By now the story of William Holden's alcoholism isn't exactly ""untold""--but Hollywood journeyman Thomas (Joan Crawford,...


GOLDEN BOY: The Untold Story of William Holden

By now the story of William Holden's alcoholism isn't exactly ""untold""--but Hollywood journeyman Thomas (Joan Crawford, Walt Disney, etc.) leans hard on that angle to give this dullish, flatly anecdotal biography some surface pathos. Born ""William Beedle,"" from a bland middle-class background, Holden was a student at Pasadena Junior College in 1939 when he was spotted by a talent scout in an amateur show; signed on at Paramount, he landed the lead in Golden Boy for his prominent (if lukewarm) debut. Marriage, wartime service, and flavorless leading roles followed--till Montgomery Clift backed out of Sunset Boulevard, giving Holden a chance to escape from his career as ""a vapid pretty boy."" Stalag 17 soon brought an Oscar. But ""guilt was always present in the Holden psyche, stemming from his Midwest, Protestant upbringing,"" from his infidelities, his brother's WW II death, and his failures as a father. So ""booze helped assuage the pain of guilt""--through affairs with (among others) Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, through Picnic and expatriate moves to Africa and Switzerland. The drinking led to collapse in Paris circa 1962, nursed back to health by Capucine; in 1966 his wayward driving caused a death in Italy; from then onward he'd be alternately sober and drunk, with his film-work in decline (Network the exception); the boozing ruined his relationships with younger Stefanie Powers and older Pat Stauffer; California-style therapy didn't help much. (Holden's therapist, who claims that Holden said, 'After I'm gone you can tell the story,' is one of Thomas' tackier sources--though all he unearthed was that ""recurring pattern of guilt"" and not enough overt parental love.) And in 1981 one of the aging star's lonely vodka-and-TV sessions ended fatally: ""How could Bill Holden have died drunk and alone?"" Routine celeb-biographizing, heavy on dubiously reconstructed dialogue and third-hand anecdotes--but, even without convincing explanation of the alcoholism, an unavoidable entry in the misery-behind-the-glamour division.

Pub Date: June 7, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983