Reaching back more than 40 years, unprompted and un-cued, Celeste Holm called home the hogs.
"Soooieee," she said, with feeling and authenticity, before adding: "Richard Rodgers wanted a totally unedited voice. He wanted me to sound like a farm girl."We have a farm which has been in our family for five generations. Our neighbors had hogs and I would hear the neighbors calling them. So I auditioned by calling a hog."
Holm, 69, won the bucolic, ear-ringing, cain't-say-no part - as Ado Annie in "Oklahoma!" - as well as another stop in a sophisticated dramatic career.
She detailed, in a voice that also could break into quiet song, an acting life that began with George M. Cohan and others, continued as a member of the original cast of perhaps the most influential Broadway musical produced in the last 50 years and flourished with appearances in a string of enduring films.
Holm starred in "All About Eve" and "The Snake Pit" and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the 1947 film "Gentleman's Agreement," just her third movie. Television viewers will recognize her from appearances in "Trapper John, M.D." and "Falcon Crest," among many others.
She starred as Ted Danson's mother in "Three Men and a Baby," one of the most popular films of 1988 and currently one of the leading videotape rentals.
The daughter of a Norwegian-born insurance executive, Holm was knighted by King Olav of Norway in 1979. She is married to actor Wesley Addy.
From a 50-year dramatic career, she recalled the following:
- On George M. Cohan, who hired her to play an ingenue in "Return of the Vagabond" - "What a darling. He's one of the few people I've ever seen who could sit quietly with his feet crossed and you knew that he was a dancer. His feet were so articulate. You could almost see the flexibility."
- On composer Richard Rodgers, who with Oscar Hammerstein wrote the score for "Oklahoma!" - "I auditioned for Richard Rodgers not knowing what I was auditioning for. He said, `You have a trained voice. I said, `Yes, haven't I?' He said, `Could you sing as if you've never had a lesson in your life?' I was very carefully warned not to sing one of his songs.
- On "Oklahoma!" which opened in 1943 - "I knew it was going to be wonderful. I was talking to my father on the phone after the first rehearsal. He said, `How is it?' I whispered, `It's wonderful.' He asked, `Why are you whispering?' and I said, `I don't want to spoil it.'
"It was the first musical that I appeared in, so I didn't know we were breaking ground by having ballet instead of tap dancing. I only knew that the play had a homogeneity, in that songs, story, characters and ballet all furthered the story. Nobody stopped and did a dance."
- On Frank Sinatra - "I've always gotten along well with children. He's still very much a child and that's one of the delightful things about him. It's also one of the things that surprises you, because he wants it now and he wants it his way. I think we all do, but most of us have learned to control that a little bit. But he hasn't, and it's part of his charm and his difficulty."
- On dancer Anna Pavlowa, whom Holm first saw perform as a small girl - "When I saw what happened to an audience as a result of that performance, I knew that's what I wanted to do.
"It was always well understood that I was going to do something besides sit around and count on someone taking care of me. I was taken to the theater when I was 2-1/2 years old. The audience had come into the theater all lumpy and cold and unrelated. And (Pavlowa) homogenized the whole thing, so when the audience came out they were all talking to each other, proud of being human. I can remember it like it was yesterday.
"That's what the theater is for. And if it doesn't do that, it isn't very good, as far as I'm concerned. That's how I choose a script. I try to find a play that makes me proud to be human."
- Dist. by Scripps Howard News Service