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Celeste Holm: Oscar-winning actress dies at 95
Question of the Day
NEW YORK (AP) — Celeste Holm, a versatile, bright-eyed blonde who soared to Broadway fame in “Oklahoma!” and won an Oscar for “Gentleman’s Agreement” but whose last years were filled with financial difficulty and estrangement from her sons, died Sunday, a relative said. She was 95.
Miss Holm was hospitalized about two weeks ago with dehydration after a fire in actor Robert De Niro’s apartment in the same Manhattan building. She had asked her husband, Frank Basile, on Friday to bring her home, and she spent her final days with him and other relatives and close friends by her side, said Amy Phillips, a great-niece of Miss Holm’s who answered the phone at the actress’s apartment on Sunday.
“I think she wanted to be here, in her home, among her things, with people who loved her,” she said.
In a career that spanned more than a half-century, Miss Holm played everyone from Ado Annie — the girl who just can’t say no in “Oklahoma!” — to a worldly theatrical agent in the 1991 comedy “I Hate Hamlet” to guest-star turns on TV shows such as “Fantasy Island” and “Love Boat II” to Bette Davis’ best friend in “All About Eve.”
She won the Academy Award in 1947 for best supporting actress for her performance in “Gentlemen’s Agreement” and received Oscar nominations for “Come to the Stable” (1949) and “All About Eve” (1950).
Miss Holm also was known for her untiring charity work — at one time she served on nine boards — and was a board member emeritus of the National Mental Health Association.
She was once president of the Creative Arts Rehabilitation Center, which treats emotionally disturbed people using arts therapies. Over the years, she raised $20,000 for UNICEF by charging 50 cents apiece for autographs.
President Reagan appointed her to a six-year term on the National Council on the Arts in 1982. In New York, she was active in the Save the Theatres Committee and was once arrested during a vigorous protest against the demolition of several theaters.
But late in her life she was in a bitter, multiyear legal family battle that pitted her two sons against her and her fifth husband, Mr. Basile, a former waiter whom she married in 2004 and was more than 45 years her junior. The court fight over investments and inheritance wiped away much of her savings and left her dependent on Social Security. The actress and her sons no longer spoke, and she was sued for overdue maintenance and legal fees on her Manhattan apartment.
The future Broadway star was born in New York on April 29, 1919, the daughter of Norwegian-born Theodore Holm, who worked for the American branch of Lloyd’s of London, and Jean Parke Holm, a painter and writer.
She was smitten by the theater as a 3-year-old when her grandmother took her to see ballerina Anna Pavlova.
“There she was, being tossed in midair, caught, no mistakes, no falls. She never knew what an impression she made,” Miss Holm recalled years later.
She attended 14 schools growing up, including the Lycee Victor Duryui in Paris when her mother was there for an exhibition of her paintings. She studied ballet for 10 years.
Her first Broadway success came in 1939 in the cast of William Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life.” But it was her creation of the role of man-crazy Ado Annie Carnes in the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!” in 1943 that really impressed the critics.
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