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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Born Yesterday (1950)



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Born Yesterday is an enchanting, brilliantly executed film. Primarily, it's a comedy, but it's a dark one, unafraid to embrace such uncomfortable themes as abusive relationships. The story involves a business tycoon (Broderick Crawford) who uses his girlfriend (Judy Holliday) to cheat the system. The girlfriend is a little slow-witted and does not question the signing of legal documents that is periodically required of her. But her lack of cultural awareness embarrasses him during social events, so he decides to hire a tutor (William Holden), who ends up teaching her too much for his own good. That's the gist of the story; the beauty is in the details. The script sparkles. The performances shine. The plight of each of the characters ring some emotional truth within us, whatever that may be. Judy Holliday won an Oscar for her performance, and while she's outstanding, the real acting accomplishment here is by Broderick Crawford, who plays the most complex of the three main characters and does it convincingly. His role was not easy; he had to be the bad guy, brutally so in some scenes, and yet, in others, elicit a certain amount of sympathy from us. We're all familiar with the movie character who is abusive toward his wife or girlfriend, then nauseatingly confesses his "love" in tender tones. When Crawford does it, we believe him, even though his behavior cannot possibly be excused.

The movie probably sounds more dismal than it really is. In the case of some scenes, it really is dismal -- I won't muffle the film's occasional horror -- but mostly it's a light, uplifting, and unforgettable comedy, intelligently written and executed.

The film was remade in 1993, and while the remake is good in its own right, it's no match for the original.

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