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Oscar winner Celeste Holm dies

Actress Celeste Holm attends the 2012 Academy of

Actress Celeste Holm attends the 2012 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar Night Celebration at the 21 Club in Manhattan. (Feb. 26, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Celeste Holm, a versatile, bright-eyed blonde who soared to Broadway fame in "Oklahoma!" and won an Oscar in "Gentleman's Agreement" but whose last years were filled with financial difficulty and estrangement from her sons, died Sunday, a relative said. She was 95.

Holm had been hospitalized about two weeks ago with dehydration. She asked her husband, Frank Basile, on Friday to take her home, and she spent her final days with him, and other relatives and close friends by her side, said Amy Phillips, a great-niece of Holm's.

Holm died around 3:30 a.m. at her longtime apartment on Central Park West, Phillips said.

"I think she wanted to be here, in her home, among her things, with people who loved her," she said.

In a career that spanned more than half a century, Holm played everyone from Ado Annie -- the girl who just can't say no in "Oklahoma!"-- to a worldly theatrical agent in the 1991 comedy "I Hate Hamlet" to guest star turns on TV shows such as "Fantasy Island" to Bette Davis' best friend in "All About Eve." She won the Academy Award in 1947 for best supporting actress for her performance in "Gentleman's Agreement." She was also nominated for roles in "Come to the Stable" (1949) and "All About Eve" (1950).

Holm was also known for her untiring charity work and was a board member emeritus of the National Mental Health Association.

Over the years, she raised $20,000 for UNICEF by charging 50 cents apiece for autographs.

In New York, she was active in the Save the Theatres Committee and was once arrested during a vigorous protest against the demolition of several theaters.

But late in her life she was in a bitter, multiyear family legal battle that pitted her two sons against her and her fifth husband -- former waiter Basile, whom she married in 2004 and is more than 45 years her junior.

The court fight over investments and inheritance wiped away much of her savings and left her dependent on Social Security. The actress and her sons no longer spoke, and she was sued for overdue maintenance and legal fees on her Manhattan apartment.

The future Broadway star was born in New York on April 29, 1917, the daughter of Norwegian-born Theodore Holm, who worked for the American branch of Lloyd's of London, and Jean Parke Holm, a painter and writer.

She was smitten by the theater as a 3-year-old when her grandmother took her to see ballerina Anna Pavlova. "There she was, being tossed in midair, caught, no mistakes, no falls. She never knew what an impression she made," Holm recalled years later.

Her first Broadway success came in 1939 in the cast of William Saroyan's "The Time of Your Life." But it was her creation of the role of man-crazy Ado Annie Carnes in the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's musical "Oklahoma!" in 1943 that really impressed the critics.

She moved west to pursue a film career, but never liked the trappings of Tinseltown. It was "a good place to learn how to eat a salad without smearing your lipstick," she would say.

Hollywood "was just too artificial," she said. "The values are entirely different. That balmy climate is so deceptive."