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On TCM: William Holden

William HoldenWilliam Holden movies: ’The Bridge on the River Kwai’

William Holden is Turner Classic Movies’ "Summer Under the Stars" featured actor today, August 21, 2013. Throughout the day, TCM has been showing several William Holden movies made at Columbia, though his work at Paramount (e.g., I Wanted Wings, Dear Ruth, Streets of Laredo, Dear Wife) remains mostly off-limits.

Right now, TCM is presenting David Lean’s 1957 Best Picture Academy Award winner and all-around blockbuster The Bridge on the River Kwai, the Anglo-American production that turned Lean into filmdom’s brainier Cecil B. DeMille. Until then a director of mostly small-scale dramas, Lean (quite literally) widened the scope of his movies with the widescreen-formatted Southeast Asian-set World War II drama, which clocks in at 161 minutes.

Even though William Holden was The Bridge on the River Kwai’s big box office draw, the film actually belongs to Alec Guinness’ POW British commander and to the camp’s Japanese leader Sessue Hayakawa — the first and quite possibly the biggest East Asian Hollywood star to this day. (You just don’t forget the guy who branded White Woman Fannie Ward in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1915 melo The Cheat.) Guinness won the year’s Best Actor Oscar; Hayakawa was nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category, but lost to Red Buttons in the (somewhat ironically) Japanese-set Sayonara.

’Born Yesterday’ and William Holden’s ’Wild’ movies

George Cukor’s Born Yesterday (1950) is next. Once again, William Holden was the official box office draw, but the film actually belongs to somebody else: Broadway import Judy Holliday, who went on to win that year’s Best Actress Academy Award and to become a movie star of sorts. Written by Garson Kanin (originally for Jean Arthur, who left the play before it opened), Born Yesterday’s political message feels quite simplistic today; compounding matters, Holliday, though a likable actress, suffers from stage-itis, a not uncommon disease found in movie adaptations of Broadway plays in the ’50s, e.g., Nancy Kelly and Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed, Deborah Kerr and John Kerr in Tea and Sympathy. Ultimately, the most naturalistic performance in Born Yesterday is William Holden’s in what amounts to a straight-man role.

Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) is remembered for its epoch-making graphic violence, which is absent from the similarly titled The Wild Rovers (1971) — a light, perfectly watchable Western pairing a haggard-looking William Holden with baby-faced Ryan O’Neal.

According to recent reports, Will Smith has threatened to remake The Wild Bunch for the 21st-century moviegoing crowd.

William Holden movies: TCM schedule on August 21

3:00 AM MISS GRANT TAKES RICHMOND (1949). Director: Lloyd Bacon. Cast: Lucille Ball, William Holden, Janis Carter. BW-88 mins.

4:30 AM BOOTS MALONE (1952). Director: William Dieterle. Cast: William Holden, Stanley Clements, Basil Ruysdael. BW-104 mins.

6:30 AM FORCE OF ARMS (1951). Director: Michael Curtiz. Cast: William Holden, Nancy Olson, Frank Lovejoy. BW-98 mins.

8:30 AM EXECUTIVE SUITE (1954). Director: Robert Wise. Cast: William Holden, June Allyson, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March, Walter Pidgeon, Paul Douglas, Shelley Winters, Nina Foch. BW-105 mins.

10:30 AM THE MOON IS BLUE (1953). Director: Otto Preminger. Cast: William Holden, David Niven, Maggie McNamara. BW-99 mins.

12:30 PM PICNIC (1956). Director: Joshua Logan. Cast: William Holden, Kim Novak, Rosalind Russell, Cliff Robertson, Betty Field, Susan Strasberg, Arthur O’Connell. C-113 mins. Letterbox Format.

2:30 PM THE DEVIL’S BRIGADE (1968). Director: Andrew V. McLaglen. Cast: William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Vince Edwards. C-132 mins. Letterbox Format.

4:45 PM CARSON ON TCM: WILLIAM HOLDEN (12/1/76). (2013). TCM presents a classic interview from The Tonight Show featuring Johnny Carson and William Holden. C-9 mins.

5:00 PM THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957). Director: David Lean. Cast: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa. C-161 mins. Letterbox Format.

8:00 PM BORN YESTERDAY (1950). Director: George Cukor. Cast: Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden. BW-102 mins.

10:00 PM THE WILD BUNCH (1969). Director: Sam Peckinpah. Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Jaime Sánchez, Ben Johnson, Emilio Fernández, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Albert Dekker, Bo Hopkins, Dub Taylor, Paul Harper, Jorge Russek, Alfonso Arau, Chano Urueta, Elsa Cárdenas, Bill Hart, Rayford Barnes. C-144 mins. Letterbox Format.

12:30 AM THE WILD ROVERS (1971). Director: Blake Edwards. Cast: William Holden, Ryan O’Neal, Karl Malden. C-137 mins. Letterbox Format.

William Holden movie schedule via the TCM website.

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