Today I would like to discuss William Franklin Beedle Jr. and his lasting legacy in the cinema. Perhaps almost every resident of O’Fallon already knows of his existence. Within the celebrity realm, he was known famously as William Holden. His contribution to Hollywood and the history of O’Fallon is beyond fascinating. As a long term resident of neighboring Breese, I had no idea that such an influential man was born here.
Holden was born on April 17th, 1918 at 319 North Cherry Street in O’Fallon. Remarkably, the house still exists today. Holden made his film debut in 1938 and left a lasting mark on the film industry. Flourishing in the industry, he worked with great icons like Audrey Hepburn and Gloria Swanson. In the mid twentieth century, William Holden was known as one of the handsomest actors of old Hollywood and stunned the silver screen. I’m sure I would have joined the numerous amount of girls swooning over him if I was a teenager during the highlight of his acting career.
Holden also held significant roles in World War II themed films like Stalag 17 and The Bridge on the River Kwai. During the war years, film was a way to contribute to the war effort and Americans flocked to theaters. Those who couldn’t join the fight in the European or Pacific theaters gathered around to watch films like Holden’s The Devil’s Brigade and The Bridges at Toko-Ri. The Bridges at Toko-Ri was originally a 1953 novel written by Pulitzer Prize winner James Michene.
I think it is important to remind ourselves that anyone, even our neighbor, could one day end up famous and that we all have the potential to leave a lasting mark on society. Despite his prosperous time in Hollywood, Holden still came back to visit the city of O’Fallon. I discovered William Holden while working at the library and quickly realized how much of an influence he left on not only Hollywood, but also the O’Fallon community.
One night in 1944 in a German POW camp housing American airmen, two prisoners try to escape the compound and are quickly discovered and shot dead. Among the remaining men, suspicion grows that one of their own is a spy for the Germans. All eyes fall on Sgt. Sefton (William Holden) who everybody knows frequently makes exchanges with German guards for small luxuries. To protect himself from a mob of his enraged fellow inmates, Sgt. Sefton resolves to find the true traitor within their midst.
The Bridge on the River Kwai–
British POWs are ordered by their Japanese captors to construct a bridge of strategic importance and are happy to sabotage and delay the progress until their commanding officers orders them to continue the work unhindered to its completion, but are his actions tantamount to collaborating with the enemy?
The Bridges at Toko-Ri
by James A. Michener- A tale of the men who fought the Korean War. Young and innocent, they arrive in a place they have barely ever heard of. They prepare for the rituals of war that countless men have endured. Together they face an enemy they do not understand, knowing their only hope for survival is to win.