William Holden (April 17, 1918 - November 16, 1981) was an American actor. Born William Franklin Beedle Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois, he moved with his wealthy family to Pasadena, California when he was three. His father was an industrial chemist and his mother a teacher. In 1937, while still in college, he was signed to a movie contract. His first role was in Prison Farm the following year.
His first starring role was in 1939's Golden Boy, in which he played a boxer who wants to be a violinist. His career took off after he returned from World War II, as he played a series of roles that mixed his good looks and cynical detachment: the down at the heels screenwriter in Sunset Blvd., the prisoner of war entrepreneur in Stalag 17, the dangerous wanderer in Picnic and the ill-fated prisoner in The Bridge on the River Kwai. He also played a number of sunnier parts in light comedy with just as much success, such as the tutor in Born Yesterday and the younger brother in Sabrina.
Holden also starred in more than his share of forgettable movies, forced by the studios that held his contract to keep him working. Those projects and his fondness for drink took their toll. By the early 1960's he appeared to be sleepwalking through many of his roles.
That led in turn to the last phase of his career, beginning with The Wild Bunch and ending with Network, in which Holden played the older version of the character he had perfected in the 1950s, now more jaded and aware of his own mortality. His last movie was S.O.B..
Holden was married to Brenda Marshall from 1941 to 1971, when they divorced. The couple had two sons, and he adopted the daughter of his wife's first marriage. Holden spent much of his time owning and managing an animal preserve in Africa. He died of a fall at his home in Santa Monica, California.
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Academy Awards and Nominations