Judy Holliday and ‘Born Yesterday’ aka the movie that made glasses sexy!

Every year, when I tell people I’m paying 600+ dollars for a four-day classic film festival, I’m met with wide eyes and general confusion. The reason I do it, besides the fact that it’s a good father-daughter bonding activity, is to remind myself why movies are important and less pretentiously, to experience that indescribable feeling when you discover something incredible for the first time.

That was my experience watching Born Yesterday for the first time. If you’re unfamiliar, Born Yesterday follows Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday), the seven-years engaged, uncouth girlfriend of Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford), a Trump-like tycoon. They move to Washington for Harry to follow some political ambitions. There’s only one problem: Billie. In a turn taken out of Pygmalion, Harry hires Billie a tutor, one Paul Verrall (William Holden) and as with all my reviews, chaos ensues and a lot of laughter.

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LOVE THIS MOMENT

Here are a few reasons Born Yesterday needs to be added to your watch list NOW:

The Writing 

Sometimes, I get myself in trouble by saying that the writing in old movies is better than the writing for movies today. And while I concede that there are a lot of great writers working in film today, one thing the old films had was time. They would take the time to really rehearse something and make sure it was right before even turning the cameras on.

Now, in the case of Born Yesterday, it was a broadway play before it was made into a film so the original script by Garson Kanin was well-tested, a lost art IMHO. The dialogue is sharp and witty and the timing is always on point.

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Paul Verrall for President!

The Cast

Is there a better cast out there? It’d be hard to find one, especially with actors like Judy Holliday and William Holden. Judy Holliday was a great discovery for me and after watching her in this film, I feel confident in saying there was no else like her. She was so unique and hilarious and this movie IS her.

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Me late at night listening to pop songs

William Holden was never someone I thought much about. I associated him mostly with Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. In this film, he is well-spoken and nerdy and beautiful and a great contrast to Holliday’s character.

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Making glasses sexy since 1950 🤓

But, as with most old movies, it’s not just the leads that carry the film. Born Yesterday was blessed with wonderful characters including Broderick Crawford and Howard St. John. 

The Romanceeeeeeeee

Are you detecting a theme on this blog? Why, yes, I am a fan of the romance. I believe I’ve said that before. Before the wonderful Aaron Sorkin came in and made politics sexy again (i.e. The American President and The West Wing), movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Born Yesterday held that mantle.

Very much in turn with a 90s romcom, Paul Verrall tries to make Billie Dawn over again, teaching her about the world and how it works, the simple pleasure in a well constructed sentence and what’s really important.

It’s a bevy of swoon-inducing memes. Want proof? Okayyyyyy.

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The Message

This film’s message is just as timely today as it was in 1950. We all have the power to be whoever we want to be, no matter our station in life or what we’ve been told we can achieve. Billie Dawn thinks her lot in life is set and through her “study sessions” with Paul, learns that her wants, needs and desires are important. Empowered Billie Dawn in 1950 must have been quite a sight for audiences. A complicated, beautiful, funny, curious heroine…what a concept!

Additionally, I love the idea that knowledge is power. None of us come into the world knowing everything. Not even the smartest people in the world know everything. In my opinion, the smartest people know that and are always interested in learning more about the world around them. 💖

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My favorite line in the movie

Judy’s Only Oscar Win

Judy won her only Oscar for her performance in this film and it’s more than well-deserved. She went on to be blacklisted and a few years after that, she died at the age of 43 from breast cancer.

It’s an awe-inspiring classic film that should be required viewing for everyone!

If you’re still looking for reasons to watch this movie, let me put it to you like this. We give our time to so many useless things. Spend two hours watching something that will (a) make you laugh (b) make you swoon and (c) make you think.

If you do not enjoy using your brain, you can skip it! 😉

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Reading is SEXY 📚

 

Vintage trailer below:

Gifs property of Columbia Pictures.

 

 

 

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The timeliness of Ida Lupino’s ‘Outrage’

Ida Lupino was a very special person. As you know if you read my blog, I only recently discovered Ida and in my last post I covered Ida’s acting, which was stupendous in its own right. However, she was a female director in a time when that was basically unheard of and the most incredible thing is that she didn’t just make fluff. Like one of her female predecessors, Lois Weber, Ida wanted to make films about social issues, things that mattered and she did.

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These old film cameras are everything!

I saw Outrage at the TCM Film Festival this year and was blown away by how modern it feels. Yes, there are certain period things that make you remember it’s an old movie, but the subject matter and how Lupino deals with it, are more topical than ever today.

