It Ain’t Like It Used To Be, But It’ll Do

by |
07/02/2008 9:00 AM |

gWilliam Holden, subject of a retrospective at the Walter Reade that begins today and continues through the 15th, bridged a lot of Hollywood history without seeming out of place: a literal Golden Boy during Hollywood’s Golden Age, he was a professional movie star, always recognizably himself, even through the method-acting infiltration of Hollywood during the postwar years, prefiguring the breakdown of the studio system and the rise of New Hollywood — and that ruined, handsome face of his, in autumnal Big Picture after autumnal Big Picture, seemed to know that it was on the wrong side of history. He was a charmer and a booze-bitter cynic — his self-loathing charisma fit perfectly into Billy Wilder’s Hollywood elegy Sunset Boulevard, and Sam Peckinpah’s most nihilist romantic elegy to the classical Western, The Wild Bunch.

And of course he was in many good movies, many of which are playing in this series — which, by the way, features ten pairs of 2-for-1 double features, two showings each, a different lineup each day, beginning with today’s line-up of Sunset Boulevard and Wilder’s later Fedora, a very late return to the Holden-falls-into-the-world-of-a-reclusive-old-actress template. Say goodbye to Hollywood, or something.

Although. Given that the FSLC is giving a retro to a square-jawed specimen of American manhood who brought subtle shadings of complex psychological depth to mainstream Hollywood prestige and genre fare, and was in The Wild Bunch, I have to ask: can we please have a Robert Ryan retrospective soon? It’s been a long time coming.