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The Religious Affiliation of
William Holden
great American actor


"Holden was cremated; his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean." (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Holden)

From "The William Holden Lifetime Achievement Award" (URL: http://www.themovieguys.com/lvfcs/holden.html): "William Holden does have a Las Vegas connection. Holden married Brenda Marshall in 1941 inside a Congregationalist Church in Las Vegas."

From "The Wild Bunch Stars: William Holden" (URL: http://web.ukonline.co.uk/wildbunch/bishop.htm):

Brian Donlevy was William Holden's best man when he married Brenda Marshall in 1941. A Congregationalist Church service was planned in Las Vegas. Since William and Brian were still filming The Remarkable Andrew there were delays and it was 3am before they arrived for the ceremony. By that time the minister had long gone to bed. It was 4pm Sunday before another preacher could be found to perform the wedding. After they were married they had a champagne breakfast and hopped a plane back to Los Angeles so he and Brian could wrap up shooting and Brenda was off to Canada to film some location footage that she was still working on.
From: Bob Thomas, Golden Boy: The Untold Story of William Holden, St. Martin's Press: New York (1983), pages 10-15:
O'Fallon, Illinois... William Franklin Beedle [William Holden's father] was born there on April 17, 1918... Everyone in O'Fallon considered Bill Beedle the town's most promising young man... Despite his achievements, Bill Beedle wasn't conceited. He was soft-spoken, perhaps a bit shy, a member of the Baptist church choir, an excellent student.

Bill Beedle went off to McKendree College to study chemistry... many girls failed at efforts to win his friendship. Not so Mary Ball... from Litchfield, Illinois... They had much in common, although Mary's family were Methodists...

After they graduated rom McKendree College, Mary Ball and William Beedle decided to marry. The wedding took place in the parlor of his father's house on Cherry Street, and they took up residence there... In 1918, young Bill [William Holden] was born.

[page 12] ...on summer Sundays, his [William Holden's] father drove the family to Ocean Park, where he taught his sons gymnastics on the sand...

Their mother saw that they behaved... Both she and her husband instilled their sons with the tried-and-true Midwestern values, but with William working long days at the lab, Mary assumed the major responsibility of keeping the boys in line. She dressed them in their best short-pants suits and sent them off to Sunday School at the Congregational church. One Sunday morning, she found Bill in his ragged blue jeans. "I'm not going to Sunday school; I'm going to ride my new bike," he announced. His mother viewed him calmly and said, "All right, Bill, but if you don't go to Sunday school today, you won't be able to go the movies next Saturday." He changed his mind.

Such character-building lessons became part of the Beedle family legend...

[page 13] Bill neglected his studies to devote his full enthusiasm to the Boy Scouts, school athletics, and something new he had discovered: acting...

When Bill was fourteen, he was placed in charge of his two brothers while his parents visited relatives in the Midwest. Upon Mary Beedle's return, she was presented with a report by her second son [William Holden's younger brother Robert]:

Bill has done the following while you were away. He:
1. Smoked (got sick inhaling)
2. Swore (used Lord name in vain)
3. Drove fast (wouldn't let anyone tell him)
4. Bossed (like only one in world)
5. Dishes (said for me to set, remove, stack, wash and put away)
Bible. Right hand.
       Bob Beedle
Beneath the signature was a drawing of the Bible.

Two elements were at war within the character of the adolescent Bill Beedle: the desire to be a good citizen, the instincts of a daredevil...

[page 15] Sex in South Pasadena was something boys talked about but didn't practice... The most a boy could hope for was heavy kissing with a girl after the third date. Only one or two girls in each class were reputed to allow boys to "cop a feel."

...in the hearts of many of the South Pasadena boys was the romantic notion they were saving themselves for their wives, that the would remain virgins until their wedding nights.

Bill Beedle was no different from his South Pasadena fellows. He adored girls, but he was also respectful of them, and he would never insist that they "go all the way."

Thomas, pages 33-34:
"There is an abyss between the moral standards of Hollywood and South Pasadena," Mary Beedle cautioned her son.

Bill assured his mother that he would not fall prey to the loose morality of the movie town. The common vision of Hollywood as a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah was inaccurate, he added, arguing that most studio workers toiiled long hous six days a week and had neither the inclination nor the energy for wanton pleasures.

