Title: Born Yesterday
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director: George Cukor
Music: Friedrich Hollaender
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Howard St. John
1950 appears to be a remarkable year for leading actress as far as its Oscar race is concerned, among the nominees are – the most rip-roaring comeback from the silent star Gloria Swanson in SUNSET BLVD. (1950), the juggernaut presence of Bette Davis and the supreme Anne Baxter in the iconic ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), while I have yet to see Eleanor Parker in CAGED (1950), but the eventual winner is Judy Holliday from George Cukor’s chamber piece, who reprises her classic role on the silver screen from Garson Kanin’s play. After watching it, notwithstanding that the story doesn’t stand the test of time for its conspicuous poetic license to romanticise the tale, by comparison Lewis Gilbert’s EDUCATING RITA (1983) has been more tellingly realistic, Holliday’s performance is deservingly a sensation to behold (the golden-age charisma is certainly unparalleled and ravishing for my taste), I rank her the runner-up (just below Swanson) of the year so far.
Holiday plays Billie Dawn, a loud-mouth, ditzy, ex-showgirl bimbo who has been the fiancée of the equally (if not more) loud-mouth and ditzy tycoon Harry Brock (Crawford) for seven years (people do find their own kinds). Harry is an obnoxious, self-centred upstart whose business germinates from selling junks. They come to Washington D.C. and Harry intends to buy himself a congressman with the aid of the materialistic lawyer Jim Devery (St. John). After Billie’s uncouth manners sabotage a formal visit of a congressman, out of the blue, Harry successfully makes the worst decision ever from his cretinous brain, in order to make Billie presentable, he hires a political reporter Paul Verrall (Holden) whom he has just met, to educate her. While being a man with senses of justice, Paul (unbelievably) falls for Billie almost at the first glance, and it turns out the feelings are mutual, as stale as that. Paul recommends books for her, brings her out sightseeing, visiting museums and historical edifices to learn history and art, as two carefree lovebirds.
Thus, as everyone expected, the more cultivated Billie becomes, the more disparity emerges between her and Harry, no more playing cards in their harmoniously co-existed scenes (which is accomplished by a marked long take to manifest their low-class wont), Billie gets suspicious of the contacts she is coerced to sign, turns disobedient against Harry’s will and pours scorn on his rough behaviours. And in the end, she chooses the more dignified Paul, after a heroic gargantuan-money-refusal act. The story might sound a bit unimpressive on paper, but it goes pretty smoothly on the screen thanks to Cukor’s fluid direction in a basically restricted setting and a potent cast, especially, our heroine Judy Holliday.
From being a round peg in a square hole, to a good-hearted soul with a morally conscientious spin, Holliday unfolds a captivating turn with her resolved confidence on the screen, allures audience with an imperative urgency to rally behind her metamorphosis; Holden and Crawford unfortunately succumb to more one-dimensional sidekicks around her, a whole stage for an actress when actors retreat to a secondary position, a scene rarely cannot be seen nowadays anymore, so in spite that to some bigots, the film can be misinterpreted as an exemplar of anti-education towards pretty women, yet, for most of the world, it is still relishing to re-value its gender politics under today’s climate.