Thursday, June 3, 2010

1950 - Born Yesterday

Last week marked one year since Kat and I left our home in Sydney to try our luck in the Big Apple. The opportunities for an actor in New York are certainly greater than back home and these past twelve months have definitely brought some great opportunities my way. But this week, in an ironic twist of fate, my biggest opportunity yet came knocking ... via my Australian agent. It appears the Australian casting director of The Hobbit wanted to see me for a role. The wonders of the modern age allowed me to record my own audition here in New York and send it back to them online. Now we wait...

And considering the accolades received by The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it's a fairly safe bet to assume that The Hobbit will also garner a Best Picture nomination in the year of its release. If so, and if I manage to score a role in it, then this project will have come full self-referential circle.

This morning, I rounded out the 1950 Best Picture nominees with a viewing of...

Born Yesterday
George Cukor
Albert Mannheimer
(based on the play by Garson Kanin)
Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden
Academy Awards:
5 nominations
1 win, for Best Actress (Holliday)

Cranky and corrupt millionaire Harry Brock (Crawford) arrives in Washington to broker a shady deal with a congressman. Along for the ride is his fiancée Billie Dawn (Holliday), an ex-chorus girl with the social graces and intelligence of a lamp-post. In order to prevent any embarrassing incidents, Brock hires local journalist Paul Verrall (Holden) to give her some learnin'. But Billie's newfound knowledge causes problems for Brock when she begins to question his business activities.

Along with its fellow Best Picture nominee Father of the Bride, Born Yesterday is a pleasantly clever comedy. It hits all the right notes - witty dialogue, strong characters, some romance, a little drama and plenty of laughs. It is, however, quite clear that this film's source material is a play, perhaps more so than other stage adaptations. The vast majority of the story takes place in the same suite, containing several lengthy scenes of dialogue. Still, none of that really detracts from the film's enjoyment, thanks mostly to one Judy Holliday.

After originating the role on Broadway, Holliday (pictured) absolutely shines here, bringing to life one of the quirkiest characters ever written. She manages to successfully avoid caricature by imbuing Billie with great sincerity despite her hilarious stupidity. Such superb comic timing and so incredibly endearing. For her efforts, she took home the Oscar for Best Actress, beating out two classic screen performances by Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson. That's no mean feat and, for my money, I think she earned it.

Broderick Crawford, fresh from his own Oscar win the year before, leans a bit more towards caricature in his performance as the temperamental tycoon. Then again, all that blustering does suit the character and, when you think about it, the audience isn't supposed to like him very much anyway, so mission accomplished. William Holden rounds out the starring trio with a subtle portrayal of Paul, the only normal man amongst a band of crazies. The swift way in which he falls for Billie is a little tough to buy, but slow romances are not common on the big screen, especially in the olden days, so we'll let that slide.


  1. I love this movie and I am glad you like Judy! She's my pick for Best Actress that year.

  2. I enjoyed the film, but it lost a lot in the last 30 minutes... Too much of a sudden change of tone.

    In a way, I see Judy as a worthy winner, just because she gave a fantastic performance, BUT putting her in the company of Bette Davis's Margo (my alltime favorite), you can guess where does my heart go.

  3. First off, good luck with The Hobbit. I hope New Line/Warner and MGM can square away the financing. Losing Guillermo del Toro hurts, but if Peter Jackson takes over the helm, it just might turn out for the best. I'm not sure del Toro's creature designs match what what we saw of the Hobbit from Peter Jackson. Also, I don't think Jackson will make the mistakes that George Lucas did with The Phantom Menace.

    Born Yesterday was the only title I couldn't get to re-watch, but I've seen it several times, although it has been a while. Whenever it shows up on TCM, I usually hear my wife saying "Oh, that's the one with the woman with that annoying voice." Judy Holliday had talent to burn, and it's a shame she left us so soon. Broderick Crawford gives one of his sledgehammer performances, but he was the logical choice at the time. I would have liked to have seen what Paul Douglas would have done with the role. He played it on Broadway and though also gruff, he had an underlying softness to his performances. Anyway, he and Judy would get to act together a few years later in The Solid Gold Cadillac. With Sunset Blvd. and Born Yesterday, William Holden's career skyrocketed.

    Still, it's Judy's film and she makes it all worthwhile, aided by a great script.