For Reel

Born Yesterday (1950)
May 6, 2015, 6:50 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: George Cukor
4 Stars
Born YesterdayJudy Holliday’s 1950 Oscar win over the iconic performances of Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson (in All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard, respectively) has cheapened the reputation of this appealing George Cukor comedy over the years. Removed from such prejudices, one can see what an affecting piece of work it is, and particularly how well Garson Kanin’s stage play was adapted for the screen. Kanin was concerned with how ignorance could be used as a weapon to repress the less fortunate. Holliday plays a comedic ditz, but the film never faults her for her behavior. It is made quite apparent that Broderick Crawford’s Harry Brock has intentionally left her mentally stunted. The picture deals with her character just right, not condescendingly portraying her as a holy fool, rather as a charming (if abrasive) woman with enormous potential for growth. Holliday’s high-pitched, nasally voice has the whimpers of a nervous child in its inflections, making her Billie Dawn possess a certain anxiousness that elevates the character beyond a one-note comedic act. The Gin Rummy sequence, largely wordless and entirely dependent on Holliday’s ability to hold one’s attention using only her body language, is still a masterful and fascinating blend of character development and physical comedy.

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