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Celeste Holm: Oscar-winning actress dies at 95
Question of the Day
She only auditioned for the role because of World War II, she said years later.
“There was a need for entertainers in Army camps and hospitals. The only way you could do that was if you were singing in something,” she said.
Miss Holm was hired by La Vie Parisienne and later by the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel to sing to their late-night supper-club audiences after the “Oklahoma!” curtain fell.
The slender, blue-eyed blonde moved west to pursue a film career.
“Hollywood is a good place to learn how to eat a salad without smearing your lipstick,” she would say.
“Oscar Hammerstein told me, ‘You won’t like it,’” and he was right, she said. Hollywood “was just too artificial. The values are entirely different. That balmy climate is so deceptive.” She returned to New York after several years.
Her well-known films included “The Tender Trap” and “High Society,” but others were less memorable.
“I made two movies I’ve never even seen,” she told an interviewer in 1991.
She attributed her drive to do charity work to her grandparents and parents, who “were always volunteers in every direction.”
She said she learned first-hand the power of empathy in 1943 when she performed in a ward of mental patients and got a big smile from one man she learned later had been uncommunicative for six months.
“I suddenly realized with a great sense of impact how valuable we are to each other,” she said.
In 1979 she was knighted by King Olav of Norway.
In her early 70s, an interviewer asked if she had ever thought of retiring.
“No. What for?” she replied. “If people retired, we wouldn’t have had Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud … I think it’s very important to hang on as long as we can.”
In the 1990s, Miss Holm and Gerald McRainey starred in the CBS’ “Promised Land,” a spinoff of “Touched by an Angel.” In 1995, she joined such stars as Tony Randall and Jerry Stiller to lobby for state funding for the arts in Albany, N.Y. Her last big screen role was as Brendan Fraser’s grandmother in the romance “Still Breathing.”
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