Two of the greatest conversations in cinema history are set in cars, one between two brothers, Marlon Brando‘s Terry Mally and Rod Steiger as his brother Charley in On the Waterfront when the former laments that he could have been a contender, the second, between two women, Bette Davis‘s Margo Channing and Celeste Holm‘s Karen Richards in All About Eve when their car has run out of gas as part a stratagem the latter arranged to try to diffuse the growing tension between Davis and Anne Baxter‘s eponymous Eve.
Holm who never enjoyed the leading status of Davis, excelled in supporting roles, winning her first Oscar in just such a role, Elia Kazan’s “1947 dramatic examination of anti-Semitism, “Gentleman’s Agreement.” The stage and screen actress who played “a smart fashion editor” in that film died today in New York. She was 95.
“Though a screen natural,” reports Robert Simonson in Playbill,
Ms. Holm resolved that she preferred stage work over film, and made few movies after “All About Eve.” She had first made her mark on Broadway as the original Ado Annie in Oklahoma!, kicking up her gingham skirts and singing about being a girl who “cain’t say no.” The year after, in 1944, she topped the bill, playing a Civil War-era feminist in Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg’s Bloomer Girl. The show was a hit and ran for two years. Following her stay in Hollywood, she returned to Broadway with another hit, the comedy Affairs of State by Louis Verneuil. Ms. Holm played Anna Leonowens during Gertrude Lawrence’s vacation from the role in The King and I.
Most of us (alas!) did not have the good fortune to see this talented woman on stage, but she shone in her every screen performance, an incredibly talented woman whose performances either equalled or, more often exceeded those of the leading ladies — and men — her roles supported.