Harry (Broderick Crawford), a junkyard tycoon, and his fiancé, Billie (Judy Holliday) are both less than refined. They shout to each other from across halls and through open windows. While in Washington D.C., Harry is trying to “make new business connections” and realizes Billie’s rough behavior and ignorance will only drive him backwards. So, he hires Paul (William Holden), a man initially hired to interview Harry, to teach her some etiquette, but he teaches her more important things and soon she’s able to see her life in a whole new way.
Judy Holliday’s performance as Billie won the Oscar for Best Actress. It’s a joy to watch Billie learn and grow with Paul’s help. She always keeps that rough and slightly dumb edge to her voice, but when we begin to see her as more than some loudmouth broad we rejoice along with her. She’s a strong character too, even when she’s brought down so low by Harry, she’s never out and can conjure up the courage to tell him to “Drop dead.”
Of course, there has to be a little romance, and it’s true that dumb blondes love the nerdy guys. There have been films where I don’t care for William Holden, usually when he’s playing the strapping, troublesome love interest that can’t keep his shirt on. Thankfully, Paul is the opposite, he’s helpful, smart, charming and witty. Many times, Holden’s lines become the perfect springboard for Judy’s punchline and the chemistry works perfectly.
Most of Billie’s lessons revolve around the Washington D.C. setting. Through it we see different monuments, building and important documents. We see Billie’s first encounters with them and see how earnestly she wants to expand her mind. Later, it’s fun to see her use her new knowledge of the founding fathers to help herself.
For those who can’t face seeing an old black and white movie, let me compare it to something you’re probably more familiar with. The plot is similar to the ever popular, Legally Blonde. Now, come on, even my husband enjoys Legally Blonde, and to put things just a little backwards, Born Yesterday is it’s 1950’s equivalent. It’s charming, funny and heartwarming. This is a witty delight that I encourage everyone to seek out.
“-Nobody’s born smart, Billie. Do you know what the stupidest thing on Earth is? An infant!
–Whadaya got against babies all of a sudden?”