21-year-old William Holden made his film debut in 1939 with "Golden Boy". His female co-star Barbara Stanwyck, who was eleven years his senior, was already a veteran by then. When the inexperienced Holden was almost fired from the film (Harry Cohn, head of Columbia, was not too pleased with his work), Barbara Stanwyck came to his aid and convinced Cohn to let him stay on. After that she would help Holden with his lines and became his mentor, and ultimately his friend. William Holden never forgot what Barbara had done for him and in 1977, when they were joint presenters at the Oscars, he surprised her by thanking her for saving his career.
In 1981, Barbara Stanwyck was given an honorary award by The Film Society of Lincoln Center. The Gala Tribute was held at the Lincoln Center in New York City, and in a letter to her "Golden Boy", dated 18 April 1981, Barbara thanks him for coming to New York and attending her tribute.
Source: heritage auctions/ image reproduced with permission
Dear "Golden Boy"
That you are and always will be to me.
Thank you so much for making the trip to New York to be with me and for me at Lincoln Center.
I know what a busy life you lead and to give some of it to me is deeply appreciated.
Just being there gave me courage to get thru the whole event.
You are indeed "My Golden Boy" and I love you
*On 12 November of that same year, William Holden died at the age of 63 after he had slipped and lacerated his forehead while home alone in his apartment in Santa Monica, California. Months later, in March 1982, when Barbara Stanwyck got an Academy Honorary Award (it's hard to believe that throughout her entire career she had never won a 'normal' Oscar), she remembered her friend in a moving acceptance speech: "A few years ago I stood on this stage with William Holden as a presenter. I loved him very much, and I miss him. He always wished that I would get an Oscar. And so tonight, my golden boy, you got your wish."
Barbara Stanwyck and William Holden in a publicity still for "Golden Boy"