Monday, June 05, 2006


I've seen most of the Hollywood movies that have entered the canon of Classic Movies, but this is one that other classic movie buffs are always surprised to learn I haven't seen. I didn't actively avoid it, but I never felt compelled to search it out, despite it being the main claim to fame for Judy Holliday, who has become a near-legend largely on the basis of this one film (and her untimely death of cancer at 43 after having starring roles in only seven movies). As Billie Dawn, the mistress of a rich but crude businessman (Broderick Crawford, who plays the role as though he was a gangster who accidentally wound up with in a legitimate business), Holliday epitomized the indelible "dumb blonde" stereotype that permeates popular culture--she certainly got there before Marilyn Monroe, and Jean Hagen is practically channeling Holliday in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Crawford is in Washington to do some under-the-counter wheeling and dealing; both he and Holliday are loud, obnoxious, and on the dumb side, but Crawford only sees those faults in Holliday, so he hires a reporter (William Holden) to "make a lady" out of her. Holden embarks on a mission to refine and educate Holliday and ends up showing her that she deserves better than Crawford; along the way he falls in love with her. She catches on quickly and reciprocates Holden's affections, and the two end up giving a bit of an education to Crawford. The film is based on a hit play and it does feel stagy, with very little of the action taking place outside of Crawford's hotel suite except for a couple of brief shots of Holden squiring Holliday around Washington tourist attractions. The acting all around is good, and I was especially impressed with Howard St. John as Crawford's lawyer, who doesn't like Crawford or the underhanded deals he gets involved in, but realizes it's too late for him to get out of his profession. The plot makes an interesting and explicit parallel between political and personal fascism, but it could stand some more development. Holden and Holliday, though both fine in their roles, don't really have a lot of chemistry as a romantic pair, and I can't imagine their characters staying together much past the final fadeout. [TCM]

No comments: