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Joseph Holland

Joseph Holland was an American stage, television, film, and radio star. He was born August 20, 1910 in Franklin, Virginia. He graduated from London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1934 and became a founding member of the famous Mercury Theater troupe with Orson Wells.

One of Holland's most famous roles was that of the title role for Orson Welles' "Julius Caesar" for the Mercury Theater on Broadway in 1937.

Orson Welles founded the Mercury Theatre with John Houseman. At only age 22, Welles was not only the Executive Producer, but he also adapted Shakespeare's script, directed the show, and acted in the part of Brutus. As director, he oversaw all the music, the lighting, the sound, and the performances. This show was just produced just prior to the outbreak of World War II, while fascism was overtaking Europe with Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Francisco Franco. Orson Welles modernized Shakespeare's setting, using a barren stage, no curtain, and only a dark red brick wall as a background. He used costumes that resembled those worn by Italian fascists and German Nazis. Joseph Holland bore a resemblance to Mussolini in his title role. Bright lights cut into the risers on the stage created a scene resembling the Cathedral of Light designed by Albert Speer for the Nazi Party rallies in Nuremberg. In one of the most important scenes, Cinna, the Poet, is killed by the secret police rather than by an angry mob as envisioned by Shakespeare. This bold production was one of the first times that Shakespeare's stories were adapted to a different time and setting. It was intended to damage the fascist ideology and forces that were beginning to impact millions of lives.

A press release for the play written by Welles said "our Julius Caesar gives a picture of the same kind of hysteria that exists in certain dictator-ruled countries of today. We see the hope on the part of Brutus for a more democratic government vanish with the rise of a demagogue (Antony) who succeeds the dictator."

The show played to great critical acclaim. John Anderson of the New York Journal wrote: "It would have been a fascinating experiment even if it had failed. That it succeeds so admirably is enough to blow the hinges off the dictionary." And critic Richard France wrote: "Caesar was unquestionably Welles's highest achievement in the theatre."

In 2008, this Broadway production became the background for the movie "Me and Orson Welles."

After the show closed, Welles brought the show to a new audience as a radio play performed on September 11, 1938. Joseph Holland reprised his role as Julius Caesar. You can hear an excerpt of the audio with Joseph Holland as Caesar here.

He played in 22 Broadway plays between 1934 and 1957 and more than a dozen roles on television shows. His only movie role is believed to be that of a town official in the 1958 movie "Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!"

He died December 28, 1994 in Santa Fe, NM of heart failure.

An October Gold October Gold
A side by side comparison of the two October Golds, each painted in a distinctly different style.