• Born Yesterday

    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: July, 2014.
    Director: George Cukor
    Cast: Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden
    Year: 1950
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Like many prolific filmmakers, George Cukor’s legacy resists easy characterization. On the one hand, he’s perhaps best known as the director of two high profile musicals: MY FAIR LAIDY and A STAR IS BORN. However, these films came relatively late in his career and are not representative of his filmography. He’s also been unfairly characterized as a director of “woman’s pictures,” and one need only look to the well-known (and untrue) rumor of his dismissal from GONE WITH THE WIND because of Clark Gable’s reservation of Cukor’s reputation. Nowadays, scholars of queer theory are more interested in mining his filmography for homosexual subtext: Cukor gets a gossipy name-drop in GODS AND MONSTERS from director James Whale (played by Ian McKellen) for the gay after-hours parties he used to throw on his estate, an open secret in Hollywood but carefully concealed toward the larger public.

    BORN YESTERDAY is a shining jewel in the Cukor canon, and a wonderful example of another facet of the director’s career: the romantic comedy (see also Cukor’s PHILADELPHIA STORY and ADAM’S RIB for more in this vein). The film features three great lead performances in Judy Holliday (who won an Oscar for her performance here), Broderick Crawford (ALL THE KING’S MEN) and William Holden (as if you need to ask!). Working from a witty script from Garson Kanin’s hit theatrical play (Kanin also had a hand in the screenplay, although he’s uncredited), BORN YESTERDAY is a funny film that exudes class.

    Harry Brock (Crawford) is a crooked junkyard tycoon who arrives in Washington DC and sets up shop in an expansive multi-room suite at an luxury hotel (with a view of the Capitol building outside one of the windows, no less). His plan is to bribe a couple of congressmen in order to expand his already-lucrative business but he runs into two potential problems. The first comes in the form of an inquisitive investigative journalist named Paul Verrall (Holden), who knows a corrupt businessman when he sees one. The second problem is Brock’s fiancée Billie (Holiday), an ex-showgirl who is gorgeous and yet completely lacking in social graces and intellectual capacity. If Brock is to make a splash in Washington, he’ll need to make a good impression, and with the hapless Billie at his side he’s more of an embarrassment than anything else.

    In a moment of inspiration, Brock decides that the best way to solve his two problems is by combining them; he asks Paul whether or not he can “educate” Billie in everything Washington D.C. has to offer. He’s to show her the sights, explain to her how things are done and, while he’s at it, improve her speech and manners. For all this, Brock will offer Paul $200 a week; this way, he figures that he’s got the journalist in his pocket and his fiancée on the way to being a presentable figure in social functions. What Brock doesn’t take into account is the possibility that Paul and Billie could fall for each other. He also underestimates how quickly Billie will wise up to her rotten situation.

    Although Crawford and Holden do great work, BORN YESTERDAY is really centered on Holiday’s fantastic performance. In early scenes, she takes great pleasure playing the clueless mistress with the shrill voice. Through Paul’s gentle insistence, she starts to read up on current events and works in political history from such figures like Thomas Paine. He also takes her on field trips to historical landmarks where she gets a crash-course in democracy and social ethics. It doesn’t take long for Billie to make the obvious connection between the lofty ideals that she’s learning about and the sleazy underhand tactics of Brock.

    The trajectory of the plot may be predictable but one hardly cares when the results are as consistently enjoyable as they are here. Cukor’s direction here is never very flashy but he does a great job balancing the interplay between the three leads. Although he has a reputation as a “woman’s director,” there’s really more at work here than the obvious narrative of one woman’s journey from ignorance to enlightenment. The film makes the most out of its politicized setting and although BORN YESTERDAY comes in the guise of a woman’s picture, there’s a celebration of social awareness that’s applicable to both sexes.


    Twilight Time brings BORN YESTERDAY to blu-ray with a 1080p transfer presented in the film’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This is a high definition presentation that illustrates how superb a classic catalog title can look. There’s great detail throughout, a healthy presence of natural film grain, and absolutely no errors or glitches to report. Fans of the film will be pleased with how wonderful it all looks.

    The main audio option on the disc is a lossless 1.0 DTS-HD MA track that sounds good. BORN YESTERDAY was adapted from a stage play and, as such, the action is dialogue-heavy. Whenever music does occur, whether it be from Frederick Hollander’s score or the occasional diegetic classical piece, it sounds fine. There are no problems that I noticed.

    Twilight Time’s Isolated Score Track features the music of Hollander who, similar to Cukor, boasts a prolific resume. The film is far more known for its performances than it is for its music, and so I don’t believe Hollander’s score will be a big draw. In any case, it sounds great. Twilight Time’s disc also features two original theatrical trailers and Julie Kirgo’s informative liner notes.

    The Final World:

    Another stellar release from Twilight Time, BORN YESTERDAY is as a classic, and classy, romantic comedy that looks fantastic. The film is worth it for Judy Holliday’s performance alone; in fact, she beat Gloria Swanson in SUNSET BLVD. and Bette Davis in ALL ABOUT EVE for Best Actress at the Oscars that year – no small feat! Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!