Monday, February 19, 2024

Broderick Crawford, Judy Holiday, and William Holden in “Born Yesterday”

Born Yesterday (1950) is an American comedy directed by George Cukor and starring Broderick Crawford, Judy Holiday, and William Holden. Holiday recreated her role as Billie Dawn which she played on Broadway. Crawford replaced Paul Douglas who played opposite Holiday as Harry Brock and Holden replaced Gary Merrill who played Paul Verrall, both of whom created their respective roles on Broadway.

The film concerns Billie Dawn (Holiday), an uneducated woman involved with an older business tycoon Harry Brock (Crawford) who is in Washington to try and “buy” a congressman. Because Billie is uneducated, Harry hires Paul Verrall (Holden), a journalist, to educate her. During her “education,” she realized that Harry was a corrupt businessman. Due to Paul opening her eyes to a whole new world, Billie falls in love with him.

Judy Holiday, Broderick Crawford, and William Holden

George Cukor (1899 – 1983) was an American director. He was famous for directing comedies and literary adaptations of classics like Little Women (1933) and David Copperfield (1935). He was famously fired from directing Gone with the Wind (1939), but that incident didn’t mar an impressive directorial career that included The Philadelphia Story (1940), Gaslight (1944), and Born Yesterday (1950). Cukor won an Academy Award as Best Director for My Fair Lady (1964).

Broderick Crawford (1911 – 1986) was an American stage, film, radio, and television actor. Born in Philadelphia to a show business family, Crawford acted with his parents on stage and then established himself as a talent on his own by winning acclaim as Lenny in the original Broadway production of Of Mice and Men in 1937. He later moved to Hollywood and began acting in small roles and bit parts throughout the 1940s. He finally got his chance at stardom in All the King’s Men (1949), the film version of Robert Penn Warren’s award-winning novel. The film was a big hit and Crawford won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Willie Stark. Now a star, Crawford starred in more prestigious productions including Born Yesterday (1950) receiving top-billing over co-stars Judy Holiday and William Holden. Crawford became a television icon as Dan Matthews in the police dram Highway Patrol (1955 – 1959.) 

Judy Holiday (1921 – 1965) was an American actress, comedian, and singer. She started out in show business playing nightclubs before making her way to Broadway. Her role as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday in 1946 made her an “overnight” sensation. When she recreated the role for the film version, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress of the Year. Other films include The Marrying Kind  (1952), It Should Happen to You (1954), Phffft (1954), The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956), Full of Life (1956), and Bells Are Ringing (1960), recreating her Tony Award-winning performance. Holiday died of breast cancer in 1965 at the age of 43.

William Holden (1918 - 1981) was an American actor and major movie star. He was one of the most bankable stars of the 1950s. Holden starred in some of the most popular and beloved films of all time including Sunset BoulevardSabrina, Picnic (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and Stalag 17 for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Holden became a star with his very first role in Golden Boy (1939). He had lead roles in other popular films like Our Town (1940), and  I Wanted Wings (1941). World War II interrupted his career. Holden was a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Force. After the war, he made some popular but forgettable films. It wasn’t after he collaborated with director Wilder on Sunset Boulevard that Holden’s popularity and stature in Hollywood grew to superstar status.


Crawford who got top billing on the screen is listed last on this lobby card.

Born Yesterday trivia

  • Judy Holiday’s role in Adam’s Rib (1948) was an audition to convince Columbia Pictures studio chief Harry Cohn that Holiday was up to the task of playing Billie Dawn on the screen.
  • Judy Holiday and Broderick Crawford played gin-rummy on the train to Washington, D.C. for location shooting. Holiday won $600 from Crawford. This cemented their friendship and they remained lifelong friends.
  • Marilyn Monroe screen-tested for the role but Harry Cohn never watched it.
  • Holiday’s wardrobe became more sophisticated as her character grew.
  • William Holden originally turned down the role fearing that he would be overshadowed by Crawford and Holiday. Because of this, Holden’s role was built up for the screen.
  • Director George Cukor had Crawford, Holiday, and Holden perform their roles in front of a live audience so that he could time the laughs between the dialogue.


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Click HERE to join the discussion on February 26, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation with a link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Discussion questions

  1. Born Yesterday was released in the mid-20th century. Do you think it holds up today?
  2. Judy Holiday is so identified with the role of Billie Dawn. Can you see anyone else as successful in the role?
  3. Was Broderick Crawford believable in the role of Harry Brock?
  4. Holiday beat out Gloria Swanson (Sunset Blvd), Bette Davis and Anne Baxter (All About Eve), and Eleanor Parker (Cage). Do you think she deserved to win?
  5. Holden was afraid that he would be overshadowed by Crawford and Holiday. Do you think this was the case or did he hold his own in the less showy role as Paul Verrall?

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