Hal Holbrook (1925- ) [The Group (1966); Midway (1976); That Evening Sun (2009)] is an Emmy- and Tony-Award winning actor who is one of the great craftsman of stage and screen. He is best known for his performance as Mark Twain, for which he won a Tony and the first of his ten Emmy Award nominations. Aside from the stage, Holbrook made his reputation primarily on television, and was memorable as Abraham Lincoln, as Senator Hays Stowe on "The Bold Ones" and as Capt. Lloyd Bucher on Pueblo (1973, TV). All of these roles brought him Emmy Awards, with Pueblo bringing him two, as Best Lead Actor in a Drama and Actor of the Year - Special. On January 22, 2008, he became the oldest male performer ever nominated for a an Academy Award, for his supporting turn in Into the Wild (2007). He was born Harold Rowe Holbrook, Jr. in Cleveland, Ohio. His mother was the former Eileen Davenport, a vaudeville dancer. Raised primarily in South Weymouth, Mass., Holbrook attended the Culver Academies. During World War II, Holbrook served in the Army in Newfoundland. After the war, he attended Denison University, graduating in 1948. While at Denison, Holbrook's senior honors project concerned Mark Twain. He'd later develop "Mark Twain Tonight," the one-man show in which he impersonates the great American writer Mark Twain, a.k.a. Samuel Clemens.
William Holden (1918-1981) [Stalag 17 (1953); The Towering Inferno (1974)] was born William Franklin Beedle Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois but his well-to-do family moved to Pasadena, California, when he was three. He joined the Army Air Forces and served during World War II. His younger brother, Robert Beedle, was actually a Navy fighter pilot who was killed in action in World War II, and after The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) was released, Robert was remembered by his squadron-mates as having been very much like Holden's character of Lt. Harry Brubaker in that movie. Holden, shown with Grace Kelly, was best man at the wedding of his close friends, Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis, in 1952.
Sterling Holloway (1905-1992) [Casey at the Bat (1927); Thunder and Lightning (1977)] was a popular American character actor of amusing appearance and voice whose long career led from dozens of highly enjoyable onscreen performances to world-wide familiarity as the voice of numerous Walt Disney animated films including Winnie the Pooh. Born in the American deep South to grocer Sterling P. Holloway Sr. and Rebecca Boothby Holloway, he had a younger brother, Boothby. Holloway spent his early years as an actor playing comic juveniles on the stage. His bushy reddish-blond hair and trademark near-falsetto voice made him a natural for sound pictures, and he acted in scores of talkies, although he had made his picture debut in silents. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 19 July 1942 and served the duration of World War II. His height and weight were given on his army papers as 5' 9" and 124 lb. His physical image and voice relegated him almost exclusively to comic roles, but in 1945, director Lewis Milestone cast him more or less against type in the classic war film A Walk in the Sun (1945), where Holloway's portrayal of a reluctant soldier was quite notable. He played frequently on TV, becoming familiar to baby-boomers in a recurring role as Uncle Oscar on Adventures of Superman (1952), and later in television series of his own.
Jack Holt (1888-1951) [The Master Key (1914); Crash Donovan (1936); They Were Expendable (1945); Cameo: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948); ]. Staunch, granite-jawed American leading man of silent and early talkie films, much associated with Westerns. A native of New York City, Holt often claimed to have been born in Winchester, Virginia, where he grew up. While looking for work as a surveyor in San Francisco in 1914, he volunteered to ride a horse over a cliff in a stunt for a film crew shooting in San Rafael. In gratitude, the director gave him a part in the film. Holt followed the movie people to Hollywood and began getting bits and stunt jobs in the many Westerns and serials being made there. He impressed a number of co-workers at Universal Pictures, among them Francis Ford and his brother John Ford, and Grace Cunard. Holt soon became a frequent supporting player in their films, and then a star in serials. A move to Paramount studios in 1917 cemented his leading man status, and he became one of the studio's great stars, particularly in a very successful series of Westerns based on the novels of Zane Grey. Talkies proved no problem for Holt, and his career thrived, although mostly in run-of-the-mill adventure films. At the outbreak of World War II, Holt entered the U.S. Army at the age of 54, serving at the request of General George C. Marshall as a horse buyer for the cavalry.
Tim Holt (1918-1973) [Stagecoach (1939); The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)] was born Charles John Holt Jr. in Beverly Hills on February 5, 1918, to Jack Holt and his wife Margaret Woods, at a time when Jack was just making a dent in silent films. Nicknamed "Tim", he was raised on his father's ranch in Fresno where he performed outside chores and learned to ride a horse. Tim, in fact, made his debut at age 10 in one of his father's westerns The Vanishing Pioneer (1928), based on a Zane Grey story. He played Jack's character as a young boy. World War II interrupted his thriving career. He was a decorated hero (Dintinguished Flying Cross, Victory Medal and Presidential Unit Citation among them) while serving in the Air Corps and discharged with the rank of Second Lieutenant. Wounded in Tokyo on the last day of the war, he was also given the Purple Heart. [His full bio reveals a lot more about his WWII experiences.] He returned to films auspiciously with the role of Virgil Earp in Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946), then continued in a somewhat lesser vein with "B"-level oaters. He came to the forefront one more time co-starring with gold prospecting rivals Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston in John Huston's masterpiece The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), arguably the hallmark of Tim's entire film career and which rightfully earned him the best notices he ever received. After his father died in 1951, Tim became less interested in making films. His contract with RKO had ended and for the first time in his adult life didn't have to answer to anyone (his parents, RKO, the military, then RKO again). He also felt the business was changing and left Hollywood behind and moved to Oklahoma to ranch full time while traveling for rodeos. Like Randolph Scott, Tim was able to walk away from Hollywood, only working on a handful of projects usually being encouraged by a friendship or public service. He was diagnosed with bone cancer in August of 1972, and passed away rather quickly on February 15, 1973, shortly after his 55th birthday. Buried in Oklahoma, he was posthumously inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame in 1991 and was a recipient of the "Golden Boot" award in 1992.
