It Should Happen to You
It's a testament to Jack Lemmon's ineffable effortlessness that in his film debut, George Cukor's It Should Happen to You (1954), he dominates the screen like a ten-picture veteran. As the first in a long line of hapless romantics, his performance as documentarian Pete Sheppard is every bit the equal of his then red-hot co-star Judy Holliday, who plays the flighty Gladys Glover, a Manhattanite so hungry for fame she shells out thousands of dollars to purchase a billboard on Columbus Circle emblazoned only with her name. This draws the attention of soap magnate Evan Adams III (Peter Lawford), who is charged with buying back the coveted ad space for his company's use. Though a tad daffy, Gladys nevertheless drives a hard bargain, and she manages to parlay her single ad into prime placement on billboards all over town. Suddenly, she's famous just for being famous, much to the chagrin of Pete, who means to deflate her rising celebrity and bring her down to Earth. But cad's cad Evan has other plans, mostly along the lines of sating her seemingly unquenchable thirst for meaningless fame in exchange for a cheap tryst in his tony bachelor pad. Cukor, working from a script by his frequent collaborator Garson Kanin, goes through the motions with his usual elegance light comedy was never lighter on its feet than under his refined direction. Holliday is her normal, ebullient self in what, sadly, would be one of her last decent films before her untimely death in 1965. Though not the most versatile of performers, she brought an uncommon depth to the dumb-blond archetype, and it's this nuance that makes Gladys a far more intriguing character than she would've been in the hands of, say, Marilyn Monroe. Take, for instance, Evan's shameless attempt to woo Gladys into his bed, which ends when she spills her champagne down the back of his shirt. An annoyed Evan suddenly feels he's the one being used, and asks her, "Was that an accident, or did you do it on purpose?" The genuinely puzzled "I don't know" that Gladys offers in response is delivered beautifully by Holliday, suggesting a woman who's as stunned by her shallowness as her indignant, would-be lover Pete is. Clearly, she knows better, but the allure of fame and fortune, no matter how undeserved, is so powerful that it's driven her into situations she would otherwise be sensible enough to avoid. There are little nuggets like this strewn about the film, and they're mostly provided by the actors' resourcefulness rather than the cleverness of the script, which is even more of a trifle than Cukor and Kanin's other glancing entertainments (Born Yesterday and Adam's Rib being the best of these). That's certainly one reason that this film is often forgotten; another one being that Cukor delivered the greatest work of his career in the very same year with his remake of A Star is Born. Still, the chemistry between Lemmon and Holliday makes this a pleasant enough diversion for fans of the genre. Keep a lookout for the great voice actor, and "Jack Benny Program" regular, Frank Nelson in a cameo as a Macy's salesman. Columbia TriStar presents It Should Happen to You in a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Extras include trailers for other Sony titles. Keep-case.