William Holden | April 17, 1918 — November 12, 1981
He faced life courageously, and he wasn’t fearful of it. — Blake Edwards
He had gotten steadily better, greater, and was more widely accepted. He became more valuable to us every time we saw him, and it was—you know, the cut was in the wrong place. — Robert Mitchum
“By the time Holden died in 1981, personal indifference to acting had yielded to a particular fascination with African wildlife conservation. Unfortunately, what had been youthful carousing had also given way to binge drinking. The fatal fall that ended his life was due to a drunken misstep during a solo bout with the bottle in his bedroom. ‘To be killed by a vodka bottle and a night table,’ Wilder reasoned at the time. ‘What a lousy fade-out to a great guy.’
“Reeking as it does of the cruel ironies of Hollywood Babylon-style excess, as well as the private agony of someone who perhaps never found personal fulfillment in plying his craft to equal the considerable skill with which he practiced it, Holden’s lonesome, wasteful death was an awful tragedy. But decades later, it seems perversely fitting that a man who specialized in uneasy on-screen personae—vanquished by their own weaknesses and pitiless circumstance—was himself brought low by a single wrong move during one of many lost weekends.
“‘They came too late and stayed too long,’ observed the tagline introducing Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch. Having arrived at the dawn of a new fatalism in American movies, and inadvertently bowed out as the ’70s and the age of the anti-hero ended, Holden’s tragic timing was perfect both on-screen and off.” — Bill Bennett