Born Yesterday - William Holden is amused by Judy Holliday's reading glasses

February 23, 2009

Before I start my actual post, I'd first like to apologize to any fans of William Holden-- I don't know what possessed me to try and draw him at this weird angle and it did not come out the way I planned! Alas, I will not rest until I have successfully captured his handsome face on paper-- I will attempt it again very soon.

Now... on to Born Yesterday. This is now one of my all-time favorite films. I've always liked it, but after re-watching it last week I was absolutetly enchanted with the story, the moral of the story, and the characters of Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday) and Paul Verrall (William Holden). The movie is about a rough-edged tycoon, Harry Brock, (Broderick Crawford) who goes to Washington DC to buy up some companies and Congressmen. At his first meeting with a DC judge, he's embarressed by the stupidity and gracelessness of his mistress, Billie Dawn. So he hires Paul Verrall, a journalist, to smarten her up. If I could marry a movie character, I seriously think it would be Paul Verrall.

You can probably imagine, even if you've never seen the movie, how this plot unfolds. Hmm.... choosing between a ruthless brash Broderick Crawford or a thoughtful handsome William Holden? Decisions, decisions...

But underneath the love triangle-angle there is a deep message about business, American ideals, corruption and knowledge. One of my favorite scenes in the entire movie takes place at a museum. Billie expresses her confusion with an essay that Paul assigned her to read, "After Visiting the Tomb of Napoleon" by Robert J. Ingersoll." Here is their exchange:
Paul: (quoting Ingersoll) "and I said I would rather have been a French peasant and worn wooden shoes. I would rather have lived in a hut with a vine growing over the door, and the grapes growing purple in the kisses of the autumn sun. I would rather have been that poor peasant with my loving wife by my side, knitting as the day died out of the sky---with my children upon my knee and their arms about me---I would rather have been that man and gone down to the tongue less silence of the dreamless dust than to have been that imperial impersonation of force and murder, known as Napoleon the Great."

Billie: ...[Harry] probably never heard of Napoleon

Paul: What's worse, he probably never heard of a peasant.

Isn't that just marvelous? It says so much in so few words.

I could go on for hours quoting this movie, because I think it was so beautifully written and has such an important message. I'm a sucker for message films.
Remember: Everyone has until Feb. 27 to enter the One Month Anniversary Free Print Drawing! Just say "count me in" or something like that in the comments. Here is who has entered so far, if I missed you please let me know! caseykoester, peggy, Mina, Graciebird, Pink Dahlia, Betty Boogie, Millie, DKoren and vivienne strauss.


Unknown said...

"Born Yesterday" is a wonderful flick-- I especially like Judy Holliday's performance. She beat out Bette Davis' "All About Eve" role for the Oscar that year.

I'll enter your free print drawing-- your work is really excellent.

Anonymous said...

"I want to be like the happy peasant!" That quote popped into my mind after reading your excerpt. :) I absolutely adore this film, too.

Oh yes! If I could marry a movie character it would be Paul Verrall or Ronald Coleman's Smithy from Random Harvest.

Don't feel bad about the drawing. I often do a sketch 3 or 4 times before I decide it's good. I really love Judy Holliday's face! You captured her pouty little girl expression exactly. It makes me laugh just looking at her!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry - in my excitement about William Holden, I didn't even notice your lovely new header! It's terrific! It reminds me of the marquee at a vintage 30's theater. :)

elena-lu said...

the header is awesome and i love the Judy Holliday sketch she looks so cute!

© John Warwick Arden said...

Glad someone is keeping the Holden 'running'; that guy was something else- 'don't make 'em like that anymore' blah blah dribble dribble...

Tragic demise, as you most likely have mentioned in your archives.

Although 'Sunset' seems to be the users favourite', 'Picnic' pretty much sums him up for me.

Thanks for 'Born Yesterday' review-I bought it a few weeks ago, and it is in my pending pile; your words have sent it to the top, with a bullet.

And I would LOVE a drawing, but I am a newcomer, so would prefer you awarded it to one of your loyal regulars. I am sure my time will come again, and I am also sure your talent will by no means diminish, but improve significantly with time!

Well done and keep up the sterling work!!

Unknown said...

John- She also beat out Gloria Swanson for Sunset Blvd., right? As much as I love those other performances, I really think Judy Holliday deserved it! And thanks so much, consider yourself entered in the drawing :)

casey- Great, now that you mentioned Smithy I'm going to have to admit: I'm a hypothetical bigamist! How could I choose between Smithy & Paul Verrall?? lol! It's nice to commiserate with someone about sketching! A lot of the drawings I post have been worked and reworked a few times, but last night I just didn't have the energy to keep working on his face! Oh, and I'm glad you noticed the new header :) It took me hours! I should actually post the original picture that I stole the art deco design from- I can't believe it's the same image after I photoshopped it so much!

elena-lu- Thank you very much!!

mandingo-- Hello newcomer :) Yes, they definitely don't come in the Holden mold anymore, do they? Picnic is a great one, I also love him in Sunset Blvd. and Golden Boy. Come back and tell me how you like Born Yesterday after you watch it!!

