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by Kaya Morgan

Selected by Esquire magazine in 1995 as one of the "100 Sexiest Stars" in film history, and nicknamed Hollywood's Golden Boy, William Holden illuminated the silver screen in 70 films for more than three decades. This adored, leading man starred in some of the most revered classics of all time including Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, Sunset Boulevard, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Casino Royale, The Wild Bunch and The Towering Inferno.

Born in the rural farming community of O'Fallon, Illinois, this son of a well-to-do family moved to Pasadena, California at age three. Strongly influenced by his father, an industrial chemist, Holden attended Pasadena Junior College with his sights set on following in his footsteps until he was accidentally discovered in a school play by a Paramount representative. He then beat the odds by landing a starring role in Golden Boy, the film that made him an instant success.

Viewed by fans as the boy-next-door, this 20-year old, handsome young actor with striking features and a sensual voice had an image that earned Holden entry into an elite group of promising young actors known as the Golden Circle — a group aggressively promoted by the studio that also included Susan Hayward and Robert Preston.

After joining the Air Force in World War II and achieving the rank of lieutenant, Holden returned to the screen working in a variety of comedies, dramas, thrillers and Westerns, all with equal box office appeal. He received an Academy Award for his portrayal a prisoner-of-war suspected of being a Nazi spy in Billy Wilder's Stalag 17 and won an Emmy Award for his television debut in The Blue Knight.

Although Holden was clearly one of Hollywood's most popular leading men in films that were the top money grossers of their day, and was considered the top box office draw in 1956, he also became an unwitting victim of the studio system. His long-term contract was shared by Columbia and Paramount, being both underpaid and forced into low-budget films unworthy of his exceptional talent. Finally, in the late '50s he negotiated a ground-breaking contract with Columbia to star in The Bridge on the River Kwai, allowing him to become a part-owner in the film. His earnings on this Hollywood blockbuster not only set the standards for a new era of negotiations between the studios and actors, but also allowed him to be much more selective in his future film work.

Holden loved to travel and accepted some film roles simply because of the exotic locations alone. While visiting Africa, he developed an avid interest in wildlife preservation, purchasing a 2,000-acre ranch with the goal of creating a protected animal reserve. In 1980, he retreated to this wildlife preserve, returning to Hollywood only briefly to star in his final film, Blake Edwards's S.O.B. As the best man at Ronald Reagan's wedding, his star power never dimmed. He was also romantically linked to costars Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Stefanie Powers, who after his death, established the William Holden Wildlife Fund supporting wildlife preservation in Kenya, thus realizing his dream.

In another unusual strategy for actors of the day, Holden also invested his wealth into an apartment building in Santa Monica, choosing to make the penthouse his home. This combined his commercial investment with the added advantage of a personal residence, creating a two-fold financial asset.

The 14-story building, now known as OceanAire, was originally designed in 1962 by the trend-setting, California contemporary architect, A. Quincy Jones and is still considered to be one of the most structurally unique buildings on the ocean view block. As a professor of architecture at the University of Southern California, Jones gained recognition in the postwar era by focusing on the spatial diversity and development of flexible structural systems aimed at the integration of mechanical systems in contrast to the usual static box-style designs of the time.

OceanAire is located just steps from the beach not far from the Santa Monica pier and famed Third Street Promenade in the heart of the city. This prestigious high-rise is a sought-after address and home to a number of bicoastal celebrities and Hollywood executives because it epitomizes contemporary living in a chic seaside environment. Still considered one of the most architecturally cutting-edge buildings in Santa Monica, this spacious masterpiece exudes luxury and tranquility.

In 2001, a major renovation was undertaken with the goal of expanding on the work that Jones didn't have the funds or materials to complete — complimenting the avant-garde design yet working within the constraints of the building. The two firms that worked hand-in-hand on the renovation were aARts ARchitecture from Santa Monica and the Pardee Construction Company of San Diego, both of which are highly respected firms in the building industry. Consistent with Jones' original vision, newer technology was employed that was not available in his day, bringing the building up to its present, one-of-a-kind, luxury condominium status.

The entrance lobby of OceanAire underwent a complete transformation, creating a 6,000-square-foot, Zen-inspired garden of imported granite and sandstone complete with bubbling fountains and lush landscaping. In contrast to the floor-to-ceiling glass walls is a magnificent teak and maple flooring with rare Macauba stone streaming throughout, accented by stainless steel, creating a subtle blend of complimentary textures and capturing a feeling of utter tranquility.

The Penthouse, a spacious 11,000 square feet, is perched high above Ocean Avenue affording panoramic views of the ocean, city and mountains. The restricted access elevator opens to a marble and wood entry beckoning you into the Grand Salon with a 180-degree ocean view, cozy granite fireplace and filtered light playfully dancing through a domed skylight.

The 8,874 square feet of living space includes five bedrooms — two are master suites, one with a sitting room. Of the seven full baths, the master suite has a spa bathroom with Jacuzzi, sauna and his and her separate showers. The gourmet kitchen is a cook's delight with black granite countertops, Poggerpohl cabinetry, Gaggenau appliances and a Sub-Zero refrigerator, full-size freezer and wine cooler.

To provide an affluent owner with every conceivable amenity, there is a high-tech media room with large pull-down screen, library built of Birdseye Maple bookcases and staff quarters with private bath. The rooftop deck of 1,497 square feet of outdoor living space has an octagonal Jacuzzi, mini bar, limestone wraparound balcony with rare 100-year-old, re-milled redwood decking and benches that surround the Grand Salon skylight. Additional building amenities offer 24-hour security, business conference center, fitness center with sauna and underground parking.

Today, it is not possible to create a building that could duplicate OceanAire, making it the most prestigious and luxurious address in Santa Monica. The OceanAire Penthouse is now available for $10.8 million.

For more information, contact 310.395.4648 or go to

Click on Kaya Morgan to return to author's bio page and other stories.

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