The Third Golden Boy Blogathon: A William Holden Centenary Celebration…

Audrey and Bill

source: Paramount Pictures

Is it really a true classic Hollywood film unless your two leads have an affair?

From Bogart and Bacall, Crawford and Gable, Kelly and well, just about everyone (allegedly), having an affair with your co-star is as common as putting cereal before milk.

One tryst that I’ve always liked was the short-lived relationship between Audrey Hepburn and William Holden.

Audrey and William

source: Paramount Pictures

Let’s travel back to 1954.

The Korean war has ended, Eisenhower was president, and Audrey Hepburn was Hollywood’s hottest commodity.

Coming off an Oscar win for 1953’s Roman Holiday, Hepburn threw herself into her work, starting with the Billy Wilder romantic dramedy Sabrina.

It’s on this set where she meets and subsequently falls in love with Hollywood’s ‘Golden Boy’ William Holden.

Sabrina was Holden‘s third film with Wilder, making him a mediator whenever there were disagreements between Bogart and Hepburn on set. Since Holden was notorious for having on set affairs, it was only a matter of time until Hepburn fell for his charms.

One thing led to another and Hepburn eventually caved in. Their on-set rendezvous, however, caused frustration among the crew – particularly Bogart who was still bitter about his wife Lauren Bacall being passed over the title role of Sabrina.

William and Audrey 2

source: Audrey and ‘Bill” having a rather flirty conversation during one of their breaks on the set of 1954’s Sabrina

Their heated affair lasted until the end of filming.

According to multiple biographies, Audrey ultimately wanted Holden to divorce his wife and move in with him, inevitably having his children.


Holden unintentionally ruined their future together when he had an impromptu vasectomy after his two sons were born. This left Audrey rather distressed and heartbroken. She finally ended their relationship when Holden admitted he wouldn’t divorce his wife for her.

Luckily, filming was completed relatively swiftly, leaving Hepburn with time to mend her shattered hopes and dreams.

William and Audrey 3

source: Paramount Pictures

The next time Holden and Hepburn crossed paths was in 1964, 10 years after the filming of Sabrina when they co-starred in the romantic comedy Paris When It Sizzles.

The movie wasn’t too great, but what it lacked in the on-screen plot was more than made up in the crazy behind the scenes drama involving their relationship and Holden‘s rampant alcoholism.

Director Richard Quine commented on this, saying that Holden “was like a punch-drunk fighter, walking on his heels, listing slightly, talking punchy. He didn’t know he was drunk.”

This downfall was partly due to Hepburn‘s presence.

Holden fell for Hepburn – hard.

Apparently, every so often, Holden would send letters and flowers to Hepburn even though she’d been married to fellow actor Mel Ferrer for 10 years.

Holden would later recall his first time seeing Audrey after 10 years, saying, “I could hear my footsteps echoing against the walls of the transit corridor, just like a condemned man walking the last mile. I realized that I had to face Audrey and I had to deal with my drinking. And I didn’t think I could handle either situation.”

William and Audrey 5

source: Audrey and William having a laugh during their downtime on the set of 1954’s Sabrina

I suppose that’s the saddest part of this entire ordeal. If wasn’t for Holden‘s ‘surprise’ vasectomy and his alcoholism, he probably would’ve married Hepburn.

Who knows what they would’ve become? The next Newman and Woodward or Burton and Taylor? Would he have cheated on her like he did with his wife or would he treat her differently?

I’d like to think so, considering how deeply affected he was after seeing her again after 10 years.

In the end, Holden and Hepburn went their separate ways. Hepburn with Mel Ferrer and Holden with Brenda Marshall until their divorce in 1971.



16 thoughts on “The Third Golden Boy Blogathon: A William Holden Centenary Celebration…

  1. Despite starring in some of Hollywood’s best movies–Sunset Blvd., The Wild Bunch, Network, just to name a few–I’ve always felt Holden was underrated. When I think of him I always think of Sunset Boulevard. Great actor. Very handsome too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Holden and Hepburn are definitely one of the great “what-could-have-been” relationships. I’ve always felt that had he not gotten that operation, they could have made it work. Their time together was short-lived, but there was obviously a deep love there. I’m glad both of them found great partners at the end of their lives, though. They deserved it.

    Thanks for contributing this fantastic piece to the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s sort of a sad story. I also wonder what would have happened if they had become a married couple. Interesting post! Just a little note: Sabrina actually wasn’t Holden’s first film with Billy Wilder. He made Sunset Blvd and Stalag 17 before. 😉
    Thanks for this informative participation to our blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The 3rd Golden Boy Blogathon – Day 3 – The Wonderful World of Cinema

  5. OH I always get emotional between these two- and despite what anyone says- Holden always considered Audrey the love of his life- and some say end of their relationship was the real beginning of his alcohol addiction. I wish they could have done a movie together where they could just be together in a true screwball way- it would have been marvelous! Anyways- lesson is GET YOU SOMEONE who LOOKS AT YOU the way BILL LOOKS at Audrey!
    Thank YOU so much for writing and sharing your Bill (and Audrey!) love!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Many Thanks to All the Participants of the 3rd Golden Boy Blogathon! – The Wonderful World of Cinema

  7. What a sad love story. They truly had great chemistry; and I agree, if not for his vasectomy; they could’ve ended up in marital bliss. Hepburn was always affectionate towards children, not to have her own, would’ve been too much for her to take.

    Liked by 1 person

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