Tim Holt

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Tim Holt
File:Tim Holt Western.jpg
Tim Holt, 1948
Born Charles John Holt III
(1919-02-05)February 5, 1919
Beverly Hills, California, USA
Died February 15, 1973(1973-02-15) (aged 54)
Shawnee, Oklahoma, USA
Cause of death Bone cancer
Occupation Actor
Years active 1927–71
  • Virginia Ashcroft (m. 1938–44) (1 child)
  • Alice Harrison (m. 1944–52)
  • Birdee Stephens (m. 1952–73) (3 children)

Tim Holt (February 5, 1919 – February 15, 1973) was an American film actor best known for his youthful leading roles in dozens of westerns along with his co-starring role opposite Humphrey Bogart in the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.[1]

Early life

Tim Holt was born Charles John Holt III on born February 5, 1919, in Beverly Hills, California, the son of actor Jack Holt and Margaret Woods.[1] During his early years, he accompanied his father on location, even appearing in an early silent film.[2] He was the inspiration for his father's book, Lance and His First Horse.

Holt was educated at Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, graduating in 1936.[2] One of his classmates was Budd Boetticher who recalled Holt "“used to walk around in our suite of rooms there…and he often had on his ’38 revolvers and holster. He’d walk up and down the hall in his bathrobe and practice drawing his guns. He’d say, ‘I’m going to be a western star some day’.”[3] Immediately after graduation he went to work in the Hollywood film business.[1]

Acting career

Holt was signed to a contract by Walter Wanger in January 1937.[4] Wanger gave him a small role in I Met My Love Again and was going to use him in Blockade, but that film was postponed.[5] In between he portrayed Anne Shirley (actress) 's suitor in Stella Dallas (1937) for Sam Goldwyn,[6] attracting the attention of RKO. That studio cast him in the western The Renegade Ranger supporting George O'Brien, then a leading star of B-westerns. RKO tried him again in The Law West of Tombstone.

Wanger then used Holt in the role of young Lieutenant Blanchard in the 1939 classic Stagecoach, after which his contract expired. RKO signed Holt to a seven-year contract in December 1938.[7][8][9]

RKO Pictures

Holt soon became a favorite with RKO management, starring opposite Ginger Rogers and playing important roles in films such as The Girl and the Gambler and Swiss Family Robinson. Although he initially appeared in a number of different genres, he was particularly effective in westerns, so RKO decided to star him in a series of low budget B-pictures. These proved highly popular and Holt wound up making 46 of them for the studio in all.

Holt usually played a cowboy who had one or two friends, who occasionally sang. From 1940-42 he made 18 Westerns. His first sidekick was Ray Whitely, who was slightly older than Holt, and who would usually sing a song or two in each film. The other sidekick was a character "Wopper" played by Emmett Lynn and then Lee White. 1942 they were replaced by Cliff Edwards as Ike.

Author Tom Stempel later recalled:

Holt, unlike many other B western stars, played characters not named Tim Holt. From his debut in 1934 Gene Autry always played “Gene Autry” and after 1941 Roy Rogers always played “Roy Rogers,” but Holt’s names varied, even if the basic character he played is the same... In these early films Tim’s jobs were diverse. While Hopalong Cassidy was always the foreman of the Bar 20 Ranch, Tim played a cowboy, a Treasury agent, a Texas Ranger, or a number of other occupations. The characters were pretty much the same: Tim, with his boyish good looks, is drawn into situations where he must right some wrongs. Holt had a charming personality on the screen, which made him one of the top western stars from 1940 to 1943.[3]

Holt would occasionally make other movies. Orson Welles cast him as the lead in his second film, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). "It was a lucky decision," Welles later said, calling Holt "one of the most interesting actors that's ever been in American movies".[10]:113 He also starred as a Nazi in Hitler's Children (1943), which was one of RKO's most profitable films during the war.

War Service

Holt became a decorated combat veteran of World War II, flying in the Pacific Theatre with the United States Army Air Forces as a B-29 bombardier.[1] He was wounded over Tokyo on the last day of the war and was awarded a purple heart.[11]


Following the war, Holt returned to films and went back to RKO. According to his biographer David Rothel, "No more was he the callow, youthful cowboy with big, silly grin on his face. Now he exuded a steady, serious no-nonsense type of mature cowboy who was less impulsive, more contemporary, and somewhat ‘world weary."[3] Tom Stempel argues that "While Holt had lost his baby fat during the war, he still had a wonderful grin and cute dimples. He used the mixture of charm and seriousness very well."[3]

He appeared as Virgil Earp to Henry Fonda's Wyatt Earp in the John Ford western My Darling Clementine (1946).

Holt was next cast in the role for which he is probably best remembered — that of Bob Curtin to Humphrey Bogart's Fred C. Dobbs in John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), about two friends who team up to prospect for gold, only to have greed tear apart their partnership. Holt's father also appeared in a small part.

Before the film was released, Holt did another four westerns and afterward made two dozen more up until 1952, when television eroded the B-western market. His most frequent director was Lesley Selander and his sidekick in more than 25 of these movies was Richard Martin.