Outrage follows Ann Walton (Mala Powers), a young woman recently engaged to a man she loves.

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Happy Ann 

Everything seems to be going well, except for one slightly annoying thing: a man who runs the food cart at her work verbally harasses her on an almost daily basis. Like most women, Ann deals with it because what else could she do?

However, one night, when walking to her car, that man goes from verbal harassment to rape, leaving Ann shameful and confused. The rest of the film finds Anne running from her shame, unable to come to terms with what’s happened to her.

Here are a few reasons you need to check out this film!

 

Ida Lupino, Ida Lupino, um did I mention Ida Lupino?

As a young woman trying to make it in this business, I bow down to the goddess that is Ida Lupino. I’m currently in the midst of reading a biography of her life and am so fascinated at the way she carried herself, despite the heartache and the struggle she endured.

She found her way into directing when the director of one of the film’s she was producing fell ill early into the shoot. Ida simply took over to save the film and the rest is history. She wanted to make films outside the studio system, what we would now call independent film. Thus, her films were filled with unknown actors.

Ida tackled difficult subject matter with patience and didn’t believe in traditional happy endings, one of the many things I love her movies for.

This tribute is a great introduction to Ida. 🙂

Mala Powers

This film hinged on whether or not you believed in Ann’s distress, her psychological trauma. Many dramatic moments in Outrage simply focus on Ann’s face. Mala Powers is exceptional in the role; she almost feels like a stand-in for Lupino had she acted the part. You feel Ida in Mala Power’s performance. And quite honestly, she moved me to tears.

She didn’t go on to many other projects of note, but continued to work well into her 70s.

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Literally bawling 😭

The Direction and Cinematography

I know I already said Ida Lupino, but for a film not shot in the studio system, with a very low budget, the direction and noir-esque shots are gorgeous and suspenseful.

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Terrifying!

Sadly, it’s just as relevant today as it was then. Even, more so. 

This movie doesn’t preach to its audience. It doesn’t tell women how to feel or how to cope or even that you ever really heal from an experience like this. However, I feel like one message the movie sends loud and clear is that victims of sexual assault should not feel shameful. They didn’t bring it on themselves by wearing too short a skirt or being too nice or leading someone on. The blame lies with the person who assaulted them and I think that for 1950, when no one was paying attention to this issue, that message is radical.

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Get ready to be emotional

Just in the past year, we’ve finally seen some strides being taken in society to not only discuss this issue but say clear and unequivocally that harassment is wrong and will no longer be tolerated. I’m an idealistic person and I’d like to believe things will change, but too often, movements fade and people forget the fervor that incited it.

Ida Lupino made this film seventy years ago, because even then, sexual harassment and assault was an unspoken thing many women had to deal with, often with shame and secrecy. I hope in another seventy years this status quo will not exist.

I was gonna link the trailer below, but the whole film is on youtube. You’re welcome. 🙂

If you watch the film and like it, drop me a comment or send me an email at thegirlwhoknewtoomuch46@gmail.com!

 

‘Finishing School’: A Female Narrative in 1934

Whenever I talk about classic movies, I tend to hear from women that they’re not interested because there are no female-told, female-driven stories. And it’s true, that after sound came in, women were no longer prominent behind the camera. Female writers and directors were scarce. Only a small handful were really successful and even then, many of them were remain uncredited on films they wrote or directed.

Finishing School, made in 1934, is astoundingly a female-driven, female-written, and female co-directed studio film. There are only two prominent male parts and they’re supporting roles!

The pre-code film follows Virginia (Frances Dee), a teenager untainted by all the bad things teenagers get involved with, starts at a finishing school for girls called Crocket Hall. There, she meets Pony (Ginger Rogers) and quickly begins to do all the bad-girl things, drinking, smoking, lying, and *gasp* having premarital sex. On a girl’s outing to New York city, Virginia meets Mac (Bruce Cabot), a hospital intern who moonlights at a hotel to make ends meet. But, of course, her wealthy parents couldn’t possibly approve and the school, which pretends to be helping young women is more like a prison, keeping the girls they deem insubordinate hostage.

Here are just a few reasons why you need to add Finishing School to your watchlist!

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I love the lettering – I know that’s beside the point

You get to see an early, pre-partnership with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers

Ginger was just 23 in Finishing School and hadn’t quite perfected what would become her signature schtick. But the sass we all love and expect from Ginger was there and it’s fascinating to see her when she was that young and green.

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Her pal! Can you believe Ginger wasn’t the star??

