Spotlight on William Holden in Union Station
I’ve had my fair share of celebrity crushes but none have lasted as long as William Holden. I first took notice of him in Sabrina and was instantly smitten. Then I saw him in thick framed glasses in Born Yesterday and was a total goner.
It didn’t hurt that he was also a talented actor. From his debut in Golden Boy thru his Oscar winning turn in Stalag 17 to his supporting role in Network he’s turned in several unforgettable performances. As today is his birthday, I thought I’d take part in The Golden Boy Blogathon and pay tribute to one of his great roles – Lt. William Calhoun in Union Station.
Union Station is not one of Holden’s most well known films and, in fact, I only discovered it within the last year. Released the same year as Sunset Boulevard it’s a bit lost in the shadows of that masterpiece. I adore Sunset Boulevard and it is the superior film but Union Station is still an impressive piece of film noir. Plus, it combines two of my biggest loves – classic film and Los Angeles.
Union Station is the central hub of public transportation in Los Angeles. Built i 1939 it was designed by Jon and Donald Parkinson – prolific architects who also designed Los Angeles’ famed city hall. Ever since its debut it’s remained a significant part of the LA landscape. A beautiful structure that combines Art Deco and Mission Revival design it’s a national historic landmark and remains in beautiful condition to this day.
In 1950 it was 11 years old and a bustling hub of transportation. Located just outside of downtown near much of the industrial section of LA it was the perfect setting for a noir thriller.
Union Station, starring William Holden, Nancy Ols0n and Barry Fitzgerald was the perfect film for the station and much of it was filmed in the terminal (although the plot takes place in Chicago). William Holden is a railroad policeman who’s beat is the terminal itself. Barry Fitzgerald is his trusty co-worker and Nancy Olson is a passenger who immediately notices something suspicious happening. She immediately alerts Holden and the duo are caught in the middle of kidnapping plot.
Union Station is a tight thriller that captures the attention. Admittedly, my initial interest was the star himself and I was delightfully surprised at how good the film is. It’s suspenseful and powerfully acted by Holden and Olson. It’s the second of their four pairings and they have real chemistry. It’s a shame their history as a film couple is not as well known as other famous duos.
Of course, one of my favorite aspects of the film is the setting itself. After viewing it I took a Los Angeles Conservancy tour of the station and was amazed at how little has changed in the 66 years since it’s release. Both the location and film have aged beautifully.