Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Judy Holliday, in Born Yesterday
approximately 70 minutes and 47 seconds
72.9% of the film

The film

A million dollar tycoon hires a tutor to teach his lover proper etiquette.
You can read my thoughts on the film just by clicking HERE.

I see Born Yesterday as a film driven by one powerful force called Judy Holliday. Her performance is so memorable and fully responsible for the fun that the movie has to offer. It’s not a well balanced film, but the first 30-40 minutes are pure gold and filled with comedy talent.

Judy Holliday as Billie Dawn

If you were to listen to what people have to say about Best Actress 1950, Judy’s is one of the 3 performances that made this race so historical. Her Oscar win was quite infamous for many decades and a surprise at that time: didn’t Gloria Swanson say at one point that she was sure to win?! Even a hand of existing critic groups were going for drama: Gloria had won the Golden Globe and the National Board of Review and Bette Davis had the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle Award…

But Oscar voters ignored the catfight and went for a performance half dramatic half legendary comedy. Judy’s work has continuously influenced comedy acting for decades! Let’s not forget Jean Hagen’s delicious copycat performance in Singin’ in the Rain, how it was clearly inspired by Judy.

Judy Holliday reprises her Broadway role as Billie Dawn, the mistress of a rich half-gangster businessman, who travels to Washington with him and finds herself tutored by an honest, charming journalist. It’s partly a pygmalion story, as the two of them fall in love. Billie is uneducated, doesn’t know how to properly behave, but you can tell she has a kind heart and is a good person. The transformation of the character is charming, but it shifts the film from silly comedy to more dramatic, morally important scenes.

There are two sides to the performance: the entertaining one and the heart-warming side. Billie is beautiful and pleasantly vulgar in her way of talking. The first line of the character is WHAAAAAT??? screamed with that annoying voice that just keeps making me laugh. But Judy’s performance is a winner even outside language tricks: her way of walking, her silly dance, the bit of arrogance in her eyes… The first 30 minutes make for a performance that needs to be seen to be believed.

So many good scenes, but I have to go back to one of my alltime favourites: the gin rummy game! She is hilarious and spots every comedy moment and every opportunity to shine and give even more boost to the character’s funny persona. Those who’ve seen the film will never forget it, especially the dialogue like: - 41!!! - 41??? - 41!!!! :)) Her chemistry with Broderick Crawford is incredibly affective all throughout the film and their sarcastic dialogues are simply brilliant.

Then there’s the more dramatic side of the character. As I said, Judy is beautiful, but just look into those expressive eyes and you’ll feel the kindness and also the unfulfillment of Billie, who truly wants to be smarter and more respected, but for some reason is unable to see it for herself or to take a step in that direction.

You can feel she’s hurt everytime he talks down to her and offends her and Judy is perfectly capable to also deliver this side of the character – it may not be as fun for us, the audience, but it definitely shows even more range in her acting. And I shouldn’t even mention the slapping scene and how (thankfully) she deliberately makes it uncomfortable and challenging for the audience.

I’m sure the Oscar voters were charmed by this performance, found it both incredibly funny and heartbreaking, as did I and truth is: just looking at Judy puts a smile on your face! I have no more to write that the rating itself .


Fritz said...

Yeah! I am so happy that you love her! I know you won't give her the win but it's still nice to know that not everybody today dislikes her.

joe burns said...

Good writeup! I'm a little surprised since I thought you might give her a four, but I'm happy you gave her a five because it makes it more interesting. I myself, thought she was okay, really good dramatically, but not funny at all, at least to me. But your review made me think I might have missed something, and I'll give her another chance when I do 1950.

Fritz said...

And I don't think that Judy's win was really the surprise we today think it was.

Judy Holliday was immensly popular in the Broadway (proven by her Tony win over Julie Andrews) world and probably got most of the votes from the actors with roots to the theatre. Her movie was a big success, commercially and with the Academy, she was nominated for three Golden Globes that year (even for Drama and Comedy for the same performance), she also had Adam's Rib, she was the runner-up at the New York Film Critics and she even was the predicted winner from a survey among 5 percent of the Academy members.

Alex in Movieland said...


how did you get access to that NYFCC runner-up info and the survey?

and I think the Tony win was in 1955 or something, which is after this :)
I still think Gloria Swanson was favorite before voting.

i really did think some scenes were really funny and witty.

Twister said...

I agree with Fritz completely -- it's one of those "upsets" that wasn't a true one, like Kelly winning in '54. She was hugely popular, she was hot, fresh, while everyone considered Judy to be a old, washed up, drunk and they had little respect for her (I think).

Even the trade papers predicted Kelly's win, I believe.

Fritz said...

The info about the runner-up is the from the Judy-Holliday-Ressource Center. That's a great site, very well researched so I have no doubt that the info is right.
The thing about the survey is from "Inside Oscar" but, of course, I don't know how accurate all the information in there is.

joe burns said...

Yeah, a lot of people were predicting to her, in the end it came down to her or Gloria, most likely, though Bette is my pick, as of now.

About Garland/Kelly: Kelly had a better shot then the publicists realized, but Garland had the sentiment factor, which was pretty strong, but Kelly won, most likely because of all of the butchering that Warners Brothers did to a A Star Is Born.