Frances Dee Shines as Virginia!

Frances Dee may not be a familiar name to you. It certainly wasn’t to me before this film. She was extremely popular during the early 1930’s, but now she’s best known for having been Joel McCrea’s wife. She was also 23 at the time she made this and is very appealing. It’s fun to watch her journey from sweet and sheltered to tough and assertive.

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I love that she’s called “the girl.” LOL.

Billie Burke and John Halliday are cliche, but hilarious as Virginia’s uber wealthy parents.

Finishing School’s tropes are by no means new and many modern moviegoers will watch this film and recognize the cliches, especially when it comes to Bille Burke and John Halliday. Burke played the absentee rich mother who disapproves in Virginia’s choice of beau – he’s just a lowly waiter/doctor-in-training.

Meanwhile, Halliday plays the sympathetic father who actually listens to his daughter and maybe thinks his wife is crazy and kind of annoying.

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SNOBBISH, BUT STYLISH
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LOOK AT THOSE SYMPATHETIC FATHER EYES. AND THE MUSTACHE, OF COURSE

And, of course, Virginia’s confident beau, Mac, played by Bruce Cabot. Best known for his role in the original King Kong, Cabot is all but forgotten at this point. He has great charisma in this film and it makes you wonder why he didn’t became a popular romantic lead.

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Love the bow tie. Why his hair is slicked back though eludes me.

Finishing School was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency

The fact that this film was set for release in May 1934 is important as the code was not actually enforced until June 1934. Thus, this film with its condemnation of the rich, its depiction of drinking and smoking (aka un-ladylike behavior), and it’s thinly veiled almost abortion would not have passed the censors if it had been released one month later.

The pre-code films are always interesting for this reason. They got away with a lot more and it’s sort of seemed like a tiny form of rebellion. Film was still (and still is) a young medium and the rules were still being written. It’s kind of comforting to know that these issues that still plague our society today, people cared about then. It’s just that after June 1934, they were no longer allowed to make a film about it.

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Pony telling Virginia how to deal with boys.

It’s a female-driven, female-written and female-directed miracle

Okay, perhaps I’m being bombastic but I think, that in 1934 it’s pretty incredible that a woman wrote and directed a film ABOUT WOMEN. What a concept. The sadness is this is Wanda Tuchock’s only directing credit apart from a TV credit in the 50s. She contributed to many films over the years including Little Women, Frances Marion’s The Champ, and Little Orphan Annie.

Although Tuchock continued to write after the pre-code era, it’s clear that her opportunities diminished after that as they did for many women behind the camera. Finishing School is by no means a perfect film, but in an industry currently going through a feminist revolution, it’s important to remember the all-but-forgotten women who paved the way.

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Wanda Tuchock, Circa 1930s
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The wit!

The film is available through the WB archive collection.

Gifs and photos property of Warner Bros.

Revelations about and because of James L. Brooks’ ‘Broadcast News’

First things first – so sorry I have been MIA over the last month! The movie watching has not stopped (if it had you know something would have to be SERIOUSLY wrong). I have been watching ’em and making my list of movies to discuss and over the next several weeks, I’m finally going to get to it!

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the brilliant, hilarious and extremely relevant film Broadcast News. This was a movie I had seen several years ago, as a young teenager. Although I remember liking the film a lot, this second viewing at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, was surprising. Some films just have to be seen as an older person to be appreciated and I think Broadcast News is definitely one of them.

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TBH…their conversation was straight-up hilarious. 

Prolific producer/writer/director James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News follows Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), a quickly rising tv news producer. She’s smart as a whip and literally thinks twelve steps ahead of everyone else around her. Her best friend is the hilarious, smart and IMHO very cute Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks). He’s one-hundred percent in love with Jane, something you can see five minutes into watching their relationship. A new anchor, Tom Grunick (William Hurt) comes onto the scene, pulling both at Jane’s heartstrings and encroaching on Aaron’s professional territory. In other words…DRAMA ENSUESSSSSSS.

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Burrrrrrrn. Really, though. I told you there’d be some drama. 

Here are just a few reasons Broadcast News is a movie you honestly should’ve put on your rundown (bad news pun)…like years ago!

The Cast

As I’ve said a bajillion times on this blog, casting is so important to how a movie turns out. If you cast people that are fun and relatable and just plain entertaining to watch, the characters can grow beyond just some lines of dialogue on a piece of paper. This film is a classic example of quite honestly, perfect casting.

