William Holden (born William Franklin Beedle Jr.; April 17, 1918 – November 12, 1981) was an American actor who was one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1950s through the 1970s. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1953 for his role in Stalag 17, and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for his role in the 1973 television film The Blue Knight.
Holden starred in some of Hollywood's most popular and critically acclaimed films, including such classics as Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Wild Bunch, Picnic, and Network. He was named one of the "Top 10 Stars of the Year" six times (1954–1958, 1961), and appeared as 25th on the American Film Institute's list of 25 greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema.
According to the Los Angeles County Coroner's autopsy report, Holden was alone and intoxicated in his apartment in Santa Monica, California, on November 12, 1981, when he slipped on a rug, severely lacerating his forehead on a teak bedside table, and bled to death. Evidence suggests he was conscious for at least half an hour after the fall. He likely may not have realized the severity of the injury and did not summon aid, or was unable to call for help. His body was found four days later. The causes of death were given as "exsanguination" and "blunt laceration of scalp". Rumors existed that he was suffering from lung cancer, which Holden himself had denied at a 1980 press conference. His death certificate made no mention of any cancer. He had dictated in his will that the Neptune Society cremate him and scatter his ashes in the Pacific Ocean. In accordance with his wishes, no funeral or memorial service was held.
When Holden died, President Ronald Reagan released a statement, saying, "I have a great feeling of grief. We were close friends for many years. What do you say about a longtime friend - a sense of personal loss, a fine man. Our friendship never waned."
For his contribution to the film industry, Holden has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1651 Vine Street. He also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. His death was noted by singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega, whose 1987 song "Tom's Diner" (about a sequence of events one morning in 1981) included a mention of reading a newspaper article about "an actor who had died while he was drinking". Vega subsequently confirmed that this was a reference to Holden.