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BWW Interview: Remembering Broadway Legend and Hollywood Royalty, Celeste Holm

Items from the Celeste Holm Collection will be featured as a part of the Stage & Screen auction on April 28.

BWW Interview: Remembering Broadway Legend and Hollywood Royalty, Celeste Holm

This Wednesday could be your day to own a piece of history from one of the brightest stars of Broadway's Golden Age. Doyle will feature pieces from the Celeste Holm Collection as a special section of the inaugural Stage & Screen auction benefitting The Actors Fund on April 28, at 10am.

The selection is focused on the wonderful scripts, letters, photographs, costumes, jewelry, and awards from the pivotal early years of Ms. Holm's long and highly accomplished professional stage and screen career. In this Golden Age period from the late 1930s through the mid 1950s, Celeste Holm starred on Broadway in Oklahoma!, Bloomer Girl, Affairs of State, The King and I among others and on film in Gentleman's Agreement, All About Eve, The Tender Trap and High Society also among several others.

Holm, who passed away in 2012, would have celebrated her 105th birthday on April 29th, and this sale is meant as a celebration of her life and myriad accomplishments. Linked together by these wonderful stories, the objects offered in The Celeste Holm Collection are truly evocative of the Golden Age of theater and film.

You can view lots and place bids on the collection here and learn more about the Broadway and Hollywood icon below as BroadwayWorld chats with her husband, Frank Basile.


I spent some time looking at the collection and it seems like enough to fill a museum!

It is! And it's just the tip of the iceberg. It's been a journey, emotionally. Doyle came here and we went through everything and targeted a few things that we though fit this particular auction. I knew that doing this with any other auction house would have meant them coming, taking everything, and going through it wherever they were. There's no way they could have shipped it at and done the justice that Doyle has been able to do by being here in my home. I'm very grateful to them.

I hope that we can make this a celebration of her. It's also her birthday [on April 29] and our anniversary- we got married on her birthday. Even since her passing, a group of friends gets together and goes to dinner to celebrate her life. We all knew her and loved her and those are the traditions that I still carry.

So this year will be an extra-special way to celebrate her life and legacy...

Absolutely. Celeste was always about giving. And Doyle had already lined up the date with The Actors Fund, so I felt that this was the right time.

BWW Interview: Remembering Broadway Legend and Hollywood Royalty, Celeste Holm
Celeste Holm's annotated script and song book for Green Grow the Lilacs, the musical that became Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!
BWW Interview: Remembering Broadway Legend and Hollywood Royalty, Celeste Holm
Letter signed to Celeste Holm regarding future roles, 1948.

I know that the Actors Fund was important to Celeste throughout her life. How do you think she'd feel about these pieces from her career going to a cause that's helping people in the industry?

She would say, "Have at it!" I think she would hope that [each piece] brings them as much joy as it did to her. It's one thing to receive an award, but it's another thing to love somebody enough to carry that adulation and remembrance forward. I want as many people to remember Celeste as possible. If we could take the thousands of things that I have and increase that memory by a thousand-fold, I'd be happy to do that.

There are so many beautiful items in this collection and we don't have to talk about every one of them, but are any that particularly stand out to you?

BWW Interview: Remembering Broadway Legend and Hollywood Royalty, Celeste Holm
Golden Globe Award Presented to Celeste Holm
for Best Supporting Performance in
Gentleman's Agreement, 1947.

So many. The Golden Globe... alongside her Academy Award and all of her other awards, we kept right in the middle of our living room on the piano. And even then the piano got to be too small to hold them all [Laughs]. Many of the little knick knacks, like the lipstick holder with the Oscar on it, I love that. That stuff, along with her jewelry and things... Celeste loved every day to sit in front of her beautiful vanity with mirrors folded around her and she loved to just look at her things every day. Just to remember what they all meant to her. It was like a little girl dressing up. She loved to reflect on it and tell me stories.

I'm in awe of all the letters from Richard Rodgers, Gertrude Lawrence...

Yes! There is one in particular from Agnes DeMille- Celeste was nominated for the National Council for the Arts and President Reagan asked Agnes to write a character endorsement letter as a part of the vetting. Of course Agnes was the choreographer for Oklahoma! and Bloomer Girl. Agnes said in her letter that Celeste defined the very word 'neighbor.' With all of her accolades, the one thing that goes unnoticed is the work behind the scenes; the things you do for charity and the philanthropic commitment to mankind. And [Agnes] said that Celeste was relentless and committed to others and making the most of her stature for the good of others. I always found that so true. That was the woman I fell in love with, and she never lost that passion.

That is really beautiful.

Even when we were in the rehab center, Celeste would sign autographs for UNICEF. We'd sit there as a part of her rehabilitation and I'd bring her fan letters and she's sit there and sign them. Sometimes she could barely get her hand up to hold a pen, but she did it. Nobody knew when they got their letter back in the mail what she was going through at that moment in time to make it happen, but with every autograph came a donation to UNICEF. I want people to know that.

Whenever there was something that needed to get done, Celeste was always willing to step up. When it came time to tear down the Helen Hayes Theatre and the Booth Theatre, she was an advocate against that happening. She jumped on the crane and got arrested! And after all of this happened, the theatres were grandfathered into the Land Preservation Act and they were no longer allowed to demolish theatres after the Marriott went in. They now protect those theatres and Celeste played a part in that. She was such a strong advocate for the arts

BWW Interview: Remembering Broadway Legend and Hollywood Royalty, Celeste Holm
Costume for Bloomer Girl, circa 1944

Did I also see that there is going to be a second collection available later this year?

Yes. We tried to pick things that were specific to film or her relationship with media, Broadway, etc. There is so much more than they could but in this one auction though, without excluding everyone else who is participating in the auction. So there will definitely be a Phase 2 or I'll be stuck with mostly everything else that's still in my house! [Laughs] These things are a part of my wife's accomplishments. They are things that we cherished together, but it doesn't do any good on my shelf or in a box. I can't wear her costumes!


For further information on the incredible life and career of Celeste Holm, visit CelesteHolm.com. Click here to view lots and place bids on the Celeste Holm Collection.


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