© John Warwick Arden said...

Watched 'Born Yesterday' tonight, and liked it a lot. Very much of its time, and quite political. A mixture of 'My Fair Lady' and 'Mr. Smith Goes To Washington'. I guess if they re-made it today, it would have George Clooney in the Holden role.

I was surprised at how brutal it was- when that gorilla Brock pushed his 'yes' man in the face (shades of Jimmy Cagney) and when he slapped Billie- I shuddered.

And yet I also found it very sexy- especially when she admits for the first time her 'yen' for him, and gives him the doe eyes. And I like the mid-section, where she has to 'earn' him by embracing her independence of mind, body and spirit. Good stuff.

I would like to give it a few days to sink in. I have a few films like this waiting for me to watch-'Woman of the Year', 'Cover Girl', and 'The Awful Truth', to name a few; if they are as good as 'Born Yesterday', I will be content.

Let's face it, Judy Holliday stole the show; Holden takes a back seat-almost a supporting role- which I wasn't really expecting. For me a high point was the Gin Rummy scene; they would never get away with such a long scene with no dialogue nowadays!

I am trying to better educate myself on this period of film, so I will keep checking in to see what other suggestions you have for me.

Thanks for your great work...

Unknown said...

Oh, you're going to LOVE the Awful Truth. It's one of the best films ever made!

And that gin rummy scene is one of the high points. Judy Holliday probably earned her Oscar in that scene alone-- the other scenes just reassured it!

Linda Summerfield said...

Looks like my Netflix list is going to grow.

Linda Summerfield said...

P.S. please sign me up for your one month Anniversary drawing!!!

© John Warwick Arden said...

Here's a co-incidence...

After watching 'Born Yesterday' last night, I went to my VHS pending pile this morning and loaded a copy of 'Country Girl' which I knew nothing about (actually I found it in a box near the bins left by some neighbours moving out) and who was in it but none other than William Holden!

And, as I am halfway through this, I can say it is a pretty good movie! Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly at their best!

Well dog my cats!

Lolita of the Classics said...

The two pics on Joan Blondell are up! Thanks a lot!

Raquel Stecher said...

I posted a comment and it disappeared! Darn Blogger!

Count me in for the contest. Hope I'm not too late.

Unknown said...

Linda- lol, I when Born Yesterday shows up in your mailbox you are pleasantly surprised :) You're added to the drawing!

mandingo- oh, that is a weird coincidence! I actually thought that Bing Crosby deserved an Oscar for his performance more than Grace Kelly (I know some people are going to think this is heresy!) but I was really touched by his performance.

Lolita- glad you liked them!

Raquelle- Darn blogger indeed-- did you see the new followers widget? I'm very peeved. Of course you're not too late! Consider yourself entered :)

© John Warwick Arden said...

You really know your stuff, Kate!! Well done!! I thought I knew my movies, but was surprised I never knew about this one- especially given it was based on a Clifford Odets play, whom I like a lot. (not to mention the Gershwin tunes!)

I found this one really touching; it is most definitely a keeper, and didn't deserve to be found in a bin. No accounting for some people's lack of respect for the classis. I found Bing Crosby...dignified? I mainly know his stuff with Bob Hope and a smattering of other standards, but this is the best I have ever seen of him. Truly showed his range, no doubt about it.

Thanks for the inspiration- your site has got me digging about in flea markets and such looking for silents. Looked at Gance's 'Napoleon' yesterday, and also been looking at some great lesser known D.W. Griffith, some Pabst, Murnau and the like, and it really does require a different way of seeing, doesn't it?

Particularly fascinating was re-watching 'Birth of a Nation' and the unlikely contemporary of Pickfords', Mae Marsh- who, despite being plain, was is incredible to watch! She is so touching jumping off the cliff rather than allowing herself to be raped. They don't make 'em like...oh forget it!

Just about to load 'Ninotchka'- another first for me. Never seen a Garbo film! Gadzooks! So much to learn...

PS, I've been reading Jerry Stahl's book on Fatty Arbuckle, and as I was looking at your sketches, I thought...perhaps you might consider...I mean Fatty has such an incredible face, I would love to see you render him!

Just a thought...

Unknown said...

mandingo- funny you should mention Fatty Arbuckle, I downloaded a picture of him last night for me to paint!

I can't believe you haven't seen a Garbo film yet! Ninotchka is a great starter film, but keep in mind that except for Two Faced Woman, it's her only comedy. All of her other films are really intense.

It is a shame that people have these films in bargain bins. For the most part I've taped a lot of my movies off of tv on Turner Classic Movies, or purchased them on ebay or amazon. I had about 1000 movies on VHS before I made the switch to DVD in 2007, and now I'm over 1000 on DVD. I just started this week transferring some of the VHS tapes to DVD, and I've realized how deteriorated some of them have gotten!

By the way, do you like Bing Crosby music? His early stuff is fantastic, and I'm completely hooked!

© John Warwick Arden said...

