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Actress Celeste Holm, who earned an Academy Award as the knowing voice of tolerance in “Gentleman’s Agreement” and went on to a six-decade screen and stage career, died early Sunday at her apartment in Manhattan. She was 95.
Holm had been hospitalized about two weeks ago with dehydration after a fire in actor Robert De Niro’s apartment in the same Manhattan building. She had asked her husband on Friday to bring her home, and she spent her final days with her husband, Frank Basile, and other relatives and close friends by her side, said Amy Phillips, a great-niece of Holm’s who answered the phone at Holm’s apartment on Sunday.
“I think she wanted to be here, in her home, among her things, with people who loved her,” she said.
Holm won the Oscar in the 1947 film, which starred Gregory Peck as a reporter pretending to be Jewish to expose anti-Semitism, Holm played a wise-cracking fashion editor.
Holm was a millionaire, but in her final years, a protracted legal battle between her two sons and her fifth husband — a singer less than half her age — stripped away most of her savings. Still, when she was active, Holm adhered to a philosophy of keeping things light.
“You know, we’re the only industry, outside of musicians, whose work is referred to as ‘playing,’” she told NPR. “And it has to be playing. We have to really play together and that’s what the audience responds to. If it’s work … you don’t want to watch!”