Friday, April 17, 2009

What a way to go!

TCM have been marking the birthday of William Holden by showing a bunch of his movies. He would have been 91 today, except that he died back in 1981. It's a pretty sad death, too: Holden, like a lot of actors, was a substantial drinker, and during one bout of drinking, he fell and hit his head on his coffee table. Like Natasha Richardson, he had no idea that he was in any danger, and what should have been a minor injury proved fatal.

I'm not quite sure what I'd consider to be the worst way to die. There are a lot of stars who got cancer, such as Marie Dressler and Humphrey Bogart, and that sort of lingering death has to be horrible. Ronald Reagan and Rita Hayworth are two of the bigger names who had Alzheimer's disease, which is terrible for everybody around the victim, but one has to wonder whether the patient gets to a point where he doesn't realize what's going on around him. In that vein, Lou Gehrig's disease, which killed David Niven, might be even worse.

Having said that, though, Hollywood's writers came up with much more inventive ways for characters to die than the actors who actually played them. The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, for example, is about a killer who uses black widow spiders to murder jockeys. One of the characters in The Girl in Black Stockings walks backwards into a buzzsaw. And to get back to William Holden, in his movie Union Station, airing tomorrow at 10:30 AM ET, one of the characters is trampled to death in a cattle stockyard. Union Station is actually a nifty little thriller, made by Holden and Nancy Olson just after the made Sunset Blvd. together. Olson plays a woman traveling to the big city, who believes that her blind friend was kidnapped, and her bag taken to the city's Union Station; Holden plays the station detective, charged with investigating. Union Station is unfortunately not available on DVD, so you'll have to catch TCM's showing.

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