Oscar-Winning Actress' $10M Central Park West Pad Sparks Family Feud
MANHATTAN — The battle over Oscar-winning actress Celeste Holm's estate is turning into a summer blockbuster, and the main fight scene is set at the $10 million Central Park West love nest she shared with her younger hubby.
"All About Eve" star Holm's fifth husband, Frank Basile, who's 45 years younger than the 95-year-old actress who died in July, must leave their luxury pad in the next five weeks — the result of an epic legal battle that took six years to settle.
Holm's children, who have accused Basile of being a gold-digger, even went to court two weeks after her death in July to urge a judge to keep a close eye on Basile's departure.
But Basile, who was nearly half-a-century younger than his wife, told DNAinfo.com New York that he might not have enough money for the move.
"I'm a human being who just lost my wife, and I have to move out of my home in less than five weeks, and have limited resources to do that," Basile, 49, said.
"My children can't wait to get their hands on the money," Basile added, saying he and Holm have been cash-strapped the last two years of their decade-long romance.
The unlikely couple met in 1999 at a fund-raiser where Basile, an opera singer, was hired to perform.
Despite the 45-year age difference, the pair hit it off and were hitched in 2004.
"There was nothing unusual about the love we shared," Basile said. "My wife and I had a lot of love of playing together."
But Holm's two sons weren't excited — especially when her estimated $13 million estate came into play, according to court records.
In 2002, her children had helped set up a trust for Holm's assets “to protect herself from exploitation,” court records showed. Her son Daniel Dunning was named its trustee.
But after tying the knot, Holm tried to void the trust and leave part of her inheritance to Basile.
Her kids fought back and the ensuing battle in Manhattan Surrogate Court erupted with accusations that Basile schemed to seize her finances and isolate her from her family, according to court records.
Basile said her children also took "pot shots" at him and questioned his profession.
"They used the word waiter to diminish my importance," he said.
In an affidavit, the "All About Eve" actress fired back, saying Basile was not a gold-digger and that Dunning was the true villain by controlling her assets “to make sure I cannot enjoy my life so long as it is with Frank.”
In 2010 the two sides reached a deal after legal fees took a heavy toll on Holm's assets.
Under the agreement, her trust would continue to pay her $12,500 a month, but the money eventually ran dry.
The settlement also stated that upon Holm’s death, Basile must move out of her apartment at 88 Central Park West within 60 days, but will receive a third of the profits from its sale.
The settlement didn't thaw the frosty relations between Basile and the children.
At Holm's July 23 memorial service, her sons "could not show good judgment and good character" Basile said.
"They spoke ill and inappropriately," he said.
"My stepson who spoke, he showed his anger. He chose to use the memorial to vent his anger and frustration."
Three days later, out of fear Basile would balk at their settlement, a lawyer for Holm's children and grandchildren filed a petition in Manhattan Surrogate Court. The lawyer, Seth R. Goldman, claimed attorneys for Holm and Basile had ignored calls and emails to discuss the widower's move and the pad's sale.
“Unfortunately, because we have not received any response to our inquiries, it appears as if Basile does not intend to honor the terms of the settlement, and may be attempting to avoid complying with its terms, including selling the apartment,” he wrote.
He asked the court to issue a restraining order preventing any sale without his clients’ consent and an order to have Basile to comply with the agreement.
Goldman told DNAinfo.com New York he has since heard from Basile's lawyer and has withdrawn the petition.
"We're hopeful that he'll comply," he said.
Dunning did not return a call for comment.
Holm died at age 95, a week after suffering a heart attack while being treated for dehydration at Roosevelt Hospital.
During her six-decade career on Broadway and the big screen, she earned Academy Award nominations for roles in “Come to the Stable” and “All About Eve.” She took home an Oscar for best supporting actress in “Gentleman’s Agreement."
Basile said he gave up part of his career to care for her.
"For the last nine years, I've been a full-time loving, care-giving husband. That was the priority. You can't be caring for a wife who needs you and have a full-time job," Basile said.
"I didn't just come along at the last minute," he added. "There is a real chance had we not been together, the world wouldn't have had Celeste for as long as we did."