среда, 10 ноября 2010 г.

William Holden (1918-1981) Filmography Analysis

Of 70+ movies that IMDb lists as William Holden's acting credits, I have watched to this day 65. I must say, Mr. Holden was one of those rarest actors who have very few mediocre films in their career. Generally, if you see his name in the credits, especially when he has the top billing, you may be sure of the high quality of the film, and his performance has uniformly been top-notch, regardless of the genre, quality of the movie, or year when it was made. I want to do a breakdown of wonderful Bill Holden's movies -- for my own and other people's reference (if they care to listen to me, because all this is, of course, just my humble opinion).

Great Movies and Movies Deserving Every Attention
(listed chronologically, without genre distribution)

Golden Boy (1939)
Arizona (1940)
Rachel and the Stranger (1948)
The Dark Past (1948)
Sunset Blvd. (1950), Oscar best actor nomination for Bill
Union Station (1950)
Born Yesterday (1950)
Boots Malone (1952)
Stalag 17 (1953), Oscar best actor award for Bill
The Moon Is Blue (1953)
Escape from Fort Bravo (1953)
Executive Suite (1954)
Sabrina (1954)
The Country Girl (1954)
The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
Picnic (1955)
Toward the Unknown (1956)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
The Key (1958)
Satan Never Sleeps (1962)
The Counterfeit Traitor (1962)
Paris - When It Sizzles (1964)
Alvarez Kelly (1966)
The Devil's Brigade (1968)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
L'arbre de Noёl/When Wolves Cry (1969)
The Towering Inferno (1974)
Network (1976), Oscar best actor nomination for Bill
The Earthling (1980)
S.O.B. (1981)

The Best Bill Holden Dramas
(other than westerns, war and military)

Golden Boy (1939) -- amazing perfromance by Bill in his first leading role
The Dark Past (1948) -- absolutely stunning chemistry between Bill and Lee J. Cobb (already perfected in Golden Boy); I would have been happy if no other cast members were present, with just watching those two; incredible dream sequence -- even better than in Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945)
Sunset Blvd. (1950) -- my favorite noir and my favorite movie ever; perfect in every respect
Union Station (1950) -- Bill could teach Bogie a thing or two about how to play a tough guy; overall a very good noir
Boots Malone (1952) -- has my favorite Bill scene riding a horse, when he teaches a would-be jockey
Executive Suite (1954) -- great film, great cast, great Bill, great performances from everybody
The Country Girl (1954) -- amazing chemistry of Bill and Grace Kelly, and yes, the wrong ending (and YES, THE WELL-DESERVED Oscar for Grace!!!)
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) -- I'm partial to the name of Mark; if only it were some other actress, not Jennifer Jones...
Picnic (1955) -- Bill could play shirtless better than any other actor before or since, and don't tell me he was old for the part ('coz he wasn't)!
Satan Never Sleeps (1962) -- I guess I liked this film with too much of that extremely annoying Chinese girl because Bill was wearing clergyman's clothes only twice, and most of the time he wore Sgt. J.J. Sefton's leather jacket. Couldn't be better. Clifton Webb helped a lot, too.
The 7th Dawn (1964) -- has some features we have seen in other Bill's movies, but don't let it discourage you; a good flick
L'arbre de Noёl (1969) -- Bill in a black sweater and jeans, and I don't ask for anything else (yes, I'm that shallow)
Network (1976) -- no need to explain
The Earthling (1980) -- could it be Bill's best performance? maybe not, but he's absolutely incredible; I watched this film among the last, and I still was stunned by Bill's acting skills, although it would seem I have already seen everything he could do as an actor; of course, knowing it was his penultimate movie contributed to the overall impression

The Best Bill Holden Comedies

The Remarkable Andrew (1942) -- charming Bill, charming movie; they somehow managed to make patriotic films back then without waving flags annoyingly before the viewer's nose
Dear Ruth (1947)/Dear Wife (1949) -- the first instalment is sparkling, but the second is sharper (spicier) and better
Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949) -- extremely funny at times; my favorite moment is when Bill instantaneously switches on his male charm when it is required
Born Yesterday (1950) -- I used to hate this film because of Judy Holliday's UNDESERVED Oscar, but then warmed up to it, and Bill is very sexy in glasses
The Moon is Blue (1953) -- no need to explain
Sabrina (1954) -- no need to explain
Paris - When It Sizzles (1964) -- my guilty pleasure, and shortly I will try to show in my future post that this film is criminally underrated as one of the best spoofs in cinema history
S.O.B. (1981) -- the last third of the movie is exceptional, the rest not so much

The Best Bill Holden Movies about War and the Military

I Wanted Wings (1941)
Force of Arms (1951)
Submarine Command (1951)
Stalag-17 (1953) -- my favorite war movie ever
The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)
Toward the Unknown (1956)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) -- a widely known gem
The Key (1958) -- a little-known gem
The Counterfeit Traitor (1962) -- my second favorite war movie
The Devil's Brigade (1968)

