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Born Yesterday (1950): The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray Review

Born Yesterday (1950) movie poster Born Yesterday

Theatrical Release: December 25, 1950 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: George Cukor / Writers: Garson Kanin (play), Albert Mannheimer (screenplay)

Cast: Judy Holliday (Billie Dawn/Emma Hepfel), Broderick Crawford (Harry Brock), William Holden (Paul Verrall), Howard St. John (Jim Devery), Frank Otto (Eddie), Larry Oliver (Congressman Norval Hedges), Barbara Brown (Mrs. Hedges), Grandon Rhodes (Sanborn), Claire Carleton (Helen)

Buy Born Yesterday on Blu-ray exclusively at Screen Archives

Amy Adams, Matthew McConaughey, and Shea Whigham did it last year. Kyle Chandler and Walton Goggins did it the year before. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain have also done it this decade. In case you haven't figured it out,
I'm talking about actors appearing in multiple Best Picture Oscar nominees in the same year. It's a tough feat to pull off, but from 1944 to 2008 it was even tougher because the Academy only had five Best Picture nominees each year. That stretch still saw plenty of actors, from Sidney Poitier (1967) to Robert Duvall (1974) to Robert De Niro (1990), defeat the odds and compete against themselves for the industry's top prize.

William Holden acted in a number of Best Picture nominees over the years, from 1940's Our Town to 1976's Network. In 1950, he starred in two films competing for the same Best Picture award: Sunset Blvd. for his frequent collaborator Billy Wilder and Born Yesterday from director George Cukor. Though each would lose to All About Eve, Holden was just a few years away from being part of a Best Picture, courtesy of David Lean's 1957 war drama The Bridge on the River Kwai.

A year after the Oscar-winning "All the King's Men", Broderick Crawford stuck with government corruption, this time playing the one doing the bribing as tycoon Harry Brock. Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday) seems incapable of doing much more than playing gin rummy with her wealthy husband-to-be, Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford).

Adapted from Garson Kanin's 1946 Broadway play, Born Yesterday sees powerful, wealthy businessman Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford, hot off his Oscar-winning lead turn in the previous year's Best Picture, All the King's Men) visiting Washington, D.C. with Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday), his fiancιe of seven years. Brock is in town to influence, i.e. bribe, government officials, including an elderly congressman. He is troubled and embarrassed by the obnoxious vacancy of Billie, a former chorus girl with scarcely an intelligent thought.

To address the problem, Brock hires Paul Verrall (Holden), a newspaper journalist doing a story on him, to give her an intellectual makeover. For $200 a week, Paul teaches Billie how to read the front page news ("the not-so-funnies"), having her circle the parts she doesn't understand. He also accompanies her to the many museums and monuments in the area, planting some seeds of interest in government and history. The learned tutor and graceless tutee, each within a year of 30, hit it off, though they don't pursue romance beyond kissing.

Still, they seem destined for something bigger, as Paul expands Billie's vocabulary and opens her eyes to the corruption in government, to which her husband is a major contributor.

In "Born Yesterday", Paul Verrall (William Holden) schools Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday) on government outside the United States Capitol.

Born Yesterday entertains with a story reminding one of two of the best-known Audrey Hepburn films, Roman Holiday and My Fair Lady (the latter, a Cukor film). Transformation tales have their appeal and this one is tactful, diverting, and slightly unconventional. It's lightly romantic and gently comedic,
but doesn't falter the way that many modern romantic comedies do. The ending is a little heavy-handed and inevitable given brutish Brock's relentlessly awful treatment of Billie and her somewhat inexplicable stake in his empire. But the film provides fun and admirable principles in its redemption and comeuppance.

Born Yesterday was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Picture, Director and Screenplay. Its only win came in the Best Lead Actress category, which awarded Holliday (who missed the ceremony) in her first and only nomination, in a questionable decision over Sunset's Gloria Swanson. Though seemingly delivering a star-making performance, Holliday, who originated the role on stage, had a short-lived Hollywood career, alternating between films and plays while enduring a radio and television blacklist over concerns of Communist affiliation. She subsequently earned no fewer than four major film acting nominations and won a Tony before passing away from breast cancer in 1965 two weeks before her 44th birthday.

Born Yesterday was revived on Broadway in 1989 and remade on film in 1993 to poor reviews and middling box office with Melanie Griffith, John Goodman, and Don Johnson filling the three lead roles.

Fourteen years after debuting on DVD under the Columbia Classics banner, Cukor's film recently made its way to Blu-ray in a Twilight Time disc limited to 3,000 copies.

Born Yesterday: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Screen Archives Blu-ray Disc Details

1.37:1 Original Aspect Ratio
1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio (English), 2.0 DTS-HD MA (Isolated Score)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
List Price: $29.95
Blue Keepcase
Still available on DVD ($14.99 SRP; February 15, 2000) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Born Yesterday looks absolutely terrific on Blu-ray. The 1.37:1 Academy Ratio presentation is so sharp and spotless that it's almost impossible to believe that the film was made over 60 years ago. Twilight Time has put out plenty of nice-looking Blu-rays, but this one may be their best yet.

The monaural 1.0 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also does a fine job of hiding the film's age. Dialogue stays crisp and intelligible throughout and the score isn't hindered by any distortion. Holliday's voice is every bit as shrill as it's intended to be, but no worse than that.

Good news, Bill Holden gals and Judy Holliday guys! Columbia Pictures has just the film for you! The second theatrical trailer talks up the film's accolades and warm public reception.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Born Yesterday is joined by two theatrical trailers (1:43 & 2:47),
each presented in high definition and reflecting the film marketing principles of the early 1950s. The latter touts Holliday's Academy Award win, the crowds gathered to see the film, and the celebrities who loved it.

Also included is a Twilight Time staple: an isolated score, treating you to Friedrich Hollaender's compositions in 2.0 DTS-HD master audio with no dialogue over them.

The basic, static menu, silent save for navigation effects, offers a wider rendering of the cover art image. As usual, Twilight Time authors the disc to allow you to resume unfinished playback. It also includes a gallery displaying the company's complete Blu-ray catalogue, with three titles per page.

The final extra is another standard inclusion for the company (but rare for most): a companion booklet. It devotes four of its eight pages to an essay by in-house historian Julie Kirgo celebrating the film, especially Holliday and Holden.

The bespectacled Paul Verrall (William Holden) sets out to make Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday) less stupid in George Cukor's 1950 comedy-drama "Born Yesterday."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though undoubtedly old-fashioned, Born Yesterday remains an appealing and entertaining film that succeeds on a sharp story and buoyant acting. Twilight Time's Blu-ray offers outstanding picture quality and a fitting few minor bonus features. Fans of this George Cukor dramedy and other interested parties should be quite pleased with this disc.

Buy Born Yesterday exclusively at screenarchives.com

Related Reviews:
Directed by George Cukor: The Women (1939) • A Star is Born (1954)
William Holden: Sunset Blvd. | Broderick Crawford: All the King's Men
1950s on Blu-ray: Ace in the Hole • Kiss Me Deadly • On the Waterfront • From Here to Eternity
Twilight Time Blu-rays: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison • The Man from Laramie • Radio Days
Washington, D.C.: The Ides of March • Philomena • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Best Actress Oscar Winners:
Blue Jasmine • Silver Linings Playbook • The Iron Lady • Black Swan • The Queen • Million Dollar Baby
Fargo • Misery • Annie Hall • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest • Mary Poppins

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Reviewed July 14, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1950 Columbia Pictures and 2014 Twilight Time, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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