Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

A Discussion of William Holden

Recommended Posts

>Joe didn't need that nice of a car.


I think he did.


He couldn't go riding up to the front gate of a movie studio in a taxi, then try to get in to see a top executive.


And he couldn't go driving up in a beat-up 15 year old car.


He had to act successful. He had to look successful. And his car had to look successful.... something like a 1929 Isotta Fraschini with real leopard skin upholstery and a chauffeur who looked like Max Von Mayerling.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought that Gillis was misleading that other girl, I think her name was Betty. I wondered why Betty didn't give him an ultimatum of either staying with old, rich dame, or going out with her. I think Joe Gillis was so confused and entrapped in a situation he didn't think he'd get into, and had no idea how to get out of. I think he felt sorry for Norma and knew she wasn't wrapped too tight and didn't want to break off with her. In his heart, he felt bad and knew he had to somehow break away from her. He was worried about her and her well-being. I don't think he was a bad guy. This washed up old lady was controlling Joe Gillis too much and was trying to buy the affection of a young guy. She was mostly at fault in the situation. I loved the movie Sunset Boulevard. This is really a great discussion of this film. Personally, I don't blame any woman for wanting even 5 minutes with a guy as handsome and sexy as William Holden.

Link to post
Share on other sites



I think Betty did try to get Joe to leave that house, but then he told her he didn't want to walk out on all his many suits and ties and fancy shirts and cufflinks. Of course he knew he couldn't afford to leave the financial support of Norma.


At the end of the film, Joe was still broke because Norma had kept him that way. She knew that was the only way to keep him tied to her and that house.


Joe was trying to co-author a script with Betty, hoping to sell it and make enough money so he could leave Norma?s house and become an independent and successful screenwriter.


But Norma realized he was going out every night to meet with some dame, so she tracked down Betty somehow (I can't remember how) and called her and told her where Joe was living. Betty then went out to see Joe, and then she realized he was living with the financial aid of Norma. She asked him to leave, but he refused to go.


That was the last straw for Joe. He knew then that he was all washed up in Hollywood. He just didn't have what it takes to be a successful screenwriter there, so he decided not to go off with Betty (he couldn't support her and he didn't want to take her from her boyfriend), so when Betty left the house that night, that was the end of Joe's Hollywood career, and that also turned out to be the end of Joe. I think he was leaving the house to head for the nearest bus station to get a ticket back home to some small-town in the Midwest, when Norma stopped him.

Link to post
Share on other sites



I think that Gillis' main character flaw was that he accepted things from

Norma that couldn't be turned into cold hard cash very easily-shirts,

suits, etc. The fancy cigarette case was an exception. He should have

gotten cash on the barrelhead. Then, when he decided to leave her, he

would have had a nice little grubstake. Well, nobody's perfect. He just

happened to wind up in a situation he entered by chance and had trouble

leaving, due in part to simple inertia. Too bad he didn't live in the present

day of never ending sequels. After polishing off Salome, he could have

gone on to Salome, Salome III, etc., while writing his scripts of social

significance and concern for the downtrodden on the side.



Link to post
Share on other sites

>Well, nobody's perfect. He just happened to wind up in a situation he entered by chance and had trouble leaving, due in part to simple inertia.


I think Joe was like a lot of us guys. How many big jobs have we tried to get, but we failed? How many of us tried to become a big success in New York, or Chicago, or Los Angeles, but failed and finally went back home in the Midwest, or the South, or whereever we came from?


Guys do this all the time. When I worked out in L.A., I met several middle-aged actors who had had bit parts in old TV shows back in the 1950s, but they were gradually written out of the scripts and they had not had a good TV job in the past 25 years, but they were still trying to get back into TV.


The Hollywood area is filled with guys like Joe.... actors, screen writers, "producers", and lots of other kinds of guys. But so is New York, filled with young guys trying to make it big in business, or the stock market, or something else. The same with any big city.


How many times have we stayed over night in someone's house or apartment and we didn't want our friends to find out about it?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, that's a common story. People who had dreams of making it big in

NYC or LA, worked at it for a while, and found that they likely weren't going

to go all the way to the top or even close to it. Some probably kept at it

long after they should have given up, and others gave up and went into

something more practical. Gillis was sort of lucky, he fell into something

close to a fairytale at the start, though with a crazy person, and things

went pretty much downhill from there. Still, that's something that doesn't

happen to your average Joe.


I don't recall the details of Gillis' screenwriting career. It semed as though he

might eventually hang on as a second-rate writer who might make a some-

what decent living, or he might have been shortly heading back to be a reporter

for the Backwoods Bugle and Advertiser. But he found himself in a situation

that he could take advantage of, at least temporarily, and many people likely

would have done the same thing as he did.

