Thursday, August 6, 2009

Born Yesterday (1950)

Judy Holliday is the fiance of a corrupt businessman who undergoes tutoring to "smarten her up" and in the process discovers what she truly wants out out of life.

Ok, that sounds very Lifetime-ish, which the film is not. It's not nearly as melodramatic as that description would suggest, but it still applies to the film, so there's not much I can do about it.

Judy Holliday is Billie, a slightly dim former chorus girl who is now the stay-at-home fiance of crooked businessman Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford) who has made a big movie to Washington in the hopes of persuading some crooked politicians into passing laws and bills that benefit him and his business. Since he's going to be entertaining the wealthy and powerful, Harry hires Paul Verrall (William Holden) a newspaper writer to tutor Billie and make her presentable. From the beginning, Paul and Billie have an attraction to each other, and through Paul's tutoring Billie becomes more idealistic and begins to question the way that she and Harry lives their lives.

It is an understatement to say that Judy Holliday is 100%, totally, absolutely pitch-perfect in this film, nailing every single frame that she's on. Her character may originally appear to be a simple dumb blond, but Holliday has to be charming, full of vitality, slightly stupid but still give a hint that she possesses some intelligence, and then make a very subtle change to her character. Billie never becomes a genius, quoting Shakespeare and spouting scientific theories. The main change she undergoes is that she begins to latch onto a few key ideals that begin to shape the way she sees the world. So she has to change enough to forward the plot, but keep it subtle enough to wear it remains believable and Holliday pulls it off masterfully.

I know she's gotten a lot of flack over the years for winning against Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, but I don't have any complaints after seeing this film. She takes a character that may seem like a movie staple and adds depth and charisma to make her entirely endearing.

The rest of the cast is suitable, but they aren't given a great deal to do. Harry yells all the time and is basically an ignorant bully, and Paul is an idealistic writer and neither character pushes beyond that. It makes sense, though, because Billie undergoes the primary change of the film, and both men serve as opposite ends of the spectrum that we see Billy travel upon, becoming less like Harry and more like Paul.

The script is sharp and funny and as I said, Judy Holliday is astounding in the role and make the film worth seeing just for her, but luckily the rest of the film is great too. It's definately one to watch.

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