Born Yesterday (1950)

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Born Yesterday, based on the play by Garson Kanin and directed by George Cukor, stars Judy Holliday and William Holden. Holliday won an Oscar in the category of Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Billie Dawn, an ex-showgirl who is dating a big-shot tycoon named Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford).

Soon after the couple arrives in Washington for Brock’s business dealings, Brock meets journalist Paul Verrall (Holden). He hires Paul to try to teach Billie how to be a respectable woman, since he sees her as dim-witted and somewhat of a nuisance. But as Paul tutors her, Billie becomes a much more book smart woman. She also begins to realize what a mistake she’s made by staying with Brock for so long, and falls for her tutor.

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The tagline for this film according to IMDb is “A perfectly swell motion picture!,” and I would have to agree. It is perfectly swell.

Very good performances are given by the entire cast. Holliday, as the obvious focus of the film, perfectly carries of the “dumb blonde with more to her than meets the eye” character of Billie.

The best performance, however, comes from Crawford, who effortlessly succeeds in making the audience hate Harry Brock. While it’s easy to give credit to the actors that win the audience over, it takes a very special and believable performance to make the audience hate your character, and so Crawford is the definite star here in my opinion.

The film itself reads much like a play, but it is based on and was rehearsed as a play. Thanks to an interesting move by Cukor, rehearsals were carried out through six live performances in order to ensure that all of the film’s emotions were carried off properly with the audience. Though the result is a film very much reminiscent of a stage production in style, it was a smart move on his part, since it certainly must have helped with the pace of the film.

(Image via doctormacro.com)

The story can be interpreted in one of two ways. On the surface, it is a dramedy focused on a love triangle – a battle between a disrepsectful, brash man and a more intelligent, kind man for the affections of a woman who is beginning to form a mind of her own.

But at it’s heart, the film is a commentary on corruption in business and government. It points out the flaws of Washington while at the same time maintaining a patriotic mood, with Holden quoting the country’s forefathers and speaking of how great the country’s potential is. To me, this seemed more like the focus of the film than any of the comedic or romantic elements did.

Born Yesterday boasts great performances, including one Oscar winner, and is an interesting mix between drama, comedy and political critique. The score: 3.5/5

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