Celeste Holm

  • Born: April 29, 1917
  • Died: July 15, 2012
  • Location: New York, New York


Actress Celeste Holm poses at a friends' home in Santa Monica, Calif., March 12, 1997. The Academy Award winner talked about the rigors of starring in the new CBS series "Promised Land", a spinoff from the hit "Touched by an Angel."

Oscar-winning actress dies at 95

MARK KENNEDY, The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Celeste Holm, a versatile, bright-eyed blonde who soared to Broadway fame in "Oklahoma!" and won an Oscar in "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.

Holm had been hospitalized about two weeks ago with dehydration. She asked her husband on Friday to bring her home and spent her final days with her husband, Frank Basile, and other relatives and close friends by her side, said Amy Phillips, a great-niece of Holm's who answered the phone at Holm's apartment on Sunday.

Holm died around 3:30 a.m. at her longtime apartment on Central Park West, located in the same building where Robert De Niro lives and where a fire broke out last month, Phillips said.

"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 half a century, 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).

Holm was also 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 Ronald 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 caught up in a bitter, multi-year legal family battle that pitted her two sons against her and her fifth husband — former waiter Basile, 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, 1917, 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," 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 II's musical "Oklahoma!" in 1943 that really impressed the critics.

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."

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, Holm and Gerald McRainey starred in CBS TV's "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, New York. Her last big screen role was as Brendan Fraser's grandmother in the romance "Still Breathing."

Holm was married five times and is survived by two sons and three grandchildren. Her marriage in 1938 to director Ralph Nelson lasted a year but produced a son, Theodor Holm Nelson. In 1940, she married Francis Davies, an English auditor. In 1946, she married airline public relations executive A. Schuyler Dunning and they had a son, Daniel Dunning.

During her fourth marriage, to actor Robert Wesley Addy, whom she married in 1966, the two appeared together on stage when they could. In the mid-1960s, when neither had a project going, they put together a two person show called "Interplay — An Evening of Theater-in-Concert" that toured the United States and was sent abroad by the State Department. Addy died in 1996.

Funeral arrangements for Holm haven't been made. The family is asking that any memorial donations be made to UNICEF, Arts Horizons or to The Lillian Booth Actors Home of The Actors Fund in Englewood, New Jersey.


Associated Press Writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

Condolence & Memory Journal

My daughter of 22yrs. enjoys Ms. Holm's movies, but we will all enjoy the day when our lord Jesus Christ calls and she awakens.(John 5:28,29)At that time our world will be free from; sickness, pain, and even death. Until then she will sleep peacefully.

Posted by m.king - greensboro, NC - fan   May 31, 2013

My dad named me Celeste after Ms. Holms.
God Bless the family of Ms. Holms.

Posted by Celeste - Anaheim, CA   July 27, 2012


What a lovely lady. I will treasure all of our memories. I've been blessed to know you. Love you "Bobbie"

Posted by Jerri Mott - life long friend   July 18, 2012

Celeste was such a beautiful lady with class and integrity. Also she was a brilliant actress. Sorry to hear that they would have to report that she was having financial problems. It is they that do not have class like their mother did. God bless her family.

Posted by Jill T. - Weirton, WV - Fan   July 17, 2012


Congratulations Celeste on a life well lived, and thank you for your contributions. Best wishes to your spirit as you enter a new chapter in Life everlasting!

Posted by Waylon G. - Fan of classic film.   July 17, 2012


Celeste, you were a lovely and talented actress...full of light, humor, and grace. Thank you for the memories from the wonderful movies you made.

Posted by Lisbeth - fan of her work   July 17, 2012


I met Miss Holm when she came to our small college campus in the 1960's to spend a week with our drama group. Her humor, integrity, and suggestions remain with me to this day. She always greeted us by our first names. I will always cherish that memory. May God bless her and grant her everlasting peace.

Posted by Roger Y. - Fan   July 16, 2012


I feel honored to have met you through my profession and will always remember your graciousiness and warmth. We have lost a jewel and heaven has added a star.

Posted by Marie Vanacore Stefanovic - A passing friend   July 16, 2012


Ms Holm was one of the greats! Iloved her films. She will be
missed forever.

Posted by L Schwieger - fan   July 16, 2012


Every smile I've ever noticed came from your gentle loving heart. I will miss you greatly.

Posted by Agnes Mckinnon - fan   July 16, 2012


Another jewel has vanished from the crown.
Wonderful in "Come to the Stable." I loved her

Posted by Peter Don - fan   July 16, 2012


I met Celeste in the Acme in Washington,N.J. We became instant friends! She and I both agreed we both loved Israel and it's people. She invited me for coffee or tea as she was so interested in my poetry and writing. somehow I lost her phone and address raising two rambunkious children and never got to connect with her. What a lovely lady and "lady" is the perfect word to describe her. What a beautiful soul! Perhaps one day in heaven she and I can share that cup of coffee.

