Today, Academy Award winner and fantastic lady Celeste Holm died at 95.
Holm was a funny woman, brash as hell with subtle on-screen skills that captivated me in my old movie phase of VHS youth. In the move of a total badass, she impressed Roger and Hammerstein in 1943 when Richard Rogers doubted her comedy skills while auditioning for Oklahoma! for Broadway at age 25.
‘He said, “Could you sing a song as if you’d never had a lesson in your life?” “Well,” I said, “what does that sound like?” And he said, “It’s a bald, bold, unedited voice.” So, I said, “Well, I can call a hog.” He said, “I dare you.” So I said, “Soooo-weeeee.” And, the end of that, he said, “Well, that’s loud enough, that’s funny enough,” and that is how I got my job.’ (as told to NPR in 1993.)
Celeste Holm was the original Oklahoma! babe, the theme song of which I screamed in my youth while kicking my legs high to the sky for my sisters to sit on the couch and forcibly enjoy. Here’s the song as shown in the 1955 feature film version, where Shirley Jones plays Holm’s part:
After Broadway, Holm hit the silva’ screen and found massive success. In 1947, she starred across Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird, motherfuckers) in Gentleman’s Agreement, a movie where she played an editor posing as a Jewish woman to report on anti-Semitism. Sweet. Political. She won an Academy Award for the role, going on to star in one of my favorite movies of all time: All About Eve with Bette Davis, and was nominated for an Oscar for this role.
Here’s a song about Bette Davis’ eyes that’s stuck in my head now:
Celeste was also in the 1965 Roger and Hammerstein musical Cinderella, teaching me the definition of magic as the Fairy Godmother. This film really confused me in youth because I had known Cinderella as a blonde, but Lesley Ann Warren dominates the role with brunette brilliance:
The end of Holm’s life consisted of family feuds and a marriage to a 48-year-old that robbed her of her fortune. She was still a hardass, despite the hardship, giving back to mental illness charities throughout her career.
As someone who went through a huge theater phase, Oklahoma! was the shit. Peace out, Celeste. Thanks for instilling the theater nerd into this chick.