Celeste Holm, Oscar-winning actress, dies at 95
Known for her Academy Award-winning performance in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), as well as for her Oscar-nominated performances in Come to the Stable (1949) and All About Eve (1950), Hollywood actress Celeste Holm made an appearance at the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and pose for photographs. Fans who attended the event are deeply upset when news spread across the internet on July 14, 2012, that Celeste Holm passed away. She was 95.
Born and raised in New York City, Holm grew up as an only child. Her mother, Jean Parke, was an American portrait artist and author; her father, Theodor Holm, was a Norwegian businessman whose company provided marine adjustment services for Lloyd’s of London.
Because of her parents’ occupations, she traveled often during her youth and attended various schools in Holland, France and the United States. She graduated from University High School for Girls in Chicago, where she performed in many school stage productions. She then studied drama at the University of Chicago before becoming a stage actress in the late 1930s.
“We live by encouragement and die without it — slowly, sadly, agrily.”
– Celeste Holm Chiller Theatre Convention 2012
Holm’s first professional theatrical role was in a production of Hamlet starring Leslie Howard. Holm’s first major Broadway part was as Mary L. in William Saroyan’s 1940 revival of The Time of Your Life co-starring fellow newcomer Gene Kelly (her first role on Broadway was a small part in 1938 comedy Gloriana, which lasted five performances). The role that got her the most recognition from critics and audiences was as Ado Annie in the flagship Broadway production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! in 1943.
[on Bette Davis] “I walked onto the set [All About Eve (1950)] and there’s Bette and I say ‘Good Morning,’ and she said, ‘Oh, shit, good manners,’ and I felt as if I’d been hit in the face with a wet flounder so I never spoke to her again.”
After she starred in the Broadway production of Bloomer Girl, 20th Century Fox signed Holm to a movie contract in 1946, and in 1947 she won an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in Gentleman’s Agreement. After her performance in All About Eve, however, Holm realized she preferred live theater to movie work, and only accepted a few select film roles over the following decade. The most successful of these were the comedy The Tender Trap (1955) and the musical High Society (1956), both of which co-starred Frank Sinatra. She starred as a professor-turned-reporter in New York City in the CBS television series Honestly, Celeste! (fall 1954) and was thereafter a panelist on Who Pays? (1959). She also appeared several times on ABC’s The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom.
In 1958, she starred as a reporter in an unsold television pilot called The Celeste Holm Show, based on the book No Facilities for Women. Holm also starred in the musical The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall. In 1965, she played the Fairy Godmother alongside Lesley Ann Warren in the CBS production of Cinderella. In 1970-71, she was featured on the NBC sitcom Nancy, with Renne Jarrett, John Fink, and Robert F. Simon. In the story line, Holm played Abby Townsend, the press secretary of the First Lady of the United States and the chaperon of Jarrett’s character, Nancy Smith, the President’s daughter.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Holm did more screen acting, with roles in films such as Tom Sawyer and Three Men and a Baby, and in television series (often as a guest star) such as Columbo, The Eleventh Hour, Archie Bunker’s Place and Falcon Crest. In 1979, she played the role of First Lady Florence Harding in the television mini-series, Backstairs at the White House. She was a regular on the ABC soap opera Loving, appearing first in 1986 in the role of Lydia Woodhouse and again as Isabelle Dwyer Alden #2 from 1991-92. She last appeared on television in the CBS television series Promised Land (1996–99).
Holm was a guest at the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Maryland. Some of the movies in which she appeared were screened at the festival, and the un-aired television pilot for Meet Me in St. Louis was among the highlights. She received an honorary award during the dinner banquet at the close of the event. “I remember when the television news media came to the convention solely to meet Celeste Holm,” recalled Martin Grams, events coordinator. “The news anchor, Rob Roblin, wanted desperately to meet her but in her condition, she was unable to visit her table until 11 am and he had to leave by 10:30. He was disappointed, but I don’t think he understood the gravity of her position. I don’t think anyone ever suspect the truth. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years prior.”
According to The New York Times, Holm was being treated for memory loss since 2002, battled skin cancer and bleeding ulcers, and had a collapsed lung, hip replacements, and pacemakers. She had a nurse with her throughout the entire convention. Her husband, Frank, was absolutely wonderful making arrangements for her appearance and taking care of Celeste Holm’s every need. The entire convention staff made sure she was comfortable all three days. Celeste loved meeting the fans, signing autographs and no one left disappointed.
In July 2012, Holm was admitted to New York’s Roosevelt Hospital with dehydration and suffered a heart attack in the facility, dying at home a few hours later. She was survived by husband Frank Basile and her sons.
Chiller Theater Convention 2012
Chiller Theatre Convention 2013
- Three Little Girls in Blue (1946)
- Carnival in Costa Rica (1947)
- Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
- Road House (1948)
- The Snake Pit (1948)
- Chicken Every Sunday (1949)
- A Letter to Three Wives (1949); voiceover as “Addie Ross”
- Come to the Stable (1949)
- Everybody Does It (1949)
- Champagne for Caesar (1950)
- All About Eve (1950)
- The Tender Trap (1955)
- High Society (1956)
- Bachelor Flat (1962)
- Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1965)
- Doctor, You’ve Got to Be Kidding! (1967)
- Tom Sawyer (1973)
- Bittersweet Love (1976)
- The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977)
- Backstairs at the White House (1979)
- The Shady Hill Kidnapping (1982); teleplay by John Cheever
- Three Men and a Baby (1987)
- Once You Meet a Stranger (1996)
- Still Breathing (1997)
- Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There (2003); documentary
- Alchemy (2005)
- Driving Me Crazy (2012)
- College Debts (2013)
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