William Holden was born William Franklin Beedle Jr on April 17, 1918 in O'Fallon, Illinois. He was the son of Mary Blanche Ball, a school teacher and William Franklin Beedle, Sr., an industrial chemist. When William was three years old the family moved to South Pasadena, California.
After graduating from South Pasadena High School, William Holden attended Pasadena Junior College, where he became involved in local radio plays. He was spotted by a talent scout from Paramount Pictures in 1937 while appearing as an old man in a play at the Playbox. This led to his first film role in Prison Farm (1938).
William Holden's first starring role was in Golden Boy (1939), in which he played a violinist turned boxer. It was at Barbara Stanwyck's insistance he got the role. He was so grateful to Barbara Stanwyck for her insistence on casting him that he reportedly sent her flowers every year on the anniversary of the first day of the filming.
Roles followed in films such as Invisible Stripes (1939), Our Town (1940), Arizona (1940), and The Fleet's In (1942).
From 1943 to 1947, William Holden took a break from motion pictures and served as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces where he acted in training films.
In 1948, William Holden returned to motion pictures in The Man from Colorado. Roles followed in films such as Rachel and the Stranger (1948), Apartment for Peggy (1948) and Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949).
In 1950, William Holden played Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard and earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
He next appeared in Union Station (1950), Born Yesterday (1950), Submarine Command (1951) and Boots Malone (1952).
In 1953, William Holden played Sgt. J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17 and won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
The 1950s and 1960s, William Holden was one of the hottest actors in Hollywood. He appeared in films such as Executive Suite (1954), Sabrina (1954), The Country Girl (1954), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), Picnic (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Horse Soldiers (1959), The World of Suzie Wong (1960), Paris, When It Sizzles (1964), The Devil's Brigade (1968) and
The Wild Bunch (1969).
During the 1970s, William Holden's career began to slow down in part to his health. He showed he still had what it takes in The Towering Inferno (1974) and Network (1976). He would earn his third Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor for his performance in Network.
William Holden was married to actress Brenda Marshall from 1941 until their divorce (after many long separations) in 1971. They had two sons, Peter Westfield and Scott Porter. He also adopted his wife's daughter Virginia from her first marriage.
William Holden also had a long relationship with Audrey Hepburn but the two broke up because he could no longer father children.
William Holden spent much of his spare time working for wildlife conservation as a managing partner in an animal preserve in Africa, The Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki, Kenya, (founded 1959).
In 1974, he began a relationship with actress Stefanie Powers which sparked her interest in animal welfare. After his death, Powers set up the William Holden Wildlife Foundation at Holden's Mount Kenya Game Ranch.
William Holden died on November 16, 1981 of injuries sustained from a fall. He was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
William Holden's final film was Blake Edwards S.O.B. (1981).
In 1974, William Holden was a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie Award for The Blue Knight.
William Holden has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures.
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