Link to post
Share on other sites

wow i just discovered these forums they're awesome!


as far as sunset boulevard, and fiction in general, i think a big part of the fascination is comparing the characters' characters to people from your real life, especially yourself. picturing how you'd feel in that situation, for example, or what you'd do.


what do you think of douglas' portrayal of jonathon shields in the bad and the beautiful, compared with holden's in sunset boulevard? or the characters themselves...they were vastly different...on the outside...maybe i'm straying off topic.


oh brb the chariot race is on B-)

Link to post
Share on other sites


Another great Holden performance can be found in Carol Reed's THE KEY (1958), another excellent film missing from the Holden tribute. However, TCM does show THE KEY from time to time. It's worth seeking out. Many other good films will be on display, of course.






Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, tell ya what. So it won't seem too much of hijacking of this thread, I'll frame my reply to you using Joe Gillis as the imaginary protagonist here.


Ya see, after G.I. Joe(Gillis)returned from the battlefields of WWII, the metropolitan area of Los Angeles grew like wildfire and with new housing developments springing up ever further from any of the rail transit system lines which the Pacific Electric Company could provide. And thus, returning G.I.Joe found that purchasing an automobile would be the most convenient manner in which to get to his new place of employment...most likely a defense plant OR if he had any talent, possibly as a screenwriter at one of the Hollywood film studios (clever, aren't I?! ;) )


And so by the early 1950's, the Pacific Electric Company(aka "The Red Cars") found they had an ever decreasing ridership and began losing money, which made their acquisition by General Motors(remember: "What's good for General Motors is good for America") seem like a no-brainer. And so, yes, GM felt it could make even MORE money by selling off the assets of the P.E. Co. and replacing all those Red Cars with nice diesel fume-spewing and road congesting buses.


(...and because the voters of Los Angeles county voted down a 1966 bond measure to create a whole new and modern rail system, which would delay the construction of a new and modern rail system for almost two decades before another bond measure for mass transit would finally meet with voter approval and now known as the "Metro Line", because it would finally become apparent to these LA area voters that any large city worth its salt SHOULD have a mass transit system in place, and because said voters probably finally got tired of sitting still for hours on the L.A. Freeway system while attempting to get to their destinations)

Link to post
Share on other sites

When my wife and I still lived and worked there, as soon as each new segment of the Metro Line would open, we'd hop on the terminus of the "Green Line", which was a few miles from our home in the South Bay(beach) area of L.A County(and is still to this day known as "The rail line that goes nowhere", because it STILL doesn't go all the way into LAX as it was originally planned to do so), and we'd ride that new section of the Metro Line just for kicks. And, I remember being very impressed how they "themed" the Hollywood Red Line subway stations of which you speak, though as you said, the cars on that line weren't very crowded at all...THOUGH this has now probably been almost 20 years ago now, and so maybe they're being used much more by the public.


What I always thought was 'real justice' however, is that for years "The Westside" fought tooth and nail to keep the Metro Line from their area("It would bring all that riff-raff east of us here to our little neighborhoods" was their battle cry...you know, the whole "Nimby" mentality) but NOW the Westside has THE worse traffic in all of L.A.!


(...serves 'em right!!!)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Back to Holden. I would love to see some of his films. I have DVDs of Bridge on River Kwai, Stalag 17, Golden Boy and Sunset Boulevard. I hear Bridges of Toko-Ri is pretty good - but I can't find it on DVD. I think I saw Picnic before on TCM. Any other good films you can recommend?


By the way, I think Holden is about the best looking guy - at least one of the best looking to ever grace the silver screen. I liked his handsome face, physique and voice.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A good William Holden film that hasn't been discussed much yet (on this thread) is *Picnic.* (1955)


I always find this movie really enjoyable; I think it's because it's about breaking away, freeing yourself from the image and expectations others have of you. This applies not only to Kim Novak's character, but to Holden's.

Many have noted that Holden is really too old for the part of Hal Carter. I figure Hal's supposed to be about 28, but Holden was in fact around 37 when he made this.

(Actually, when figuring out the age of an actor in a film, I subtract a year from the film's release date, since often the movie was made a year before its official release. Although a year or so doens't make much difference.)


It's not too hard to overlook the age thing, though, since Holden is still very attractive, not only physically but in the way he portrays Hal's personality. You can understand why Madge is drawn to him.



One of my favourite scenes in *Picnic* is the "Moonglow" dance between Hal and Madge. It perfectly demonstates how these two lonely people are completely in sync with each other. The dance they perform so gracefully and intuitively together is a metaphor for the undeniable connection they share.

