Celeste Holm (1917-2012)

Yesterday, right in the middle of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I found out that Celeste Holm passed away. Unable to break away from festival coverage, I haven’t had a chance to address her passing until now, but news of her death is already circulating through the classic film world and her loss is being intensely felt.

A follower on twitter messaged me yesterday with a direct question: “What do you plan as a tribute to Celeste Holm?” The follower didn’t ask “Do you plan a tribute?” or “Have you thought of a tribute?” The question was asked in such a way that it was a given that I was going to make a tribute to her in some form or another. I think that really says a lot about Celeste Holm. She had an impact on classic film that I think too often goes unnoticed or unappreciated, but to classic film fans, she was one of the greats and provided an incredibly important backbone of so many of our great movies.

Here are some of Celeste Holm’s most celebrated films:

Though never by any means a lead actress, she was nonetheless a star, in a similar way t0 the stardom of Thelma Ritter–no matter how small her part was, she was always noticeable, and never expendable in a film. She always helped to carry the story.

Celeste Holm’s later life was marked with problems. In 2004 she married a man named Frank Basile, 48 years her junior, much to the chagrin of her sons who viewed Basile as a golddigger. Basile cut Celeste, now suffering from dementia, off from all contact with her sons, and I don’t know if she saw them at all before she died. My guess is that she did not. Celeste Holm deserved so much better from her later years, and it’s tragic that this not only happened to her, but it’s the story of the lives of many senior citizens now–I know she isn’t the only one this has happened to.

I celebrate her life here with a series of photos. Thanks for reading.

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