Academy Award winner Celeste Holm, who was the original girl who couldn’t say no in Broadway’s landmark musical Oklahoma! before she carved out a serious film career in the late ’40s and ’50s, has died, according to New York news station NY1. She was 95 and had been suffering heart and other ailments, say recent reports.
A New York City native of Norwegian descent, she had studied drama at the University of Chicago before landing a series of Broadway roles, starting in a short-lived 1938 comedy called Gloriana. But it was her Ado Annie, the good-natured girl of easy virtue in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 tribute to the farmer and the cowboy, that made her a star and led to a contract with 20th Century Fox.
Among her movies was the groundbreaking indictment of anti-Semitism, Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), for which she won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress. She played a fashion editor who befriends the investigative journalist played by Gregory Peck.
Another strong role was that of the long-suffering wife of the playwright in the film classic about the stage, 1950’s All About Eve, starring Bette Davis.
In lighter roles, Holm played the photographer girlfriend of the Frank Sinatra character in the musical High Society, and she had an active TV career, earning Emmy nominations for Insight and Backstairs at the White House.
Married five times, Holm, on her 87th birthday, wed opera singer Frank Basile, who was 41. He survives her, as do two sons and three grandchildren.
In tribute to the actress, the marquees of all Broadway theaters will be dimmed in her memory on Wednesday, July 18, at 8 p.m. for one minute.