Judy Holliday and William Holden star in this classic comedy directed by George Cukor. Millionaire gangster Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford) hires Paul Verrell (Holden) to educate his ex-showgirl girlfriend Billie Dawn (Holliday) in the ways of etiquette. As Harry tries to impress certain high-powered men in Washington DC with a view to gaining their trust, Billie unintentionally falls for Paul and begins to wise up to her boyfriend's dubious business practices.
Born Yesterday was the box-office comedy hit of 1950 and won a Best Actress Oscar for the exceptional Judy Holliday, recreating her long-running Broadway triumph as Billie Dawn, the quintessential dumb blonde who finally gets herself some smarts. The film resonates with the sophisticated sparring in Garson Kanin's script and there are tightly controlled performances from William Holden as the cynical journalist hired to polish Billie up for Washington society and Broderick Crawford as Harry Brock, her rough, crooked and ambitious boyfriend.
But Born Yesterday is Holliday's picture, as she runs the gamut from brassy insouciance to tentative, vulnerable enlightenment. She hasn't thought of her estranged father in five years: "It's nothing against him. I haven't thought of anything in five years." Her gradual awakening to the realisation that she is a stooge for Brock's corrupt business deals, and the way she sheds her chorus girl's intellect in the face of growing political awareness, are brilliantly traced. Holliday's dead-pan delivery makes the pathos of her self-discovery both hilarious and deeply touching; it's the hallmark of a comic genius, which makes the sparseness of her subsequent film appearances all the more regrettable.
On the DVD: Born Yesterday is presented in full screen (1.33:1) ratio. Like the mono soundtrack, the black and white picture quality has triumphantly survived its more than half century. Extras include a gallery of vintage advertisements and an original theatrical trailer, plus filmographies and welcome, comprehensive booklet notes. --Piers Ford
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However, I have only given 4 stars because the script let the film down. It is a little bit politically clunky in a slightly jingoistic american way.
Billie Dawn is the girlfriend of scrap metal magnate Harry Brock, she's not that bright and Brock uses her as a front for some less than honest dealings. Sure he cares but his treatment of her borders on the repulsive whilst still managing to get the ribs tickled, Brock worries that her dumbness will do down important business issues socially, so he arranges for the calm and well spoken Paul Verrall to be her chaperon and train her to be eloquent and more astute of the world and its history.
The film then becomes your standard Pygmalion story as the nice but dim Billie not only learns about the world she lives in, she also learns about the world SHE HAS been living in, and coupled with the sexual awakening she finds with Verrall this fills out the rest of the story. It's full of delightful scenes that linger long in the memory, and outside of Holliday's brilliant performance, we get a wonderful example of the polar opposite Male love interest, Broderick Crawford as Brock is a maelstrom of shouting daftness, a man that makes you cringe such is his buffoonery. On the other hand we get the serene and well mannered Verrall played with the right amount of pathos by William Holden, and it is with much credit that amongst the loud brash shows from the other stars, he remains more than a distant memory.
The comedy here will make you cringe one minute, and then have you giggling away the next, all the chief characters here engage you in the way they are meant to, the climax may be a bit too condensed for some but it's a fine ending that befits the previous efforts you have just witnessed, and I defy anyone to not laugh at the gin rummy sequence! 8/10
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