One of the revelations from the TCM fest panel with James L. Brooks and Albert Brooks (no relation, guys, I swear) was that Holly Hunter was cast at the last minute and another unnamed actress almost got the part. Hunter was a virtual unknown at the time. She had just filmed Raising Arizona, a film which was only released a few months before Broadcast News. Hunter is the true anchor of the film, a confusing choice of words because she plays the executive producer of the news show in the film.

As a young woman, I find her portrayal of Jane to be so relatable. She’s so human and so complicated and filled with contradictions and you could never watch her and feel disconnected to her struggles.

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#RealTalk…I cry at least once a day.

Albert Brooks is so completely underrated. In the Q&A between Albert Brooks and James L. Brooks which was helmed by Ben Mankiewicz, Albert said he felt that Jane was never going to ultimately get with Aaron. Watching the film again, which was after the Q&A, I was like outrageously angry at Jane. If you were Jane, WHY WOULDN’T YOU GET WITH AARON? I mean, he’s intelligent, he’s funny, he’s self deprecating. He’s cute and a good person. I mean, come on, really though! I think this really goes to the heart of two arguments for me: one is attraction is about MORE than looks. The other is that I’m tired of movies never letting the actual good guy, the “underdog” get the girl. I mean, this is another Pretty in Pink scenario, guys. She belonged with Duckie, not that rich asshole.

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I flinch every time I watch this scene…

Whew, thanks for letting me get out, y’all. Back to Albert Brooks being awesome. He, separate from his character, is smart and literally hilarious. If you need some proof, just watch this clip from The Tonight Show back in the 70’s.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – I just wrote a literal lovefest about Albert Brooks. How am I possibly going to sing William Hurt’s praises too? Well, you’re about to find out. I do understand Jane’s attraction to Hurt’s Tom Grunick. Grunick is charming and obviously adorable. And, the thing is, Hurt is extremely intelligent so his portrayal of a dunce is actually quite funny. He’s also a fantastic actor who was already an Academy Award winner at the time they filmed Broadcast News.

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He’s a little freaked out…but his hair looks amazing!

The supporting players are also fantastic – Robert Prosky, a wonderful character actor plays the head of the news division. Jack Nicholson plays Bill Rorish, the top news anchor with an ego, quite a stretch for Nicholson! Cough, cough.

The real supporting MVP of the film though is one Joan Cusack. I’ve heard people refer to her as John Cusack’s sister which, is, of course, true but also infuriating. Do you think people refer to John Cusack as Joan Cusack’s brother? I think not! Okay, now I’m getting off topic. The upshot of it is she is a star in her own right and she is fantastic in this film. For real though, she delivers my favorite line in the film which she says to Holly Hunter’s Jane in tears: “Except for socially, you’re my role model.” Laugh-cry are the only words that can describe that moment.

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JOAN CUSACK IS EVERYTHING. 

The Script

Beyond the cast, the other essential piece of this film is the script. It is so wildly funny while also being relatable, relevant and moving. James L. Brooks wrote this as a romantic comedy which kind of cracks me up considering how the film ends.

Still, what movie being made today covers the same ground as Broadcast News? It’s essentially about people, but it’s also about the current (at the time obvi) state of television news, the ethics in telling a story, the moral obligation to be truthful. In this way, it’s an obvious precursor to Sorkin’s The Newsroom. His characters, too, are very preoccupied with the ethics of being a news reporter.

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Hmmm…I don’t know about that. #Rationalization

I especially liked the focus on the three main characters since they were all so different, but still human and likable.

Tom is the handsome idiot, except he isn’t. Tom has a skill set that both Aaron and Jane are missing. He knows how to present information in a trustworthy, confident way.

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Even his hair is trustworthy…lol

Jane is a career girl and I think the real reason she struggles socially is not because she’s incapable, but because she believes the only way to excel in her career is to block out everything else.

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Lesson learned: DO NOT MESS WITH HOLLY HUNTER

Aaron, on the other hand, is intensely smart but also neurotic, which is what ultimately is blocking him. He can’t stop thinking for a minute…which of course, I don’t relate to at all.

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The FUNNIEST scene in the movie, but it’s also a bit hard to watch. 

The Romance

As you all know from reading my movie musings, I’m a fan of the romance. Whether the romance is a fan of me is another story…lol. But, seriously, the romance in this film is wonderful because like some of my other all time favorites, this film covers mature romantic struggles.

With Aaron and Jane, we are presented with one of the most used stereotypes from romcoms: the best friend who’s in love with the main character. I think they both want to love each other in that way, but the timing gets in the way. Jane’s not ready to let someone in while Aaron is more than ready.

