After his debut in 1939’s Golden Boy, William Holden became a mid-range Paramount contract player who appeared in generic fare throughout the ’40s. The legend is that Holden broke through at age 32 in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard (and he did to some extent), but his career didn’t really take off until Stalag 17 (’53), for which he won a Best Actor Oscar. After that Billy Wilder film Holden was regarded worldwide as a major heavyweight movie star.
Over the next six years he made ten films that definitely mattered — The Moon Is Blue, Executive Suite, Sabrina, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, The Country Girl, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Picnic, The Proud and Profane, The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Horse Soldiers. He kept working until his death in ’81, but from The Horse Soldiers on (or over the next 22 years) Holden only made six genuinely good films — The Wild Bunch, Wild Rovers, Breezy, Network, Fedora and S.O.B. Okay, seven if you want to count The Towering Inferno.