Bill did not tell his mother about his delight in discovering that sex was far more available in Hollywood than in South Pasadena. Actresses, extras, and secretaries were attracted to the young actor... and required little persuasion to accompany him to bed.

Thomas, pages 36-38:
"There's a girl out at Warners you ought to meet," Hugh McMullen told bill Holden. "Her movie name is Brenda Marshall but I knew her as Ardis Ankerson when she was acting in New York. Nice girl. You'd like her."

"No, thanks," Holden replied. "I read about her. Married and with a kid."

"Separated," McMullen corrected.

"She's not divorced, so that means she's married. No thanks."

[Holden later Aris/Brenda when she visited a friend on the set of a movie he was in.]

...For three months, Bill convinced himself he would be unwise to become involved with a woman who was still married and had a young daughter. For three months he couldn't erase the vision of that flawless face.

...Bill Holden finally telephoned Ardis... It was the start of an unorthodox courtship... Everyone who saw them realized the two extraordinarly handsome young people were in love.

To Bill Holden, still rooted in the traditional values of South Pasadena, a love such as that he felt for Ardist meant marriage. He pressed her to find a legal solution to the estrangement with Gaines. It took time to work out the arrangements between New York and California. Finally Ardis engaged a high-powered Hollywood lawyer... who made a settlement. On June 9, 1940, she was granted a divoce...

Still, Ardis balked at a quick marriage. Both were deeply involved in their ascendent careers, as well as with each other... Ardis... didn't want to risk the shattering experience of another broken marriage. They would wait.

Thomas, pages 41-42:
In July of 1941, Bill Holden was making another Paramount movie... The schedule included a locationin Carson City, Nevada, and Bill couldn't face a lengthy separation from Ardis.

"Let's get married in Las Vegas this weekend," he said eagerly. Ardis agreed.

With great excitement, Bill made his plans... He scheduled a midnight wedding at the Congregational church in Las Vegas... They celebrated on board the chartered plane with champagne, and Bill predicted they would arrive at the church with time to spare... [Stormy weather closed the Las Vegas airport, and caused a number of travel delays.]

...The wedding party arrived at the Congregational church at 4 A.M. and found it deserted. At El Rancho Vegas Bill... telephoned the Congregational minister, pleading with him to come to the hotel and perform the ceremony.

"We were married," Arids later told an interviewer, "in a hotel bedroom, standing at the foot of a double bed, by a one-armed man who held the book with his hand and turned the pages with his chin."

Thomas, pages 175-176:
After the relentless violence of The Wild Bunch, William Holden chose a sentimental movie about a father whose son is dying of radiation poisoning. Terence Young wrote The Christmas Tree and directed it in Paris, Corsica, and Nice, with Holden, Virna Lisi, Andre Bourvil, and young Brook Fuller in the major roles.

Holden behaved professionally throughout the filming until the Nice location, when the script called for him to play a scene with a bare-breasted Virna Lisi.

"It's vulgar, unnecessary, and entirely out of keeping with the rest of the picture," Holden argued.

Director-author Young countered that the scene would add a touch of realism to balance the sentiment.

"Bullsh--! You're panding to the audience!" Holden exclaimed, and he disappeared into his dressing room... No amount of entreaty would convince him to emerge. Young, fearing loss of the entire enterprise because of his star's onset of South Pasadena puritanism, was desperate. A telephone call was made to Pat Stauffer in California. The call came at 4 A.M. At ine that evening she was on a flight to Paris. She arrived in Nice and helped negotiate a compromise: the scene would be filmed with a more subtle treatment of the nudity...

[page 176] The Wild Rovers was a western written and directed by Blake Edwards and filmed in Arizona and Utah... Holden was co-starred with Ryan O'Neal as a pair of wandering outlaws.

Julie Andrews, who was present on the locations, recalls: "Bill actually held out his hand and gave the picture to Ryan, but I'm not sure Ryan realized it."... Wheneve possible, O'Neal spent his off-camera time with Holden... The best time for that came when the Wild Rovers company moved from Arizona to Utah. while the others flew to the new location, O'Neal drove Holden in Bill's Mercedes 500.

Thomas, page 204:
I asked [William Holden] about the bedroom scene with Faye Dunaway [in Network].

"If nobody had been in bed on the screen before, I might have hesitated," he said. "Such scenes are not to my liking. I believe lovemaking is a private thing, and I don't enjoy depictions of it on the screen. But I have to go by what the audience accepts as normalcy in today's world..."

