Friday, August 3, 2012

William Holden and the Death of Old Hollywood

I think I hear a flat-line.

Or maybe it's just someone breaking into the liquor store down the street. Either way, I feel old Hollywood may already be dead.

I started to feel this way when I was watching one of the few shows I watch on the rectangular screen in my living room the other night. Hollywood Treasure on the SyFy network (I'm not sure why it's on that particular station either) is about Profiles in History, an auction company run by Joe Maddalena, whose passion for movie and TV memorabilia make me look like a chump(ette). I love this show yet at the same time, I want to throw things at the screen because I wanted the screen used stepper motor driven turbolaser tower from Return of the Jedi! I wanted Jack's santa sleigh from Nightmare Before Christmas! And I so want Mary Pickford's cigarette case.

I went to their website and it turns out that for the last two days they had one of their huge, amazing auctions. And to my happiness (and totally jealously) day one of the auction had a loose theme - The Golden Age of Hollywood. And as I scrolled through the digital catolog, one item stopped me dead in my tracks.

William Holden's Oscar.

If you ask, 'Who the hell is William Holden?', punch yourself in your face then get on Netflix and educate yourself, dammit. His time on I Love Lucy. Sabrina. Paris When It Sizzles. Bridge Over the River Kwai. Stalag 17. Sunset Blvd!!  Ok, now that you've watched all those movies...

Bill Holden was a complicated guy (but aren't we all?) who loved women, animals, and (allegedly) the drink. He bought a chunk of land in Africa as a preserve for the animals in the volatile area in East Africa. His collection of antique Asian art can be seen at the Palm Springs Museum of Art. He dated Audrey Hepburn, Capucine, Stephanie Powers and Grace Kelly.  Humphrey Bogart allegedly hated him. I love the both of them and would have arranged a play date for them if I had been around at the time.

In 1953 he won this Oscar for Stalag 17, where he played an antisocial prisoner who openly barters with guards in their POW camp who may or may not make it out alive. Some felt this was an apology Oscar for snubbing him for Sunset Blvd. He had the shortest acceptance speech in the history of the shindig, merely saying  "Thank you." and heading off.

In 1966, he was in Italy where he was in a drunk driving accident that killed a man. He was sentenced to 8 months, suspended. Friends say this was the point when his marriage began to fall apart and his drinking became worse, racked with the guilt of a man's death.

In 1981, at 63 years old, he tripped on a rug, banged his head on the corner of a table and bled to death alone in his apartment. No one found him for days.

'So what?' you may ask. Another Hollywood actor dead from excess. Why bother with this whole bloody article? It's not just a quiet and sad death. I feel like it's all something more. Something irreplaceable and special, the likes of which we shall never see again.

When scrolling through the catalog, staring at the Oscar, I begin to scroll down and there is more and more of Holden's things. A framed flight report, awards, his Emmy. And as much as I covet, it makes me a bit sad that someone is selling off The Golden Age for profit. Or out of desperation. At least the cynical part of me thinks that.

I hope that the person who bought it takes good care of it. Appreciates where it came from and what it witnessed.

Hell, if I had $120,000, I'd give it a pretty good home too.

UPDATE: Just checked "Prices Realized", it DIDN'T SELL. I wonder if they would take the grocery money for the month. Also not bought: Marilyn Monroe nudes, Mal's space suit from Firefly, Harpo Marx's wig and Mary Pickford's cigarette case.

check out Holden's legacy here.
Profiles In History website here.

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