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Born Yesterday (1950)

Judy Holliday won an Academy Award for her performance in George Cukor's Born Yesterday, and it was no small feat — that year she beat out both Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. Adapted from Garson Kanin's sparkling stage play by Albert Mannheimer, Holliday stars in the 1950 Born Yesterday as Billie Dawn (a role she performed on stage more than 1,200 times), a former chorus-line girl who is engaged to Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford), a gruff scrap-yard tycoon with social-climbing ambitions. Passing through Washington, D.C., where Harry hopes to win some political favors, Billie bides her time by listening to the radio and signing various legal contracts (why Harry wants her to sign them she's not sure, but she does). But she also blunders through social situations with her common ways and thick New Jersey accent, which causes Harry to hire a "tutor" for her in the hopes of "smartening her up." Local journalist Paul Verrall (William Holden) is offered the job at $200 per week, but the bull-headed Harry can't predict where their newfound relationship will lead — or how it will affect his business empire. Holliday's performance has become a lauded piece of Hollywood history — probably no actress has ever been so smart at being stupid. The grating voice, the bottle-blonde coiffure, and the hopelessly linear thought-patterns all contribute to a performance that would be annoying in the hands of a lesser performer. But Holliday's Billie is sympathetic and a perfect foil for Crawford, whose equally dim Harry walks a fine line between woman-hater and lovable buffoon. Alongside these two enormous talents, William Holden suffers from the essential blandness of his role as Paul, and he can do little more than walk through it (his performance in the same year's Sunset Boulevard is superior by far). This Columbia TriStar DVD (part of the excellent "Columbia Classics" series) offers a great source-print (in the original 1.33:1) that has been digitally restored with solid low-contrast details and minimal flecking. The monaural audio is crisp and clear, and supplements include posters and lobby cards, a trailer, and cast-and-crew notes. Keep-case.
—Robert Wederquist

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