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Tribute to Celeste Holm

July 19, 2012

Celeste Holm, who died at the age of 95, was a true great both on stage and in film. Her “away from the ball” roles as Karen in “All About Eve” and Anne Dettrey in “Gentleman’s Agreement,” for which she won the Academy Award in 1947, stand as superb testimony to the importance of the supporting player. I used the sports term “away from the ball” because in sports, the arts, and in life–support, team effort and to stretch it, care for others, can manifest in greatness and at least good.

I met Ms. Holm at an event in 1988 when with new found access to such events and a new, first significant other (ie girlfriend, others always had them not me) life was moving rather fast. Yet I knew I was in the presence of greatness and I treasure my picture with Celeste Holm. Her outfit with a beautiful mix of stylish colors was superb. It is too bad we can not “bottle” not only her classy ways but the free flowing way in which she communicated. Please listen to her recreating her “hog call” as a way of explaining her getting a first big role in “Oklahoma.” It was part of her obituary as reported by National Public Radio. Totally uninhibited, she does a long, loud one. “Brass” and class, Celeste Holm had both in great abundance.

On my last cable show in the now far away year 2000, Celeste Holm talked to me via the telephone. She talked of her time with Bette Davis while filming “All About Eve” and how happy she was when the great Moss Hart told her she would be Anne Dettrey in “Gentleman’s Agreement.”

When Celeste and her grandmother went to Radio City Music Hall in her youth, they both noticed and spoke to a dashing usher, who wanted to be an actor. His name was Gregory Peck and Ms.Holm talked of the enormity of both she and Mr. Peck fulfilling their dreams and how much playing/acting with him in “Gentleman’s Agreement” meant to her. While my dreams have not come true, my glass is closer to half full because I did meet and interview Celeste Holm. So many greats are gone, so few left. We have their art and thank goodness for that. The likes of Celeste Holm, a classy, talented, storytelling woman do not come along very often. Maybe Mr. Peck will “usher” you into the better place.

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