The Best Bill Holden Westerns
(he rode a horse as if he was born on it, and watch for the dashing manner with which he tilts his hat back -- it's one of his trademarks, alongside a leather jacket and "wisecrackers," as Feldwebel J.S. Schulz would say)

Arizona (1940)
Texas (1941)
Rachel and the Stranger (1948) -- my favorite of all Bill's westerns
The Man from Colorado (1948)
Streets of Laredo (1949)
Escape from Fort Bravo (1953)
Alvarez Kelly (1966)
The Wild Bunch (1969) -- damn you, Sam Peckinpah, why did you make Bill wear that awful mustache?!
Wild Rovers (1971) -- there are some very good scenes in this movie, but generally it takes after The Wild Bunch in many respects; and that mustache again...

Some Movies I Omitted
(some comments regarding them)

Invisible Stripes (1939) -- I watched it for Bill, and he doesn't have much to do there; I don't like George Raft, and I don't like it when Bogie plays a criminal or a psycho
Our Town (1940) -- I haven't watched it yet; many years ago I read the Thornton Wilder play, and I remember I thought it extremely boring; hopefully, I will bring myself to watching the film shortly
Those Were the Days! (1940) -- watch it for intentionally aged Bill only
Forever Female (1954) -- Ginger Rogers was very annoying, and there was too much of her
The Proud and Profane (1956) -- I don't like Deborah Kerr, and here she tries to repeat her stint from From Here to Eternity (1953), but for some reason looks much older and heavier (and way too annoying); watch it for the incredible scene/dialog in the cemetery and for Thelma Ritter; and I don't care for Bill with a mustache either (he wore it thrice, at least: here, in The Wild Bunch, and in Wild Rovers -- nah, does not work)
The Horse Soldiers (1959) -- I like it when big actors team up (one of the reasons I liked Rachel and the Stranger, Sabrina, I Wanted Wings and some other films with Bill), and here we have Bill and John Wayne (whom I don't like at all); watch for the female lead making the most stupid choice in movie history (comparable only to the wrong choice in The Country Girl, perhaps), and for the fist fight between the two male leads
The World of Suzie Wong (1960) -- the Chinese girls and baby were so damn annoying that it killed the movie for me; watch for the views of Hong Kong, and the wonderfully executed natural disaster close to the end
The Lion (1962) -- Trevor Howard's character acted as a loony (when he chased elephants, rhinoceroses, and other big wild animals in his jeep), and the little girl was very annoying; watch for the final showdown between the lion and the young tribal chief
Casino Royale (1967) -- stay away from it as far as possible; it's not stupid, no, it's just mad, and in a good way, too, but madness should not be shoved down the viewer's throat and should not be prolonged beyond its welcome, which is the case here; Bill has a cameo at the beginning and at the end
Wild Rovers (1971), The Revengers (1972) -- both take after The Wild Bunch, and are quite decent western flicks in their own right
The Blue Night (1973) -- SPOILER HERE! I liked it because Bill told Lee Remick to get lost
Breezy (1973) -- I don't know any other actor who could play a lover's part at the age of 55, and play it so gracefully; match it, George Clooney!
The Towering Inferno (1974) -- I am a sucker for disaster flicks, which are most universally bad (just like film noir is most universally good -- the specifics of the genre, I believe); Bill doesn't have much to do there, but the very sight of him is welcome
21 Hours at Munich (1976) -- watch it, you won't be disappointed
Fedora (1978) -- Billy Wilder's film, which should mean the highest quality; but it has three major flaws: wrongly constructed plot, mediocre female leads, and Michael York; Bill plays an outsider, and it is also a drawback
Damien: Omen II (1978) -- I watched it a long time ago, but don't remember anything, except that I did not like it, as compared to the first instalment of the franchise, with Gregory Peck; I don't know if I'm going to rewatch it, probably not
Ashanti (1979) -- Bill has only a cameo close to the beginning, and I didn't bother to watch this turkey any further
When Time Ran Out (1980) -- yes, it's as bad as you heard; Bill doesn't do much here, but I liked every glimpse of him, because everybody else there was annoying as hell

Final Remarks

The other movies I either did not watch (and don't intend to) or wasn't particularly impressed with in any way, or they contain musical numbers which generally annoy me, or they have as the female lead some relatively unknown (and/or annoying) actress.

Bill's Dying credits: more than 10.
Maybe I should count his fist fights, too, but they are way too numerous (more than in every other movie, I think).
Bill stayed handsome and fit all his acting career, despite his drinking troubles. It's a pity he died so suddenly and there was nobody around to help him. Like maybe no other actor, he was in very many movies made outside the U.S., sometimes in very exotic locales (various parts of Europe, Asia, South Pacific, Africa, Australia).

Parting Words
I liked William Holden very much before this Holden fest/festival of mine, but now I admire, adore and revere him even more. He never, ever gave a poor performance. Watch or rewatch his films, pay close attention, and appreciate this fine actor anew.