In 1942, William Holden he enlisted in the Officers Candidate School in Florida, graduating as an Air Force second lieutenant. He spent the next three years on P.R. duties and making training films for the Office of Public Information. One of his brothers, a naval pilot, was shot down and killed over the Pacific in 1943.
Few Hollywood actors have conveyed spiritual and physical pain with the charismatic authority of William Holden. Holden joined the Army Air Force, served in WWII and returned to the screen with a more complex personality. (His brother Robert was KIA in the Pacific and many said it changed him.) Together We served we served
Author Pierre Boulle was a French novelist best known for two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai (1952) and Planet of the Apes (1963), that were both made into award-winning films.
He was an engineer serving as a secret agent with the Free French in Singapore, when he was captured and subjected to two years’ forced labor. He used these experiences in The Bridge over the River Kwai, about the notorious Death Railway, which became an international bestseller.
The real history of how the railway between Burma and China was built, including the bridge: The British didn’t build the railway in the 19th century because it would be too expensive. During World War II, the invading Japanese took on the project, but expected it to take five years to complete. Those plans were drawn before they found a source of free labor: the Allied POWs. Because of the inhuman amount of labor forced on the prisoners, the railway line that was expected to take five years to complete was ready in only 16 months.
David Lean made the book into a motion picture that won seven 1957 Oscars, including the Best Picture, and Best Actor for Alec Guinness. Boulle himself won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay despite not having written the screenplay and, by his own admission, not even speaking English. Boulle had been credited with the screenplay because the film’s actual screenwriters, Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, had been blacklisted as communist sympathizers. The Motion Picture Academy added Foreman’s and Wilson’s names to the award in 1984.