April 17, 1918 - November 12, 1981
"So they were turning after all, those cameras. Life, which can
be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung
to so desperately had enfolded her."
Remember him in "Sunset
Fantastic flick. Not many of the
locations still exist, but his apartment at the beginning of the film still
does. It's still called the "Alto
his place, in the film.
Holden was living in Santa Monica, California, on
He was partial owner of the building
at #535. The Shorecliff
apartment was on the fourth
floor, number 43.
He was notoriously private. Even
neighbors of many years only received a quick nod from the grump. He also had
the habit of disappearing for many days, without notice. That's why it took so
long for someone to find him.
According to the autopsy report, courtesy of Celebrity
Holden was last known to be alive about one week beforehand, when he spoke to
his girlfriend Stephanie Powers on the telephone. She indicated that he was
drinking, but seemed his normal self and was without complaints.
On Monday, November 16, 1981, the building manager, Bill Martin, let curiosity
get the best of him. He hadn't seen Holden in many days, and became very
concerned, so he let himself in, via the passkey. As we all know, curiosity
killed the cat, and Mr. Martin was sure taught a lesson that day.
From the report: "All the lights were off, except for the television, so
they used flashlights to get around. Holden was found in a robe and shirt, on
the floor. The robe was folded back and beneath the body, with the right arm
placed through the sleeve, and the left arm "wadded up" and beneath
the body, suggesting that he may have been attempting to dress himself.
The body was in an advanced state of decomposition with maggots present and a
large amount of putrefaction present as evidenced by the tissue separation and
blisters with fluid present (nummy).
Examination reveals an apparent laceration on his forehead approximately 3
inches in length. Holdens doctor showed up and theorized that he provably
started vomiting blood, and possibly lacerated the lower portion of his
They called Holden's dentist, for records, to prove identification.
On the scene they found an empty vodka bottle in the trash can, along with 4
beer bottles and a partially full bottle of vodka on the kitchen sink. (Just
There was a large quantity of blood surrounding the body as well as all over
the bedding and blankets.
From the condition of his body, it was decided that he had been dead for at
least 4 days. Needless to say, Mr. Rigor Mortis had come to visit. Yuck.
was 63 years old
Dr. Thomas Noguchi, my hero (he's done everybody) conducted the
autopsy. They found the alcohol level in his bloodstream was .22. Holden was no
stranger to tipple, so there was plenty of liver damage.
The opinion of the Medical Examiner goes like this: "On the basis of the
autopsy findings and the "at scene" investigation, it became clear
that the decedent (Holden) accidentally fell due to tripping over the throw rug (fuck!)
on the bedroom floor beside the bed, and fell into the sharp edge of the bedside
table causing a deep cut on the right forehead followed by profuse hemorrhage.
There is no evidence of vomiting blood as there is no evidence of hemorrhage in
the Gastrointestinal Tract or gastric contents in the blood pool on the bed or
on the floor. There is no evidence of foul play as the room is not disturbed and
the room was well secured as well as presence of numerous blood soaked Kleenex (hows
that for product placement?) beside the bed."
In real terms, Holden had tripped on a throw rug (damn things) and hit his
head on the nightstand. The really gross part is that he hit it so hard, that it
jammed into the wall, and left an indentation of two or three inches into the
plaster. There were 8 bloody Kleenex's found next to his body, and a working
telephone just inches away from him. Noguchi reckoned that Holden didn't
comprehend the seriousness of his injury, tried to stop the bleeding himself,
and passed out from blood loss. He was probably dead within 15 minutes. The end.
His girlfriend Stephanie Powers said of being notified, "I was on my way
to work when I heard the news on the radio that Bill had died. I didn't cope
well at all. Robert Wagner was a comfort to me. Tremendous. But Bills' death
took a lot out of me. I was in mourning for ages afterwards. In any case, RJ
could only comfort me for two weeks, because then his wife, Natalie Wood,
drowned, and I was like, "Tell me this all isn't true!"
Holden was cremated, and scattered at sea. "Neptuned" as the
Hollywood Underground Elite have coined it!
Bill Holden left $250,000 in his will to girlfriend Stephanie Powers. She
used the money to start an animal preservation fund, in Holden's memory,
The William Holden Wildlife Foundation. Aptly named, I think.
Trivia: Holden was convicted of manslaughter in Italy, in the
an automobile accident in which the driver of a small car was killed.
UPDATE January 2003, from Findadeath friend Harry:
Was just perusing FAD stories and re-read the William ("I hate that damn
rug") Holden one.
For Christmas, we got the DVD for "Sunset Boulevard" -- too cool --
with all these extra background stories, etc. One surprise for me was that
Holden was not the first choice for the male lead. It was supposed to be
Montgomery Clift! It even notes him in the first draft for the screen play. But
for some reason (I think scheduling conflicts) they went with Holden (who had
been down on his luck career-wise for several years).
Just thought I would pass it along.
Great stuff, Harry, thanks!
In my opinion, this is the
greatest film ever made.