We remember Academy Award winner Celeste Holm as a wonderful character actress for her roles in films such as "All About Eve" (1950), where she played close friend Karen Richards to Bette Davis' Margot Channing. We remember her for Oscar-winning performance in "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947). Others may remember her as the Fairy Godmother in the CBS television production, "Cinderella" (1965). She had an illustrious career on Broadway as well as continually contributing to charities that were close to her heart. Although it was not Holm's dream to become a star, she did.
Her career started in the theater with her first stage role in Hamlet, starring Leslie Howard. In an interview with Susan King in 1997, Holm revealed that while she was working with British actress Flora Robson in the Broadway production of "The Damask Cheek", Robson would tell her that she had a "star quality" and one day she would be discovered. Instead of being elated by the idea, Holm replied with, "How do I avoid it?"
It was soon after that Holm landed her star-making role as the original Ado Annie in Roger and Hammerstein's Broadway production of "Oklahoma!". Afterwards, Hollywood came knocking and promptly signed her to 20th Century Fox where she made her debut in a few pictures Holm would later reflect on as being "forgettable."
What was not forgettable was her role as Anne Dettrey in the controversial drama, "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947). It was not an easy part to obtain either, since Darryl Zanuck did not see her in the role as Anne but after screenwriter Moss Hart came to her defense, Zanuck gave her a dramatic screen test to prove she could play the part. And the rest is history. She received her first Academy Award for "Best Supporting Actress", proving that she was a versatile actress. In 1950, Holm was a part of the ensemble cast of "All About Eve," where she played "Karen", a close friend to Bette Davis' Margot Channing. On the first day of production, Holm met Davis with a "Good Morning" to which Davis replied, "Oh. [expletitive], good manners." It has now become widely-known that they did not speak a word to each other after that first day.
She simultaneously made a career in both film and Broadway while extending her reach to certain charities. Holm was a spokeswoman for UNICEF as well as appointed to the National Arts Council by President Ronald Reagan.
Perhaps she escaped the sphere of mega-stardom but Holm solidified herself as a star in her own right, on stage, on screen and in our hearts.