William Holden was born William Franklin Beedle, Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois, to Mary Blanche (Ball), a schoolteacher, and William Franklin Beedle, Sr., an industrial chemist. He came from a wealthy family (the Beedles) that moved to Pasadena, California, when he was three. In 1937, while studying chemistry at Pasadena Junior College, he was signed to a film contract by Paramount. His first starring role was as a young man torn between the violin and boxing in L'esclave aux mains d'or (1939). From then on he was typecast as the boy-next-door. After returning from World War II military service, he got two very important roles: Joe Gillis, the gigolo, in Boulevard du Crépuscule (1950), and the tutor in Comment l'esprit vient aux femmes (1950). These were followed by his Oscar-winning role as the cynical sergeant in Stalag 17 (1953). He stayed popular through the 1950s, appearing in such films as Picnic (1956). He spent much of his later time as co-owner of the Mount Kenya Safari Club, dividing his time between Africa and Switzerland.