David Holt (actor)

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David Jack Holt
Born (1927-08-14)August 14, 1927
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
Died November 15, 2003(2003-11-15) (aged 76)
San Juan Capistrano, California, U.S.
Other names David Holt
Years active 1933-1977

David Jack Holt (mostly known as David Holt; August 14, 1927 – November 15, 2003) was an American actor initially groomed at the age of seven to be the male Shirley Temple. After being let down by Will Rogers, stress, polio, and resentment from his father precipitated his downfall, which culminated in being reduced to starring in the cheap drugs-scare melodrama "She Shoulda Said 'No'!", at the age of 22. By the time he was 25, no acting parts were available for him and he eventually turned to songwriting, where he had some moderate success before his death in 2003 at the age of 76.

Biography[edit]

Holt was born on August 14, 1927 in Jacksonville, Florida. Four years later, his sister Betty was born, who also became an actor.[1] At a young age, Holt's dancing skills so impressed the actor and wit Will Rogers that Rogers purportedly told Holt's mother that if ever they were in Hollywood they should contact him and he would get young David into pictures. Relying on this understanding, Holt's father promptly quit his job with Ford Motors. Intent on holding Rogers to his promise, the Holt family drove to California. Despite their best efforts, Rogers refused even to see them.[2]

With no income, Holt's father worked as a casual laborer. Holt's mother took Holt to auditions, sometimes sharing transport with Shirley Temple and her mother. Initially, Holt found it difficult to get acting jobs. He did, however, get a job as "body double" for Cheeta's chimpanzee predecessor in the 1933 film Tarzan the Fearless and had a small role in the 1933 Our Gang (Little Rascals) comedy Forgotten Babies.

Holt in action in the 1936 film Straight from the Shoulder with Ralph Bellamy.

At age seven, in 1934, Holt got his acting break in the movie You Belong to Me, a melodrama in which his character's mother dies. He was now a child star, and Paramount Pictures put him under a long-term contract and promoted him as a male version of Shirley Temple. Over the next six years, Holt made 20 films, but did not come close to the superstar status set by his friend, Shirley Temple.

Holt was initially cast in the title role in David Copperfield, alongside W. C. Fields' character, Wilkins Micawber. However, producer David O. Selznick developed misgivings about having an American youngster portray a quintessentially British boy. When English child actor Freddie Bartholomew became available a couple of weeks into shooting, Holt was let go. Holt had a prominent role in the 1936 movie Straight from the Shoulder (also known as Johnny Gets His Gun) alongside noted actor Ralph Bellamy. Holt eventually developed a reputation as a troublemaker,[3] and found himself settling for supporting roles in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1939), Beau Geste (1939), and Courage of Lassie (1946) as Elizabeth Taylor's older brother. Holt may be best remembered as the older Billy in the 1942 critically and publicly acclaimed film, The Pride of the Yankees, where 17-year old Billy attends Lou Gehrig Day and shows Lou Gehrig that Billy now can walk without a limp, implying that Gehrig's promised World Series home runs many years ago helped a young Billy overcome his childhood illness.

Holt's stress may have been a source of his troublemaking and his restricted success as an actor. Holt made more money than his father, who openly expressed his resentment at making so much less income than his prepubescent son. The production line of movies in which Holt was cast compounded his household stress. Holt and his family's expenses soon exceeded Holt's income and the family eventually had to rely on soup kitchens. At one point Holt had polio, which he believed was a result of the stress he felt in the studios. Amidst all this, Holt's parents separated.[2]

At age 14, Holt largely turned his back on acting in favor of songwriting and poetry. Attempting to return to acting in 1948, he found few parts available, and ended up starring in the 1949 cheap drugs-scare melodrama "She Shoulda Said 'No'!". By the early 1950s, the parts had dried up and Holt returned to song writing.

Later life and death[edit]

Holt did have some success as a jazz pianist and composer, writing the music for numerous jazz albums, including several that featured Pete Jolly, and writing "The Christmas Blues" with Sammy Cahn, which was recorded by Dean Martin and eventually used on the 1997 soundtrack of L.A. Confidential. In the 1990s, Holt was host of the television show American Music Shop, which featured a different country artist each week.

Holt married, and had four children: Lamont, Janna, Hayley, and Tina. In the early 1960s, Holt went into the real estate business to take advantage of Southern California's booming real estate market, retiring in 1985 at age 58.[4]

Holt died on November 15, 2003 at age 76 of congestive heart failure in San Juan Capistrano, California, leaving his autobiography "The Holts of Hollywood" unfinished.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Betty Holt biography. Retrieved December 1, 2006.
  2. ^ a b The Times. (November 26, 2003). David Holt; Lives in brief; Obituary; The Register. Page 36.
  3. ^ Biography for David Holt (I). Retrieved December 1, 2006.
  4. ^ California Department of Real Estate license information for David Jack Holt. Retrieved December 1, 2006.
  • Generally see The Times. (November 26, 2003). David Holt; Lives in brief; Obituary; The Register. Page 36.
  • Generally see David Holt (I)

External links[edit]