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That flinch THO. #RealityBites

 

And then Tom enters their lives and catches Jane’s attention. He’s attractive and confident and interested…and they do actually feel real things for each other. But, again, Jane lets her walls get in the way, because, timing-wise, she’s just not ready.

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He’s so TALL.

I think this is something not generally discussed in romantic films, the idea of not being ready for someone when they come into your life. There’s a reality there, so much so that when you see these three characters meet each other again at the end of the film, it doesn’t feel forced.

Because it’s still relevant, absolutely hilarious, and filled with brilliant dialogue and fantastic performances!

If you’ve never seen Broadcast News, you need to watch ASAP. If you have seen it, I guarantee it warrants another look, if only to realize just how much you relate to Holly Hunter’s character…or maybe that’s just me. I don’t think so…lol.

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Vintage trailer below:

Gifs property of Twentieth Century Fox.

Why I Now Appreciate Mike Nichol’s “Working Girl”

Now, this is not a joke. I grew up making fun of Mike Nichol’s 1988 film, Working Girl. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, my mom and I don’t always see eye to eye, movie taste-wise. And as a kid, I saw this film over and over and over again. My brothers and dad routinely poked fun at the film, much to my mom’s chagrin.

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I didn’t understand why my mom would keep coming back to it. She knew what was going to happen. She knew where the bony ass line was…even though she could never correctly quote it. When I was in my last semester of college, I came across the film while searching for something to watch – procrastination at its finest. I almost went past it, but, looking for something I could watch while pretending to study, I thought Working Girl would be just innocuous enough to work.

I. WAS. WRONG. I got absolutely no studying done that day – not even pretend studying. I was too busy watching Working Girl, really watching it for the first time and I found myself relating to it….A LOT. That semester, I had been interning at a company and essentially been an assistant to the assistants working there. I know it’s not the only reason I saw the film in a new light, but it certainly helped. I was Melanie Griffith’s character Tess McGill, ultra driven and a little bit naive. I don’t think I’d ever have the gumption to go where she goes in the film, but I could certainly see why she made the choices she made.

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For those who don’t know the film, Working Girl follows Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a driven secretary who thinks she’s found the perfect position. Her boss is a woman, Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) who says she wants Tess’s ideas and that she wants to help her get where she wants to go. However, when Katherine breaks her leg in a skiing accident, Tess finds out that Katherine intends to purport one of Tess’s ideas as her own. As such, Tess takes matters into her own hands, pretending to have her boss’s job. She meets Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) who helps her start to make the deal and also maybe falls in love with her…

The film is interesting in the lens of the current discussion of feminism in this country, of the wage gap and truly equal rights for women. Tess McGill’s predicament is still relevant today, sadly. The film is really about her empowerment and her realization that if you want something, you sometimes have to take it without being asked. She has to work to be taken seriously and her boyfriend at the beginning of the film, played by Alec Baldwin, doesn’t seem to understand that.

There are many reasons I love this film as just pure entertainment. The performances are wonderful. Whoever got Harrison Ford involved, kudos to you! He is truly at his swoon worthiest – equal parts tough and lovably vulnerable. If you need evidence…

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I was never Melanie Griffith’s biggest fan, but I’ve since come around to her in this film. As Tess McGill, she is all of us.

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Sigourney Weaver should really get an award for being such a lovable bitch in this film. She makes you laugh and pisses you off at the same time. Quite a feat.

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And not many people mention her, but Joan Cusack is also fabulous. She plays Tess’s friend and though she wears WAY TOO MUCH makeup, she’s still the Joan we all know and love!

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Side note – Kevin Spacey is in one scene as a coke addled wall street guy trying to take advantage of Tess. Let’s just say he makes the most of it.

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Additionally, I love the music of this film. I used to be turned off by how 80’s it all was, but now I can’t help feeling elated, listening to “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon. I don’t want to give away the end of the film if you’ve never seen it, but let me just say, you’ll feel good. Check out Carly’s music video for the film:

If you’ve never seen this film or you’ve just discounted it as I did for many years, I’d consider giving it another chance. I think this film does require some experience and maturity to fully appreciate. It’s become a favorite of mine and now, years later, I can apologize to my mom and finally say, I understand why you watched it to death. And now, we can watch it together.

The only criticism I might make of the film is that they made Jack Trainor way too perfect. He set unrealistic standards for all men everywhere. Not that I didn’t love it…

Vintage trailer below: