NEW YORK — Celeste Holm, a versatile, bright-eyed blonde who soared to Broadway fame in “Oklahoma!” and won an Oscar for “Gentleman’s Agreement” but whose last years were filled with financial difficulty and estrangement from her sons, died Sunday, a relative said. She was 95.
Holm was hospitalized about two weeks ago with dehydration. She spent her final days with her husband, Frank Basile, and other relatives and close friends, said Amy Phillips, a great-niece of Holm’s who answered the phone at her apartment Sunday.
Holm died around 3:30 a.m. at her Central Park West apartment, in the building where Robert De Niro lives and where a fire broke out last month, Phillips said. “I think she wanted to be here, in her home, among her things, with people who loved her.”
In a career that spanned more than half a century, Holm played everyone from Ado Annie — the girl who just can’t say no in “Oklahoma!”— to a worldly theatrical agent in the 1991 comedy “I Hate Hamlet” to guest star turns on TV shows such as “Fantasy Island” and “Love Boat II” to Bette Davis’ best friend in “All About Eve.”
She won the Academy Award in 1947 for best supporting actress for her performance in “Gentlemen’s Agreement” and received Oscar nominations for “Come to the Stable” (1949) and “All About Eve” (1950).
Holm was known for her untiring charity work — she once served on nine boards — and was a board member emeritus of the National Mental Health Association.
She was once president of the Creative Arts Rehabilitation Center, which treats emotionally disturbed people using arts therapies. Over the years, she raised $20,000 for UNICEF by charging 50 cents apiece for autographs.
President Ronald Reagan appointed her to a six-year term on the National Council on the Arts in 1982. In New York, she was active in the Save the Theatres Committee and was once arrested during a vigorous protest against the demolition of several theaters.
But late in her life, she was in a bitter, multiyear legal family battle that pitted her two sons against her and her fifth husband — former waiter Basile, whom she married in 2004 and was more than 45 years her junior. The court fight over investments and inheritance wiped away much of her savings and left her dependent on Social Security. The actress and her sons no longer spoke, and she was sued for overdue maintenance and legal fees on her Manhattan apartment.