Born 1918 in O’Fallon, Illinois, American actor William Holden appeared uncredited in Prison Farm (1939) and Million Dollar Legs (1939) at Paramount. He had his first starring role was in Golden Boy (1939), costarring Barbara Stanwyck, in which he played a violinist-turned-boxer.
Holden served as a second and then a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Force during World War II, where he acted in training films for the First Motion Picture Unit, including Reconnaissance Pilot (1943).
Holden’s first film back from the services was Blaze of Noon (1947), an aviator picture at Paramount directed by John Farrow. He followed it with a romantic comedy, Dear Ruth (1947) and he was one of many cameos in Variety Girl (1947). RKO borrowed him for Rachel and the Stranger (1948) with Robert Mitchum and Loretta Young, then he went over to 20th Century Fox for Apartment for Peggy (1948).
William Holden was one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1950s. He won the Oscar for Best Actor for the film Stalag 17 (1953), and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for the television film The Blue Knight (1973).
Holden starred in some of Hollywood’s most popular and critically acclaimed films, including Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Wild Bunch, Picnic, and Network. He was named one of the “Top 10 Stars of the Year” six times (1954–1958, 1961), and appeared as 25th on the American Film Institute’s list of 25 greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema.
Holden bled to death in his apartment in Santa Monica, California in 1981, after lacerating his forehead from slipping on a rug while intoxicated and hitting a bedside table, aged 63.
For his contribution to the film industry, Holden has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1651 Vine Street. He also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Take a look at these handsome portrait photos to see a young William Holden from the 1930s and 1950s.