Actually Kate, yeah I do like Bing; I hate to slaughter other people's sacred cows but I always felt Sinatra was overrated! (ooo...I can hear the devil preparing a special place in Hell for me as I write...)

What's the connection? Well, everyone I knew as a kid loved Bing, and Sinatra, and to me they are chalk and cheese. I don't really think you can lump them all together.

Bing was a 'crooner', but what does that mean? I have read Sinatra and Darin described as crooners, but I don't think that's entirely accurate. If you define 'crooner' as I do (and I don't have the space to go into the definition) and love, say Dean Martin as I do, then we 'might' agree they are indeed 'crooners', but I have always felt the label sells them far too short.

Our estimation of these singers has changed over time, and I think for the better. 'Crooner' did have meaning once upon a time, but someone like Bing- I really think with the benefit of the passage of time we see him differently as a vocalist. Remember, these artists were regarded with an almost 'post war' sense of transience- people in the 50's- the 'ordinary folk' at the time didn't appreciate how enduring most of the stuff was until the late sixties and early seventies...

Does that make sense?

Bing is terrific. I remember him doing a Xmas duet with David Bowie-'rup-a-pum-pum'- and even as a kid, I knew in cultural terms that was an important moment; a defining moment. Like Detente; an armistice in that silly war between generations. 'Your music is crap- in our day, they really sang...' blah blah blah.

I love the Sex Pistols, but I love Rachmaninov in 'Brief Encounter'; I have been known to buy a Slayer record or two, but I adore Billie Holliday. I am a cultural leftie; I hate the expression "it's all good", because people who say it clearly have no idea of ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, or the killing fields of Cambodia, but musically speaking I think it is 'all good'- everything has a time and season, and for me, that time is here, the season now.

Keep listening, watching, and writing. I love to hear it- all of it.

I would like to talk to you more about your 1000 tape collection, but I think 'nuff said' today.

Take care stay safe and be well until next time, Kate...

Unknown said...

uh-oh mandingo! that was MY sacred cow you just slaughtered!!!

I am probably the #1 Frank Sinatra fan in the country. No, the world. No, the universe. I have every single recording of his, and know every song by heart. I have every recording in record and cd format-- three shelves in my bookcase are Sinatra books. My personal e-mail address has "Sinatra" in it. My etsy store is You're barking up the wrong tree, my friend :)

I'm not evangelistic about my Sinatra devotion, though. I can't understand why anyone wouldn't think he's the earth and the sky, but I won't try to convert you. But have you listened to all of his different eras? His Columbia recordings have Bing's influence written all over them. He developed the "Sinatra sound" in the 50's after his vocal chords hemmoraged, and his voice became a little more gravely and deep. I think his late 50's and early 60's recordings are my personal favorites. His 1960's recording of Ol' Man River is probably, in my opinion, the best song ever recorded.

I love the Bowie/Bing Christmas song. It's my favorite during the holidays. I'm not a big fan of newer music at all, but I do like David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust period and a couple Steve Harley songs. Otherwise I mainly stick to Sinatra & Jazz Age music.

Well... we may not agree on Sinatra- but culturally- I couldn't agree with you more.

© John Warwick Arden said...


Actually, I stand by my comment- I just never understood why he was lauded and magnified the way he was- 'chairman of the board' and all that'; I never felt he was better or worse than any of his other contemporaries- I felt he was about the same.

Of course I like him- what's not to like; I have many of his CD's, and a couple of box set- really like the Capitol years, and love his films- all of them ('Golden Arm' and 'Eternity' I guess the best, but I am only skimming the surface) and I am in love with 'Fly Me To The Moon' (and always will be- I thought it was a much better anthem than 'NY, NY) But I truly believe, say, Dean Martin was just as good as him, if not better. I loved him very much in Rio Bravo, especially 'My rifle, my pony and me'.

Anyway, glad you enjoy him; sounds like you are quite devoted. I just think it's a shame that so many other amazing vocal talents were overshadowed by him, but that's the nature of the game, I guess. I am afraid I swing for the underdog; the forgotten, and the buried; the undervalued, and the unappreciated. Sinatra will never have that problem; I tend to dig out and dust off and cuddle the forgotten, I guess. The superstars get enough attention without needing me.

Anyway, keep on keeping on, and hope I didn't hurt your feelings! I still look forward to your future blogs!

OH!! And one more thing; you are actually NOT the number one Frankie fan in the universe- In my galaxy hopping a year ago (earth time) I met amoeba on Saturn who had all his recordings on jshfbfbfu00oi4jtksj format, including not only every song he sung, but every tune he ever imagined, every lyric that crossed his mind, every cover version of every tune he ever warbled in the shower- in fact EVERYTHING! They have every word he ever uttered, every emotion he ever felt, every regret (don't forget he 'had a few', in fact TOO MANY to mention!) and all of them are recorded, along with every high and every low, every moment of love from the time it arived to the time it left, every hangover, and every...EVERYTHING!

They even...well, you know how they say some legends never die??

But don't feel bad, Kate; it's a might big Universe, after all...

'Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the stars...'