Posted by Gloria Griffin-Fulmer - friend   July 16, 2012


Ever since we found out she was a Park on her mother's side, and my paternal grandmother was also a Park, I have followed her career. I was lucky enough to see her perform in Auntie Mame at the Schubert Theater in Chicago. I'll miss her. Condolences to the family and her husband.

Posted by Sharon Smith - distant cousin   July 16, 2012

I'll always remember her as the beautiful Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. That was my all time favorite fairy tale as a little girl & still is.

Posted by Kitty Pope - Mason, OH - fan   July 16, 2012



Posted by Trina - USED TO WATCH ON T.V   July 16, 2012


A sweet lady who will be missed.

Posted by vin - admirer   July 16, 2012


Dear Celeste, I wish you GODSPEED as you journey to HEAVEN. I know that you'll make it there. I just realized that first G riffith, A ndy passed away, then B orgnine, E rnest passed away five days later, and now you , C eleste H olm, have passed away seven days later. If you take the initials of each of these names, they spell out------ G A B E C H. It's my name, GABE plus the letters CH. Thank You Celeste for sending me this message from HEAVEN.

Posted by GABE LEVY, 787 Ocean Ave., Apt. #807, Long Bramch, NJ 07740 - Movie Star Admirer   July 15, 2012


rest in peace u were one of the best

Posted by darlene potts - fan   July 15, 2012

Default Album

In this Oct. 29, 1960 file photo, Jane Fonda, left, and James MacArthur, right, poses with Celeste Holm, starring in the play "Invitation to a March," outside the Music Box Theatre in New York on opening night. MacArthur, who played "Dano" in the original version of television's "Hawaii Five-0" and was the son of actress Helen Hayes and playwright Charles MacArthur, died on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010. He was 72.
Actress Celeste Holm poses at a friends' home in Santa Monica, Calif., March 12, 1997. The Academy Award winner talked about the rigors of starring in the new CBS series "Promised Land", a spinoff from the hit "Touched by an Angel."
Olympia Dukakis, left, talks with Richard Dreyfuss, center, and Celeste Holm during a rally held to support striking television commercial actors, Monday, Sept. 18, 2000, in New York. The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists which represent 135,000 actors, have been on strike since May 1 over disputes on residual fees, money paid to commercial performers each time an advertisement airs.
Actress Celeste Holm, second left, sings with Kitty Carlisle Hart, third left, and Musical Director David Lewis during her 85th birthday celebration at Sardi's Restaurant in New York Thursday, April 29, 2004. In 1947 Holm received the Academy Award for best Supporting Actress for her role in "Gentleman's Agreement."
Actress Celeste Holm, left, is wed to singer Frank Basile, second from left, by New York Supreme Court Judge Barbra Kapnick, during her 85th birthday celebration at Sardi's Restaurant in New York Thursday, April 29, 2004, as best man Donel Lafino, second from right, looks on. In 1947 Holm received the Academy Award for best Supporting Actress for her role in "Gentleman's Agreement."
Prince Albert II of Monaco and Celeste Holm, right, original star of the film "High Society', answer questions during a press conference at Marble House mansion in Newport, R.I., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2006. Prince Albert was in Newport to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film 'High Society', starring his late mother Princess Grace Kelly, and attend the Newport Jazz Festival.

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Actress Celeste Holm is photographed during a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008 in New York. More than 40 Oscar, Emmy, Pulitzer, Writers Guild, Humanitas, Obie, Tony award winners gathered at "The Players" to support for the writers guild strike.
Actress Celeste Holm is photographed during a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008 in New York. More than 40 Oscar, Emmy, Pulitzer, Writers Guild, Humanitas, Obie, Tony award winners gathered at "The Players" to support for the writers guild strike.
Actress Celeste Holm poses for photographers as she arrives for the screening of the digitally restored version of Walt Disney's original animated feature "Cinderella" at the Ziegeld Theater in New York Sunday Oct. 2, 2005. The screening was in honor of the movie's arrrival on DVD for the first time. The DVD is scheduled to be available October 4, 2005.
Actress Celeste Holm celebrates her 85th birthday at Town Hall in New York on Thursday, April 29, 2004. Arts Horizons and MODA Entertainment hosted a screening of the 1947 film "Gentleman's Agreement" for which Holm won the Academy Award for best supporting actress.