Bob Hope (1903-2003) [Road to Morocco (1942), The Paleface (1948)]. No entertainer is more associated with the USO than Bob Hope, who first appeared with the USO in 1942 and spent the following decades entertaining U.S. servicemen and women around the globe. With the fundraising help of Prescott Bush -- father of the 41st president and grandfather of the 43rd president -- Hope was a vital morale booster for servicemen in WW II. An act of Congress in 1997 made Hope an "honorary veteran." Upon receiving the award, he said: "I've been given many awards in my lifetime, but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most is the greatest honor I have ever received."
William Hopper (1915-1970) [Rebel Without a Cause (1955); The Bad Seed (1956); tv: Paul Drake in the Perry Mason series, 1957-66] was born William DeWolf Hopper, Jr. in New York, New York, the only child of actor/ matinee idol DeWolf Hopper and actress/gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Prior to being a Navy frogman doing underwater demolition in the pacific during WWII his hair was dark blonde, the stress of the danger turned it permanently white. Quote: "I didn't dislike movie people, but they were nothing special to me. I'd been around them all my life. My mother's [Hedda Hopper] the kind who could say "Howdeedo" to the king of England and feel perfectly at home. But I couldn't."
John Howard (1913-1995) [Annapolis Farewell (1935); Love from a Stranger (1947)], born John Cox, was an American actor, usually a leading man in smaller-budgeted films and sometimes second lead in larger pictures. His greatest fame came as the brother of Ronald Colman's character in Frank Capra's Lost Horizon (1937) and as suave detective Bulldog Drummond in a series of films starting that same year. During World War II Howard served as Executive Officer of the USS YMS-24, a minesweeper. During the invasion of southern France the ship was severely damaged by a mine that killed her captain. Howard took command and fought valiantly to save his ship and crew, even jumping into the sea to rescue a wounded sailor. For his gallantry he was awarded the Navy Cross (the second highest military award of the U.S. Navy) and the French Croix de Guerre. His return to Hollywood after the war was welcomed, unfortunately, with diminishing opportunities. The quality of his films fell and he was one of the first screen actors to commit to working in the new field of television. He continued to make occasional film appearances after the '60s, but gradually moved into academia. He became headmaster of the prestigious Highland Hall, a private high school where he taught and administered for nearly 20 years. He also gave private lessons in celestial navigation. He died in 1995, survived by his actress-ballerina wife Eva Ralf and their four children.
Leslie Howard (1893-1943) [The Petrified Forest (1936); "Ashley" in Gone With The Wind (1939)]. Howard and others died June 1, 1943, on a flight from Lisbon to London (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines/BOAC Flight 777) when their aircraft was shot down by a German Junkers Ju 88 over the Bay of Biscay. Howard had been engaged in secret war work and the Germans believed that Winston Churchill, who had been in Algiers, might also be on board. The Allies knew from Ultra that the plane was going to be shot down so Howard's life, as well as the others on board, were sacrificed to preserve the Allies' most important secret.
Rock Hudson (1925-1985) [Winchester '73 (1950); A Gathering of Eagles (1963); Ice Station Zebra (1968)] was the son of an auto mechanic and a telephone operator who divorced when he was eight years old. He failed to obtain parts in school plays because he couldn't remember lines. After high school he was a postal employee and during WW II served as a Navy airplane mechanic. After the war he was a truck driver. His size and good looks got him into movies. His name was changed to Rock Hudson, his teeth were capped, he took lessons in acting, singing, fencing and riding. One line in his first picture, Fighter Squadron (1948), needed 38 takes. In 1956 he received an Oscar nomination for Giant (1956) and two years later Look magazine named him Star of the Year. He starred in a number of bedroom comedies, many with Doris Day, and had his own popular TV series "McMillan & Wife" (1971-1977). He had a recurring role in TV's "Dynasty" (1984-1985). He was the first major public figure to announce he had AIDS, and his worldwide search for a cure drew international attention.
John Huston (1906-1987) [Wrote screenplay and directed The Maltese Falcon (1941); Wrote screenplay, directed and had cameo role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)] was born in Neveda, Missouri. His father was Walter Houston. John was a man of many interests - painting, boxing, sculpture, gambling, fox-hunting, a licenced pilot and more. During World War II he served as a Signal Corps lieutenant and went on to helm a number of film documentaries for the U.S. government including the controversial Let There Be Light (1946), which was narrated by his father, Walter. A short excerpt like this can't do justice to his remarkable career.
...more next week...