Friday, June 14, 2019

Film Friday: Born Yesterday

Poster via IMDb
Born Yesterday (Link to TCM; it will be shown next month)

"A newspaper reporter takes on the task of educating a crooked businessman's girlfriend."

Columbia Pictures
1950/102 minutes/B&W
Starring Broderick Crawford, Judy Holliday, and William Holden

In May, I was at my sister's house one Saturday, and we were in the mood for a classic film. When she heard I hadn't seen Born Yesterday yet, she put it on (she has cable; I don't). Many years ago, we'd seen several George Cukor films at the Stanford Theatre when they'd done a Cukor Festival, but Born Yesterday wasn't one of the movies we saw. As usual with Cukor, the film didn't disappoint.

Born Yesterday opens at a busy, upscale Washington DC hotel, where we follow Broderick Crawford as junk man turned millionaire Harry Brock, and his silent fiance, played by Judy Holliday. Brock soon turns from merely somewhat rude to downright bullying, and we find he's there having bribed a congressman to ensure a bill goes Brock's way. Holden as Paul Verrell comes in, a reporter doing a story on Brock, who isn't exactly keen on the idea. But when Brock's lawyer says he and his fiance, Billie Dawn (Holliday), need to fit in better (I have to mention her clothes--I love Billie's outfits! Kudos to Jean Louis.), Brock hires Paul to give Billie some polish--being Brock, he thinks she's the only one who needs to change. I had a hard time laughing at Brock, given there are still so many such people around today (the film is surprisingly timely), but Crawford's performance is amazing, as he does bring some humanity and humor to the role of this unmitigated bully.

I love it when Billie looks up words in the dictionary! I do that too, though she has better one-liners. :)

It's Judy Holliday who shines in the film, though. She shows with subtlety Billie's transformation, though from the beginning we see her intelligence, humor, and humanity. The chemistry between Billie and Paul is also clear, though the only disappointment in the film is, as my sister said, "not enough William Holden." But the montage scenes of Paul and Billie taking in the sights of the city, sharing their stories and insights, is both satisfying and charming. So is the ending of Born Yesterday, which, though I felt perhaps Brock deserves a stronger comeuppance, shows Billie's compassion, smarts, and new strength. I've only seen Holliday in two other movies, Adam's Rib and The Marrying Kind (in which she gives very strong performances), but I'd guess her performance in Born Yesterday is her finest. It's a film worth watching. I'll leave you with William Holden. :)

Holden as Paul, in glasses/photos via IMDb

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