Oscar Actors: Holm, Celeste–Background, Career; Awards

Updated May 27, 2020

Celeste Holm Career Summary

Occupational inheritance:No

Social Class: upper middle class; mother artist; father businessman

Education: school productions; Univ. of Chicago drama;

Stage debut:

Broadway debut: 1940; age 23; Oklahoma ! 1943, age 26

Film debut: 1946; age 29

Oscar awards: 1 Supporting Actress, Gentleman’s Agreement, 1947; age 30

Oscar nominations: 2 more Supporting Actress noms; 1949, 1950

Other awards:

Career span (screen): over half a century

Last film:

Marriages: 5 (2 to actors, 1 opera singer)


Death: 2012; age 95


Born on April 29, 1917, Celeste Holm, an only child, was raised in Manhattan.  Her mother, Jean Parke, was an American portrait artist and author. Her father, Theodor Holm, was a Norwegian businessman whose company provided marine adjustment services for Lloyd’s of London. Due to her parents’ occupations, she traveled often during her youth and attended various schools in the Netherlands, France and the U.S.

She began high school at the University School for Girls in Chicago, and then transferred to the Francis W. Parker School (Chicago) where she performed in school stage productions and graduated as a member of the class of 1935.

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. She first appeared on Broadway in a small part in Gloriana (1938), a comedy which lasted for only five performances.

Her first major part on Broadway was in William Saroyan’s revival of “The Time of Your Life” in 1940, as Mary L. with fellow newcomer Gene Kelly. The role that got her the most recognition was as Ado Annie in the premiere production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” in 1943.

After starring in the Broadway production of Bloomer Girl, Fox signed Holm to a movie contract in 1946. She made her film debut that same year in “Three Little Girls in Blue,” making a startling entrance in a “Technicolor red” dress singing “Always a Lady.”

In 1947 she won an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in Gentleman’s Agreement.

However, after another supporting role in All About Eve, Holm realized she preferred the theater to movies, and only accepted a few select film roles over the next decade. The most successful of these were the comedy The Tender Trap (1955) and the musical High Society (1956), both of which co-starred Frank Sinatra.

She starred as a professor-turned-reporter in New York City in the CBS television series Honestly, Celeste! (fall 1954) and was thereafter a panelist on Who Pays? (1959). She also appeared ABC’s The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom.

In 1958, she starred as a reporter in an unsold television pilot called The Celeste Holm Show, based on the book No Facilities for Women. Holm also starred in the musical The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall.

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. In the story line, Holm played Abby Townsend, the press secretary of the First Lady of the United States and the chaperone of Jarrett’s character, Nancy Smith, the President’s daughter.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Holm did more screen acting, with roles in films such as Tom Sawyer and Three Men and a Baby.

She guest-starred in television series, such as Columbo, The Eleventh Hour, Archie Bunker’s Place, and Falcon Crest.

In 1979, she played the role of First Lady Florence Harding in the TV mini-series, Backstairs at the White House. She was a regular on the ABC soap opera Loving, appearing first in 1986 in the role of Lydia Woodhouse and again as Isabelle Dwyer Alden #2 from 1991 to 1992.

She last appeared in the CBS television series Promised Land (1996–1999).

Marriages: 5 (2 to actors)

Holm’s first marriage was at age 19 to Ralph Nelson in 1936. The marriage ended in 1939. Their son, Internet pioneer and sociologist Ted Nelson (born 1937), was raised by his maternal grandparents.

Holm married Francis Emerson Harding Davies, an English auditor, on January 7, 1940. The marriage was dissolved in May 1945.

From 1946 to 1952, Holm was married to airline public relations executive A. Schuyler Dunning, with whom she had a second son, businessman Daniel Dunning.

In 1961, Holm married actor Wesley Addy, and the marriage lasted until his death in 1996.

On April 29, 2004, her 87th birthday, Holm married opera singer Frank Basile, who was 41 years old.

According to Basile, Holm had been treated for memory loss since 2002, suffered skin cancer, bleeding ulcers and a collapsed lung, and had hip replacements and pacemakers. In June 2012, Holm was admitted to New York’s Roosevelt Hospital with dehydration, where she suffered a heart attack on July 13, 2012; she died two days later at her Central Park West apartment, aged 95.