“I hated that. It’s stereotyped. I only played that kind of role in two pictures and that was enough, thank you. It’s not me.” ~ Celeste Holm on her wisecracking smart girl image.
Celeste Holm is an American stage, film, and television actress, known for her Academy Award-winning performance in “Gentleman’s Agreement” (1947), as well as for her Oscar-nominated performances in “Come to the Stable” (1949) and “All About Eve” (1950).
Holm was born April 29, 1917 in New York City. She grew up as an only child. Her mother, Jean Parke, was an American portrait artist and author and her father, Theodor Holm, was a Norwegian businessman whose company provided marine adjustment services for Lloyd’s of London. Because of her parents’ occupations, she traveled often during her youth and attended various schools in Holland, France and the United States. She graduated from University High School for Girls in Chicago, where she performed in many school stage productions. She then studied drama at the University of Chicago before becoming a stage actress in the late 1930s. Holm’s first professional theatrical role was in a production of “Hamlet” starring Leslie Howard and her first major Broadway part was as Mary L. in William Saroyan’s 1940 revival of “The Time of Your Life” co-starring fellow newcomer Gene Kelly. The role that got her the most recognition from critics and audiences was as Ado Annie in the flagship Broadway production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” in 1943. After she starred in the Broadway production of “Bloomer Girl”, 20th Century Fox signed Holm to a movie contract in 1946 and she appeared in her first film “Three Little Girls in Blue”. With her third film “Gentlemen’s Agreement” (1947), Holm would win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She would be nominated twice more for Academy Awards in the “Come to the Stable” (1949) and “All About Eve” (1950). Holme preferred live theatre to film so she left Hollywood after making “All About Eve” to return to the stage. She made only two movies in the fifties; the MGM musicals “The Tender Trap” in 1955 with Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds and “High Society” in 1956 with Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra.
During the 1950’s, Celeste also appeared in her own television series “Honestly Celeste” (1954) and as a panelist on “Who Pays?” (1959) among other television appearances. For the next three decades, she would appear on television in regular series, mini series, and movies. Among her many television appearances during this time are: In 1965, she played the Fairy Godmother alongside Lesley Ann Warren in the CBS production of “Cinderella”; In 1970-71, she was featured on the NBC sitcom “Nancy”, with Renne Jarrett, John Fink, and Robert F. Simon; and in 1979, she played the role of First Lady Florence Harding in the television mini-series, “Backstairs at the White House”. Holm also appeared in many television series such as “Columbo”, “The Eleventh Hour”, “Archie Bunker’s Place”, “Magnum P.I.”, “Cheers”, and “Falcon Crest” and was a regular on the ABC soap opera “Loving”. She last appeared on television in the CBS television series Promised Land (1996–99). During the 1970s and 1980s, Holm did more screen acting, with roles in films such as “Tom Sawyer” (1973) and “Three Men and a Baby” (1987). In 2005 Holm appeared in “Alchemy” and in 2011, despite health ailments, she completed filming the comedy feature film, “College Debts”, directed by Dexter Warr and Joshua Zilm.
Celeste Holms has been married five times. The first marriage was to Ralph Nelson in 1936. They had one son together. The marriage ended in divorce in 1939. Holm next married Francis Emerson Harding Davies, an English auditor, on January 7, 1940. Davies was a Roman Catholic, and Holm was received into the Roman Catholic Church for the purposes of their 1940 wedding. The marriage was dissolved on May 8, 1945. From 1946-52, Holm was married to airline public relations executive A. Schuyler Dunning, with whom she had a second son, businessman Daniel Dunning. Holm then married fellow thespian Wesley Addy in 1961. They remained married until his death in 1996. On April 29, 2004, her 87th birthday, Holm married opera singer Frank Basile, age 41. They are still married and currently living at their co-op on Central Park West in New York City.