Thursday, April 23, 2009

Born Yesterday

I gave a very brief synopsis of Born Yesterday back in January, when I mentioned that its star, Judy Holliday, beat out Bette Davis and Gloria Swaonson for the Best Actress Oscar that year. Born Yesterday is playing tonight at 8:00 PM ET on TCM, and is a hugely underrated movie that's well worth watching.

Holliday plays chorus girl Billie Dawn, who's the kept woman of industrialist Harry Brock (played by previous Oscar winner Broderick Crawford). Brock is in Washington DC to do some lobbying, and he finds that his girlfriend is something of a liability: she has no social graces. So, when Brock is approached in their hotel suite by journalist Paul Verrall (William Holden) for an interview, he gets the idea to hire Paul to teach Billie how to act like an educated lady.

This being the movies, it should be pretty obvious what's really going to happen. Billie is going to learn quite a bit more than just etiquette and high culture; she's going to learn that perhaps her boyfriend isn't all that he's been cracked up to being. Indeed, Harry Brock is trying to game the system in ways that are against the law. (I would argue that this is natural: if you give a government more and more power to muck up people's lives, it's to be expected that people are going to try to influence the government to make certain that it's mucking up somebody else's life. Hollywood, though, takes the more common view that this is just another case of eternally corrupt businessmen trying to pollute our otherwise virtuous government. But politics should be a discussion for another place.) Secondly, you just know that Billie and Paul are going to fall in love. Still, despite these predictable plot elements, the story is quite good. Judy Holliday is outstanding, and was more than worthy of winning an Oscar, despite the fact that a lot of people would argue the award that year should have gone to either the aforementioned Bette Davis or Gloria Swanson. (In fact, all three gave Oscar-worthy performances.)

The two men are quite good too. Broderick Crawford seems almost as though he's reprising his role as Willie Stark from All the King's Men, but Harry is supposed to be loud, obnoxious, and used to getting his own way. Holden is also good as the reporter, although having done Sunset Blvd., you'd think that Holden would get something a bit more substantial than this, as he's really playing a foil to Holliday. Still, Born Yesterday is a wonderful film, and one that's also available on DVD.

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