Sunday, July 15, 2012

Celeste Holm Dies at 95

The delightful actress Celeste Holm, star of stage and screen, passed on today at the age of 95.

Celeste Holm was equally talented as a musical star, a comedienne, and a straight dramatic actress. She made her first big splash as Ado Annie in the original Broadway cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA! (1943), then won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for a dramatic role in her third film, GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT (1947).

She received additional Supporting Actress nominations for COME TO THE STABLE (1949) and ALL ABOUT EVE (1950); she's wonderfully good in both, in hugely different roles, playing a simple French nun in the earlier film and the sophisticated wife of a Broadway playwright in the latter.

Her first film was in the 20th Century-Fox musical THREE LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE (1946), where she registered strongly in a small but showy role as Frank Latimore's matchmaking sister. That movie was followed by varied films such as CARNIVAL IN COSTA RICA (1947), ROAD HOUSE (1948), THE SNAKE PIT (1948), and CHICKEN EVERY SUNDAY (1949). She also provided the voice for Addie Ross, the calculating narrator of A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949).

After ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) Holm didn't make a film for half a decade; her work during this time included replacing Gertrude Lawrence in the Broadway cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein's THE KING AND I. When she returned to the screen, it was to star in a pair of MGM films which I've seen countless times over the years, THE TENDER TRAP (1955) and HIGH SOCIETY (1956). Holm, in each film playing a witty woman with an underlying sadness, is a huge reason why these films have been watched by me so many times.

She's also beloved to me for yet another Rodgers & Hammerstein role, as the Fairy Godmother in the 1965 Lesley Ann Warren TV version of CINDERELLA.

Over the years Holm continued to appear on stage, films, and television, and in fact her IMDb credits indicate she appeared in films due out later this year and next year.

It's been a tough month for film fans, with the passing of beloved performers including Ann Rutherford, Andy Griffith, and Ernest Borgnine, as well as writer-director Nora Ephron. Although we will miss them greatly, it's a wonderful thing that they have each left us with unique work which has stood the test of time and will continue to delight audiences for generations.

I feel deep gratitude for the life of Celeste Holm and the pleasure she brought to all of us who enjoyed her performances over the decades, and I'm sure countless fans of her work on stage and screen feel the same.

Update: A video tribute to Celeste Holm is now available on the TCM website.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

A lovely lady and very, very fine actress.

3:20 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

You must be a nice person, Laura. All of your comments ring true. I might add that about thirty years ago I had the opportunity to interact with Dick Zanuck. Quite a guy. A good one.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

It has been a tough month.

Great Japanese actress Isuzu Yamada also died at 95, just last week--her starring roles in the first two masterpieces of director Kenji Mizoguchi, OSAKA ELEGY and SISTERS OF THE GION, are iconic.

It seems like it shouldn't be sad if someone dies at 95 and had the career they presumably wanted and definitely deserved--true of Yamada, Borgnine, Holm.

Yet it truly is sad--maybe it's because the expressive power of cinema and its emotional pull for us is so great that when you've been watching them through so many years you feel it almost as if it's someone you had known and loved personally.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

"...a witty woman with an underlying sadness..."

That's a really well-turned phrase about those characters and kind of caught me reading that it's one reason you responded to those two movies.

Seeing THE TENDER TRAP again a few years ago, I tremendously enjoyed it, but I must say that for me second couple Celeste Holm and David Wayne were the more compelling characters and most moving part of it, not to say Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds were not fine in the leads and of course all four characters are connected as part of the whole.

11:33 PM  
Blogger DKoren said...

Aw, so sad. I'm not that familiar with her work, but I've always liked her performances when I have seen her. Another one who will be missed. :-(

7:20 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I appreciate all your comments and feedback! What a special lady Celeste Holm was. And I'm glad to hear Dick Zanuck was a good guy, too.

Blake, thank you for sharing the information on Isuzu Yamada, I hope I'll become acquainted with her work in the future.

It's really sad to see so many great artists pass from the scene. Continuing Blake's thoughts on the power of cinema, how remarkable it is that, in a sense, we watch movies with "ghosts" -- the majority of the performers from the classic film era are gone, yet we can continue to see, hear, and appreciate them decades later.

Blake, I think you're right about TENDER TRAP, below the glossy story of the bachelor and beautiful babes, it has an interesting serious subtext, especially conveyed by Holm and Wayne. (And then there's that title song sequence, which is pure '50s magic...)

Best wishes,

3:31 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Loved Celeste. . She should have had more leading roles . She came to Nottingham, England many years ago and did LADY IN THE DARK on stage. Such a thrill to see her in person.
Of course she will always be the lovely Karen in ALL ABOUT EVE.

6:51 AM  

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