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Uncouth, loud-mouth junkyard tycoon Harry Brock descends upon Washington D.C. to buy himself a congressman or two, bringing with him his mistress, ex-showgirl Billie Dawn. Brock hires newspaperman Paul Verrall to see if he can soften her rough edges and make her more presentable in capital society. But Harry gets more than he bargained for as Billie absorbs Verall's lessons in U.S. history and not only comes to the realization that Harry is nothing but a two-bit, corrupt crook, but in the process also falls in love with her handsome tutor. Written by
Paul Penna <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To All The Chumps and Babes Who Make This World Go
Any play that runs 1642 performances on Broadway for three years you know will wind up in Hollywood. But usually the Broadway cast never makes it intact.
It didn't here, but we were lucky to get Judy Holliday to repeat her acclaimed Broadway role her as Billie Dawn, gal pal of junk tycoon Broderick Crawford. Judy only got the role because Rita Hayworth decided to marry Aly Khan and after testing several others who weren't quite right Harry Cohn decided to go with the original. She rewarded Cohn's late faith with a Best Actress Oscar for 1950.
Speaking of Oscars, Cohn had an interesting problem on his hands which he solved with Born Yesterday. Broderick Crawford had brought home an Oscar the year before for All the King's Men. But Crawford was hardly traditional leading man material. But there sure were enough similarities with the dictatorial minded Willie Stark with the tyrannical Harry Brock so that Cohn could cast Crawford and keep the momentum going for his career. Crawford's part was played by Paul Douglas on stage who would get to Hollywood right around this time as well.
Still neither Holliday or Crawford were box office and Columbia needed one name that had some guaranteed pull with movie audiences. That's where Bill Holden came in. The part was built up from the Broadway version, all that tourist business at the Capitol and other Washington sites were not on Broadway. The role of the intellectual newspaper reporter was played by Gary Merrill and Merrill was certainly better suited for the part than Holden. Personally I think that Cohn should have gone with his other reliable leading man, Glenn Ford in this part. Still even with the built up role Holden was a definite number three in this film.
The plot is very simple, the magic of Born Yesterday is watching Holliday's character grow in awareness of what's around her. She's the play thing of junk tycoon Harry Brock, a self made millionaire who's street smart, rich, and nothing else. He's aware of it though and aware that Holliday lacks the social graces as well.
Since Crawford can't or won't learn them, at least he wants a polished hostess to make up for it. He hires newspaper reporter Holden to teach Holliday. But he teaches her about democracy and the corrupting influence of special interests of which Crawford is one and she's now aware of.
Crawford also put a lot of his holdings in her name for tax purposes. That's a created situation, Crawford regrets starting.
Holliday became so identified with the Billie Dawn role that when she started having blacklisting problems due to her left wing politics, she went into character as Billie Dawn before Congress. The chumps in Congress actually bought it all and she skated. Actually in real life Holliday was a well read intelligent woman, the last thing from Billie Dawn you could imagine.
Judy Holliday spent the remainder of her career between Broadway and Hollywood so her film output remains small and she died way too young. Still as another uneducated character in a film said, what there is, is cherce.
Born Yesterday is as cherce as it gets.
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