BORN YESTERDAY, 1950
Cast: Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden, Frank Otto, Howard St. John
Billie Dawn accompanies her fiancé Harry to Washington on a business trip. However, upon their arrival Harry decides that Billie is going to get in his way because of her “stupidity”. He decides to employ Paul to help educate Billie which, according to him, will help his business venture as she is expected to participate to some extent in mingling with prospective business associates. However, his plan doesn’t go accordingly when Billie gains a new found respect for herself, awareness of her surroundings and begins to defy him.
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Judy Holliday won both an Oscar for the Best Actress in a Leading Role and a Golden Globe for the Best Motion Picture Actress (Musical/Comedy) for her portrayal of Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday (a character she also played on stage prior to the film). For many, Billie Dawn has become known as the epitome of the dumb blonde character; she does after all say herself that she is stupid and she likes it. I would, however, be inclined to argue that she isn’t necessarily stupid (although she most certainly isn’t the sharpest tool in the box), but rather that she is unaccustomed to the upper class lifestyle she finds herself thrown into when in Washington, she is in no way formalized to this kind of lifestyle, and holds no desire to be.
She agrees to Harry’s plan to smarten her up only because she takes a shining to Paul (William Holden) and wants to spend more time with him, not for any other reason and she at no point tries to impress anyone or change who she is - which leads to some great comedy moments as she is encouraged to talk with business associates, which doesn’t go well (much to the dissatisfaction of Harry), but is hilarious to watch.
Judy Holliday puts in the perfect comedic performance as Billie, nothing is over exaggerated and it is the subtleties in her performance that are the most hilarious. Billie is charming, and you can’t help but like her as you laugh at her. You also feel sorry for her and the fact that she has wound up with Harry (Broderick Crawford), an obnoxious and arrogant man who seems to do nothing but shout, humiliate and threaten people throughout the entirety of the film – his reaction when Billie is late arriving back home is to beat her when she eventually does get back.
You are in no way encouraged to like Harry at any point throughout the film, and the films emphasis on corruption is centred on and around him. The film takes a stand on the unethical business dealings that blackmail, use, and discard people in the interest of money and self-empowerment (everything that Harry does) and enforces the idea that this is something a
What Billie learns and comes to realise when with Paul is that she deserves more than to be with a man who does nothing but talk down to her and hit her. She learns about the constitution of the United States and the ideals to which it was built on, and these in turn change her perception of how a person should live life and treat others – it does have to be said that you can’t help but feel that the film is getting a little preachy by this point. Billie doesn’t just want to leave Harry though, she wants to get a little payback by ruining his reputation and exposing him as the crook that he really is.
Nominated for various awards including the Oscars for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Screenplay, Born Yesterday is an all around perfect production. It is Judy Holiday though who steals your attention with her funny and faultless performance as Billie Dawn - an absolute must-see.