for love.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Picnic will air on Sunday, February 25 at 6 p.m. on TCM as part of their 31 Days of Oscar celebration. The film was nominated for six Oscars and won two.

The Great Holden Binge-a-Thon: Golden Boy

As part of my ongoing #Holden100 project this year I decided to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while and that’s watch all of William Holden’s films in chronological order. I’ve seen about 80-percent of his filmography already but I’m excited to watch him grow as a performer by seeing the films in order of their release.

Tonight, I started with 1939’s Golden Boy directed by Rouben Mamoulian.

goldenboy_title

Famously, William Holden was almost removed from the film until Barbara Stanwyck stepped in and pleaded with producers to keep him on. Personally, I think he gives a fine debut performance. As Joe Bonaparte, Holden brings a sensitivity to the youthful character who wants to appear tough but isn’t quite sure if boxing is for him. It’s a perfect combination that makes you understand and root for his character. At just 21, he is almost unrecognizable in this role and even his voice is hard to recognize. What you see in Golden Boy is the promise of what would unfold in his career. Holden was unafraid to play multidimensional men who challenged the way we look at masculinity. At the center of the film is Joe’s conflict with wanting fame as a prize fighter or fulfilling his father’s wishes by becoming a professional violinist. You see this conflict grow and the result is a heartbreaking climax where he is forced to choose what his real passion is.

One of the things I love most about Golden Boy is Holden’s relationship with his father played by Lee J. Cobb. Cobb was just 6 years older than Holden in this part! Holden and Cobb bring to the screen a beautiful father-son dynamic and in the scenes where Cobb isn’t present and Holden’s character finds success in the ring, his presence is felt. I thought these two did a good job at conveying a deep, loving father-son dynamic that you don’t often seen on film. I also really loved the scenes with his sister and brother-in-law. Small gestures really added to Joe’s character and his struggle.

The main standout of the film is Barbara Stanwyck. Once again, she dominates her scenes as the tough Lorna who has a tender side. She is street smart, strong and as much of a fighter as Joe. Her scenes with Holden bring out the best in him and you can see her support of him that was behind the scenes. One of my favorite scenes is when she says “See you in 1960, maybe you’ll be somebody by then!” it’s quite prophetic when you consider his career. When a character asks Stanwyck’s boyfriend, “This your girl?,” she responds with the no-nonsense rigor as best as Stanwyck could with “I’m my mother’s girl,” it’s such a great moment.

The photography in this film is also something I was taken with. There’s a great shot of Joe playing the violin and it’s framed beautifully showing Stanwyck and his family reacting. There’s also a great montage of Joe’s success that conveys how quickly this journey is with shots of him in the ring, fans cheering and newspaper headlines that is one of the better efforts of this tried and true technique.

The boxing scenes are surprisingly gritty. The main fight is staged very well interspersing cutaway shots of the cheering fans. Joe’s character fights a character from Harlem in 1939 and you see a segregated Madison Square Garden in this film. Even if Holden, Cobb and the others who portrayed his family aren’t real Italians, Golden Boy tried to show a more realistic New York City than we normally see in 1930s Hollywood.

Golden Boy is an underrated gem and I am forever grateful for Stanwyck’s fight to keep Holden on board. Here’s the famous moment at the Oscars when Holden went off script and thanked a surprised Stanwyck before presenting the award for Best Sound and Visual Effects.

signature

 