I love this, because I feel very strongly that dance is a metaphor for love-making (I don't mean necessarily in the hard core physical sense, but all of it, the attraction, the mystery, the learning about each other...).



Here's a video of that sweet, delicate dance:



Link to post
Share on other sites

As an aside, did you ever notice how many of Holden's films invovle blowing up a bridge?

Bridges at Toko Ri

Bridge on the River Kwai

The Horse Soldiers

Alverez Kelly

The Wild Bunch


Speaking of "The Wild Bunch", Holden has two memorable scenes that don't have any dialogue.

The first is when his stirrup breaks and he reinjures his old leg wound. The Gorch brothers mock his competency and hurt his pride. Holden (as Pike Bishop) winces and mounts his horse, swings away from the bunch and rides off alone, his back hunched in pain and embarrassment. That is one lonely back!


The second occurs after Pike has to abandon another one of the gang to the Mexican general. He and the remaining members have gone to a **** house to drink and forget their actions. Pike sits in a room with a young prostitute and her baby. He looks at them and hefts an empty tequila bottle thinking about lost opportunities and all the times he betrayed his own personal code of honor. He throws the bottle aside, walks into the next room and announces "Let's go", which leads to the gang's Homeric march to their own bloody extinction. Whew. That scene gets me every time.


I think Holden was about 50 years of age when he made this and he had lived hard. His weathered and lined looks are nothing like his Golden Boy image. It's a great performance.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a few good Holden flicks that haven't been mentioned yet:


If you like war movies, there's


Submarine Command (1951)

The Devil's Brigade (1968)


I don't think anyone's mentioned Network (1976) - he receiced a best actor nomination and other lesser awards for this performance - and the movie is very important, imo, a good look at how the news is, was, or could be "manipulated", and how conglomerations can ruin a good company...or at least a good newsman.


He's in The Wild Bunch (1969), which won a lot of critical acclaim but i have yet to see it.

There's also Sabrina (1954) starring Bogie and Audrey Hepburn with Bill in a good supporting role, the critically acclaimed Executive Suite (1954) (not sure if someone mentioned it or not), The World of Suzie Wong (1960)...I really can't recall seeing a Holden film that wasn't worth watching.


Aug 21st is his tcm day this month, looks like you have some of the flicks they're showing but there's a couple good ones you didn't mention you'd seen.


Edited by: dedek on Aug 8, 2013 12:02 PM

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, darkblue, Warren Oates is one of America's greatest actors. Back in the '60s if I learned that he was even the third bad guy on a horse in a movie, I'd go see it. I loved him on the Stoney Burke TV show and one of his Combat episodes performances should have been nominated for an award.

Couldn't believe it when he was noticed by the mainstream and was given his own starring role in Chandler.

The only current actor who reminds me of Warren is Walton Googins.

Glad to find a kindred spirit.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

The 1st movie featuring Bill Holden, that I remember watching, was NETWORK. I was about 10 or 11 and it was on CBS ( before cable ). Of course, Peter Finch was the star of that, but Mr. Holdens' performance stuck with me...I think it was the voice.


Through the years, I saw more films he was in such as, Sunset Blvd., The Wild Bunch, The World of Susie Wong, S.O.B., The Earthling, and worst of all, Damien: Omen II. And then I saw the film which made me a true Holden fan: The Moon is Blue. That performance made me wanna be this guys buddy...he was so slick and so smooth, and he knew how to wear a suit. Again...that voice.


Earlier this year I discovered a movie I had always heard of but had never seen: Born Yesterday. Of course, this movie belongs to Judy Holliday, but once again Mr. Holden is fantastic. Since seeing this movie, I have steadily added his films to my collection. In fact, I just saw " Breezy " over the weekend. Not one of his great films, but he still made the best of his part.


I saw his appearance on Carson the other day. He looked tired. I wish someone could have helped him to put the bottle down. He is my favorite actor of all time. They truly don't make 'em like him anymore. And the great thing for me is, I still have many Bill Holden films to see, many of which have been mentioned here.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That is really well said Miss W. as I always refer to Picnic as a great film despite being flawed. I have always loved it for its specific scenes (like Moonglow) and acting, including William Holden, Kim Novak and Roz Russell (where there was some recent lively discussion of Roz in Gypsy) and yet no one seems to discuss her Rosemary, which was brilliant. No one could write about loneliness like Inge, and I think Logan got it right in translating it for the screen.


Edited by: StBartsActor on Aug 28, 2013 10:00 PM

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2022 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
  • Create New...