Martin played Chito Jose Gonzales Bustamente Rafferty, a character created by writer Jack Wagner for the 1943 film Bombadier and who had appeared in some Robert Mitchum westerns before being put into Tim Holt films. Stempel:

The chemistry between Holt and Martin was immediate. Tim was entertained by Chito’s constant pursuit of the ladies, which gave Holt a variety of reactions to play: amusement, surprise, slight irritation, bafflement at the hopelessness of Chito’s attempted conquests. Unlike Hopalong Cassidy’s young sidekick Lucky, who just mooned after girls, Chito was active, which was a lot more interesting to watch, especially with Tim’s reactions. Chito was not just a lovesick fool, but also ready for action. As he explained his name, his mother was Spanish, and the Spanish is for loving, and his father was Irish, which is for fighting. Chito performed the crucial functions of a B western movie sidekick: he was somebody with whom the hero could discuss the plot, and he provided some comedy relief. In the 47-52 series, the comic relief is verbal rather than visual, and often a part of the story. The directors can shoot both Chito’s flirting and Tim’s reaction in one shot. Unlike other B westerns, such as those Holts with Cliff Edwards, the movie does not have to stop while the comic does his routine. It makes for much smoother flowing films.[3]

Later career

Holt was then absent from the screen for five years until he starred in a less-than-successful horror film, The Monster That Challenged the World, in 1957. Over the next 16 years, he appeared in only two more motion pictures. However he kept busy managing theatres and making personal appearances.[1] He worked as a builder, produced rodeos, staged and performed Western music jamborees, and worked as an advertising manager for a radio station.[9] Holt later said of this period:

Do you realize that this is the first time in my life that I can make my own decisions and do what I want to do? First it was my parents who told me what to do, then RKO told me what to do, then I went into the service and Uncle Sam told me what to do. I came back out and RKO still told me what to do. This is the first time I have not been under somebody’s thumb in my life.[3]

Personal life

Holt was married three times and had four children: three sons (one to his first marriage), and a daughter.

Tim Holt died from bone cancer on February 15, 1973[12] in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where he had been managing a radio station. He was interred in the Memory Lane Cemetery in Harrah, Oklahoma. Tim Holt Drive in Harrah, where he and his wife had lived, was subsequently named in his honor.[1]


Robert Mott of the Washington Post later said of Holt:

Holt was the hero, strong and silent and always more comfortable in the presence of boots and saddles, horses and he-men, than with the heroine – though he almost invariably ended up marrying her... Like many sons of famous entertainers, Tim Holt never achieved the stature of his father, and projected a bland image in contrast with the elder Holt's strong characterisation.[9]

In 1991, Tim Holt was inducted posthumously into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1992, the Golden Boot Awards honored Holt for his lifetime contributions to western cinema.


Box Office Ranking

For a number of years Holt was voted by US exhibitors as among the most popular Western stars in the country.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Tim Holt". The New York Times. Retrieved October 12, 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Tim Holt". B-Westerns. Retrieved October 12, 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 http://offscreen.com/view/tim-holt-and-the-b-western
  4. Graham, Sheilah. "Schulberg Casts Sylvia Sidney in Krasna Feature". Los Angeles Times (1923–Current file). 07 January 1937: 8.
  5. "Screen News Here and in Hollywood: Plans to Produce 'Personal History' Are Abandoned for the Present by Wanger – 'Tropic Holiday' to Open, Bob Burns and Martha Raye to Be Featured in Picture at Paramount This Morning Of Local Origin, Special to the New York Times". New York Times (1923–Current file). 29 June 1938: 15.
  6. Schallert, Edwin. "James Foran, Brother of Dick, Will Make Debut as Comedy Star: John Howard Latest Choice for 'Drummond'". Los Angeles Times (1923–Current file). 14 June 1937: 6.
  7. Holt played young Lieutenant Blanchard in the 1939 classic Stagecoach.
  8. "Screen News Here and in Hollywood: Dick Powell, Joan Blondell to Leave Warners – Miss Lindsay in Mystery Play – Two Foreign Films Today 'Little Flower,' Made in France, and the Italian, 'Amore in Quarantena,' Will Open, Miss Lindsay Gets Lead, Coast Scripts Of Local Origin, Special to The New York Times". New York Times (1923–Current file). 12 December 1938: 26.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Mott, Robert. "Tim Holt, Actor in Western Films, Dies", The Washington Post. 17 February 1973: B6.
  10. Welles, Orson; Bogdanovich, Peter; Rosenbaum, Jonathan (1992). This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-016616-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Hopper, Hedda. "Looking at Hollywood". Los Angeles Times (1923–Current file). 18 October 1945: 10.
  12. Western star Tim Holt dies
  13. "WANTS PLASTER CAST OF GRABLE LEGS". News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954). Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia. 14 January 1950. p. 8. Retrieved 4 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Public Pays Best For Escapist Fare By Richard L. Coe. The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 29 Dec 1951: 12.
  15. "COMEDIANS TOP FILM STAR POLL". Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954). Rockhampton, Qld.: National Library of Australia. 27 December 1952. p. 1. Retrieved 4 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links