31 Days of Oscar: William Holden’s performance in Stalag 17

holden_oscar.gifTCM’s 31 Days of Oscar celebration kicked off last week and on the first night they aired Love is a Many Splendored Thing as part of their salute to the Best Original Song category. I was so thrilled to see a William Holden film being celebrated and then I looked at the guide and hours later another film was shown, the 1940 film adaptation of Our Town. This is an early Holden performance I adore. He is so young and innocent in the role of George. It’s a very sweet movie.
Throughout the 31 days of Oscar programming are a number of William Holden films and I’ll be livetweeting each of them so if you have Twitter, join the conversation with the hashtag #Holden100.
Here’s the schedule for the remaining Holden films that will be shown:
Born Yesterday on February 21
Network on February 24
Picnic on February 25
The Bridge on the River Kwai on February 28
Now, to look back at Holden’s Oscar-winning performance as Sgt. J. J. Sefton, Amy from Amy’s Rib: A Life of Film has written a wonderful guest blog post about his role. It’s hard to believe Holden won just one Oscar but what a performance he gave!
STALAG 17 (1953)
William Holden is a true Hollywood Legend.  He had a career that spanned over 40 stalag17_holdenyears.  His movies jumped across the different genres.  On the screen he conveyed ruggedness, handsomeness, toughness, and cynicism.  His screen presence couldn’t be denied.  He worked with some of the best actors of the Golden Age of Cinema (Gloria Swanson, Judy Holliday,  Barbara Stanwyck, Alec Guinness, and Humphrey Bogart) and he held his own. Many of his movies are considered true classics- Sunset Blvd, The Bridge On the River Kwai, Network, and Stalag 17 to name a small few. This April will mark his centennial birthday.  As part of a birthday celebration, I am going to discuss one of his most iconic movies, the previously mentioned Stalag 17.
Stalag 17 (1953)  is the movie that won William Holden the Academy Award for Best Actor.  Set in a German Prisoner of War Camp, the movie is filled with both intrigue and humor.  Holden plays POW SGT J.J. Sefton, a cynic.  He’s a guy who has been a prisoner for some time and has learned how to navigate the ropes of Camp Life.  He’s decided the best bet for him is to sit tight and make himself as comfortable as possible. No escape attempts for Sefton; the odds are too much of a long shot.  In order to make himself comfortable, Sefton has to trade and do business with the German Guards, with the enemy.  Of course, this does not make him popular with his fellow bunkhouse mates.
The Intrigue in the movie comes by the German Guards  always being one step ahead of the Prisoners. The Guards seem to find out their plans and know of hidden contraband and tunnels.  How are the Guards always figuring things out? Is there a Spy among the group? Is an American actually ratting out fellow Americans? If so, who is this person?  Given Sefton’s ability to trade with the Guards and gain privileges and benefits, he naturally becomes Suspect #1.  Is Sefton the traitor?  Of course he isn’t, but I won’t tell you who is the actual Spy.  Watch the movie!
The humor mainly comes from two of the Prisoners named Animal and Shapiro.  Animal is obsessed with Betty Grable, and his tears and mooning over Grable never fails to bring the laughs.  Be on the look-out for a funny scene between Shapiro and Animal during the Camp’s Christmas celebration.
stalag_cast
Although the movie has a lot of humor, it also doesn’t ignore the horrors of war.  It shows the horror in the form of a prisoner named Joey. He is a man shell-shocked who only finds comfort from playing an Ocarina.  The care and compassion that Joey receives from his bunk mates is very sweet to watch.
Stalag 17 was directed by the masterful Billy Wilder.  Along with Holden, it also features Otto Preminger, Don Taylor, and a young Peter Graves.   A great director, great cast, and a great story makes for one great movie watch.  In celebration of what would have been William Holden’s 100th birthday, pop in Stalag 17 and have a cigar on Sefton.
Many thanks to Amy for writing the above tribute. If you’d like to contribute to this year-long celebration of #Holden100, drop me a comment below or send me an email. The more, the merrier!

#Holden100: A year long celebration of William Holden

Holden_Horizontal

This April marks William Holden’s centenary and Flickin’ Out is commemorating the occasion in a big way! On Twitter, I’ve been chronicling his filmography with behind-the-scenes facts about the making of his films and their impact on his career.

I’d love for you to be a part of the celebration! Use the hashtag #Holden100 to be a part of the conversation on Twitter or Instagram. I will also have guest columns from bloggers about his work all throughout the year. I am still taking submissions so if you’d like to be a part of this, email me at flickinout@gmail.com.

Throughout the celebration, I’ll be hosting livetweets of his films as well. I kicked it off with Born Yesterday on January 1st and on January 16, it was Father is a Bachelor. The next livetweet will be January 27th for The Wild Bunch, the groundbreaking western that revitalized Holden’s career. That airs on TCM at 11:45 PM ET.

To kick things off here on the blog, let’s revisit the podcast episode of Flickin’ Out featuring Wrong Reel and Cinema Crossroads’ Julia Ricci discussing Holden’s work:

I look forward to discussing William Holden all year long and hope you join the conversation about one of cinema’s great leading men!

 

 

 

Giving Tuesday with classic films

Happy Giving Tuesday, everyone!

I love this day and this movement! It’s what the holiday season is all about! You may not know this but I’m a long distance runner and I’m currently training for my 10th half marathon in February. This year, I’m running on behalf of the Children’s Miracle Network. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals raises funds and awareness for 170 children’s hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, which in turn, use the money where it’s needed most. I’m so honored to be representing this organization.

CMN_raffle

I’m hosting a raffle this week that features donations given to me by some wonderful people in the classic movie community. Any Ladles Sweet, a monthly film podcast dedicated to classic era Hollywood women, donated the Squad Goals tote bag featuring the cast of The Women, Kate Gabrielle donated an original art print of Bette Davis in All About Eve and a set of character actor buttons, author Michael Troyan donated a signed copy of his book, 20th Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, and the gift set also features the TCM book Kirk and Anne: Letters of love, laughter, and a lifetime in Hollywood and A Touch of Grace: How to be a Princess, the Grace Kelly way. The raffle will take place until Friday at 6 PM ET. Tickets are just a donation of $5 which can be made directly onto my fundraising page here.

I hope you will join me in supporting this great cause!

signature