He seemed more than a little embarrassed by having done the scene...

Thomas, pages 107-108:
With most of his leading ladies, Bill Holden maintained a closeness, often an intimacy. Kim Novak was an exception.

Terrified in her first starring opportunity, she remained aloof from the rest of the Picnic company, refusing dinner invitations... Seeking spiritual strength for her challenge, she prayed nightly in Hutchinson's Catholic church. Bill Holden, whose offers of help had been declined, grumbled, "She'd be better off if she spent more time learning her lines and less time reciting her rosary."

Thomas, pages 160-161:
The Devil's Brigade was David L. Wolper's entry into feature films after a distinguished career as a television documentarian. Wolper assembled a notable cast--[William] Holden, Cliff Robertson, Vince Edwards, Michael Rennie, Dana Andrews, Claude Akins, Carroll O'Connor, Richard Jaekel--and Andrew McLaglen was scheduled to direct the World War II adventure in Utah, Hollywood, Italy, and England. It was Wolper's first experience in dealing with Hollywood actors, and, in the case of Bill Holden, it proved to be unnerving.

On the Utah location, Holden's demeanor was totally professional. He had an immediate rapport with Andy McLaglen. They had met when Bill was still named Beedle and going to school in South Pasadena and Andy lived in nearby La Canada. That was when Bill's prime ambition was to join the motorcycle drill team of Andy's father, Victor McLaglen.

The director found Holden to be a great help in maintaining morale on a location that involved complex logistics and occasional danger. A climactic scene required the major actors to charge through a battlefield with boms exploding all around them. One actor threw down his helmet and refused to risk such danger. When Holden walked calmly throught the battle area, the other actors followed his example.

The Devil's Brigade was filmed on a mountaintop that could be reached only by trch on a winding road or by helicopter. Wolper, McLaglen, and the principal actors were delivered by helicopter. At the end of a day's work, one of the stars asked for the helicopter because he was traveling to Los Angeles to appear at the Academy Awards presentation. But instead of flying only to the bottom of the mountain, he commandeered the helicopter to take him to the Salt Lake City airport. Holden and McLaglen were stranded. Holden uncomplainingly rode down the mountain standing up in the back of a pickup truck.

An important scene called for the actors to scale over the top of a cliff. Doubles were used for the actual climbing, but McLaglen wanted closeups of the principals as they reached the summit. That meant hanging onto solid rock with a four-thousand-foot drop below.

"Forget it!" said one of the stars.

"Come on, it's not so hard," Holden said cajolingly. He demonstrated by hanging over the cliff. The other actors joined him.

Holden drank only wine during the Utah location, remarking to Cliff Robertson that he could no longer tolerate hard liquor. Ardis [his wife, a.k.a actress Brenda Marshall] came to Utah for a few days, and Bill continued his good behavior. After Ardis departed, Pat Stauffer arrived for a visit. He started drinking vodka, and when Pat objected, they argued and she returned to California. Bill claimed to Robertson and he still wasn't drinking. But Robertson observed that each morning on the way to the location Bill had his driver stop at a liquor store.

Chapter 36 (pages 235-240) in Thomas's biography of William Holden is devoted to describing his working on his penultimate film, The Earthling. Holden's co-star in this movie was a young Ricky Schroder, who as an adult would go by the name Rick Schroder. The child actor was so impressed by Holden that as an adult he named one of his sons "Holden." As an adult Rick Schroder was a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Pages 235-239:
The Earthling concerned an embitterd loner facing his own death, lost in the Australian wilds with a pampered city boy to whom he teaches the lessons of survival... Bill [Holden] was especially pleased that Ricky Schroder would be the co-star. The boy had made a sensational debut in The Champ, and Bill found him to be bright and cheerful, with no trace of the precocity of most child actors...

[page 238] Bill [Holden] was captivated by Ricky Schroder, who called him Billy Willy and idolized him. They played pool together in Dungog's principal place of entertainment, the pool hall, and they organized frog-jumping contests. They had barbecues at night, and Bill roasted marshmallows for Ricky over the glowing coals. Bill was amused by Ricky's wonderment about a large kangaroo. "I wonder what would happen if I grabbed his tail," the boy said. "Why don't you try it," Bill suggested. The kangaroo leaped into the air and Ricky a bumpy ride.

The sixty-one-year-old star and the ten-year-old boy drew close, partly out of loneliness, partly in defense against Peter Collinson [the director]. Despite his claims of reform, he behaved abominably.

