Day 12 of Noirvember: Remembering William Holden

Strikingly handsome with a versatile acting talent, William Holden could play everything from the charming boy next door to a psychologically damaged killer, with equal facility.

During a career that spanned six decades, Holden earned three Academy Award nominations (and one win); appeared in numerous classics such as Born Yesterday (1950), Stalag 17 (1953), and Picnic (1955); and starred in four features from the film noir era.

Thirty-six years ago, on November 12, 1981, Holden died following a fall in his home. Today’s Noirvember post shines the spotlight on his noir performances.

With Lee J. Cobb.

The Dark Past (1948)

Most of this tense feature is told in flashback, as police psychiatrist Andrew Collins (Lee J. Cobb) shares a personal experience with a co-worker in an effort to demonstrate the value of criminal psychiatric treatment. The tale he tells is all about Al Walker (Holden), a ruthless killer who escapes from prison and takes over a lakeside cabin filled with vacationers, including Collins and his family.

During the hostage ordeal, Walker gradually opens up to the psychiatrist, who uses his skills to discover that the killer has deep psychological issues and unearth a traumatic childhood incident that is at the root of Walker’s criminal tendencies.

With Gloria Swanson.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

This film focuses on Norma Desmond, an aging silent movie star (Gloria Swanson), and her affair with a young, unemployed writer, Joe Gillis (Holden).

Despite the financial benefits that accompany his role as Norma’s lover, ghostwriter, and constant companion, Joe ultimately finds that the oppressive relationship is too much to bear. After secret meetings with another writer (Nancy Olson) lead to love, Joe tries to leave Norma but, instead, loses his life at Norma’s hand.

With Nancy Olson.

Union Station (1950)

In this feature, Holden was re-teamed with his Sunset Boulevard co-star Nancy Olson, playing William Calhoun, a Union Station police lieutenant who works feverishly to locate a wealthy blind girl (Allene Roberts), kidnapped by a trio of ruthless hoods. The climax of the film centers on a harrowing chase in the bowels of the city’s municipal tunnel where Calhoun tries to find the kidnapped girl while hunting down her captor.

With Alexis Smith.

The Turning Point (1952)

Inspired by the Estes Kefauver congressional investigations of organized crime, The Turning Point stars Holden as Jerry McKibbon, who joins his boyhood chum, John Conroy (Edmond O’Brien), in his effort to break up a local crime syndicate. After writing a series of exposes on the mob, and locating a key witness, Jerry is targeted for murder.


Treat yourself and check out one of Holden’s noirs this month. And join me tomorrow for Day 13 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 12, 2017.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: