Born Yesterday (1950)
Reviewed on 2008 February 3
Here’s another home run that Hollywood felt the need to remake. I saw both; the remake was OK, but the only truly outstanding bit was when Melanie Griffith’s incarnation of Billie put an NPR-type snot in her place by revealing that yes she did read de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and thank you for recommending it. (The snot was a poseur and hadn’t read it yet.) Other than that, the remake was just a decent movie. The 1950 George Cukor classic is the real deal.
Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford) is a rough, corrupt tycoon that comes to Washington to make some more crooked deals. He swaggers into town with his showgirl girlfriend Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday), and we know she’s a character from the get-go, because she’s wearing a gaudy suit and appears to have attached an FTD Easter bouquet to her head as a hat. When a Congressman influential in his schemes comes to visit and Billie reveals her lack of interest in anything other than dance music, Brock views her as a liability. He hires an eloquent reporter, Paul Verrall (William Holden), to smarten her up.
For her part, Billie is fine with her status of dumb ornament, not caring about politics or the outside world as long as she gets fine clothes and jewelry. Paul prevails and she starts broadening her horizons. Harry realizes he’s opened up a can of worms when Billie starts reading the books Paul brings her, and — worse — starts questioning Harry’s business practices.
Kanin and Mannheimer wrote a great script, but it just wouldn’t have been the same without Judy Holliday, braying "Whaaaaaaaaaat?" in one scene and squeaking her lines in the next. Her face even had a childlike I-got-it! look as she learned things. (If that’s not enough reason to like her, I read somewhere she trotted out her dumb blonde bit when she was summoned before the HUAC too.) Crawford was a fine Harry Brock and could be funny and menacing. There are a few parts of the movie that are a little dated but it’s a wonderful film.
Three chocolate morsels and a pink squirrel.