The director knew better than to challenge Bill Holden, so he aimed his vitriol at Ricky. During a scene the boy complained that he couldn't play it according to Collinson's directions.

"You can't!" the director exploded. "What do you know, little boy? You're not a good actor. You'll never be a good actor. Today you're doing everything wrong. You're impossible!"

Bill Holden didn't intervene; his code prohibited challenge of a director's authority in front of the cast and crew. He drew Collinson aside and suggested, "You're not going to get a performance out of the kid by browbeating him. Now there are two different ways to do this scene: your way and the way Ricky wants to do it. Why don't you shoot it both ways and decide later which is better?" Collinson reluctantly agreed. The Schroder version ended up in the film...

The worst damage Collinson was doing to The Earthling was in his interpretation of the script.

Bill argued his view of the story: "It should be joyful, a celebation of life, a culmination of manhood. Sure, the man is dying, but even dying can be a positive experience. When a man passes on that part of life which is necessary for a boy's survival--morals, integrity, vulnerability--it is a gift of life, a joyful gift."

Collinson refused to see it that way. He infused both characters with hatred and scars, without qualities to redeem them. He was spewing forth his bitterness over his own fate. Before The Earthling began, he had undergone a gall bladder operation, and doctors discovered that he had cancer. Like Patrick Foley, the character Holden played in The Earthling, Peter Collinson was dying.

[page 239] Bill Holden finished The Earthling with the same feelings he had after every film: relief, exhilaration, regret, hope. He was pleased to be rid of the demonic Peter Collinson, but sorry to party with Ricky Schroder... Bill felt that he had done good work for the film, and while he regretted the morbid tone that Collinson had applied to the script, he clung to the cautious optimism that a miracle in the cutting room would save the film.

Instead of returning directly to California, Bill decided to spend a few days in Hong Kong. That was a mistake.

Sitting in a hotel bar before dinner, Bill ordered a glass of wine to celebrate the completion of the movie. The wine tasted good, and he had another. He ate his dinner, went to bed, and enjoyed the best sleep he had known in months. On the following evening, he had a glass of wine before dinner.

Days later, he awoke in his hotel bed. He remembered nothing that had happened after the glass of wine. He discovered later that he had purchased several expensive Buddha statues, which arrived after he returned to California.

Thomas, pages 246-247:
Ricky Schroder cried out of bitter disappointment when he saw the final version of The Earthling. Bill Holden reacted with anger and frustration because of how the dying Peter Collinson had subverted what Bill had hoped would be a film of hope and inspiration (Collinson died in December of 1980). Filmways was ready to write off The Earthling as a $4 million loss. Producers Sharmat and Schick argued successfullly that the film might be salvaged by judicious editing and reconstruction.

John Strong was the man chosen to work the magic. Bill had known him as an actor on Alvarez Kelly and had given him advice on his career. Strong turned to filmmaking and earned a reputation as a "film doctor," salvaging failed movies... Strong had helped prepare The Earthling and had scouted locations in Australia, but had withdrawn from the project before filming.

"I need help and Bill needs help," Shalmat told Strong when Filmways was deciding whehther to shelve The Earthling. Bill also told Strong, "I need you."

Strong screened the film and found it a bitter treatise on dying. Both the man and the boy lacked redeeming features, and their relationship ended on a grim note. The actresses in the beach and harbor scenes had been so intimidated by Collinson that the sequences had to be scrapped.

Strong reviewed every foot of film that had been printed, seeking alternative shots. He filmed a new ending with the old Huntington Hartford estate in Hollywood doubling for the Australian jungle. Holden, Ricky Schroder, and the entire crew worked for no pay.

Every line in the film was rerecorded. Strong persuaded David Shire and Carol Connors to write a song for the film, and Maureen McGovern recorded it at her own expense. Because of a musician's strike, a new score was recorded in Germany.

Strong poured $66,000 of his own money into the reconstruction of The Earthling, which was 90 percent changed. He took a videocassette of the final version to Palm Springs to play for Holden. At the finish, Bill put his arm around Strong's shoulder, an unusual gesture for a man who rarely touched other people.

"John, I really want to thank you," Bill said fervently. "You don't know how much this means to me."

Despite the improved version, Filmways remained unenthusiastic about The Earthling and gave it a halfhearted release. Another stinging disappointment for Bill Holden.

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