I had never seen Born Yesterday despite the fact that it is by one of my favorite directors, George Cukor. I have been re-reading the interview collection Woody Allen On Woody Allen, in which he brings this title up repeatedly, and so I made a point to finally watch this. The movie closely follows a play by Garson Kanin about an erudite newspaper reporter who is hired to tutor the ditzy girlfriend of a crooked businessman. It is clear that Allen to at least some inspiration from this for his Bullets Over Broadway, in which Jennifer Tilly plays a ditzy showgirl whose mobster boyfriend tries to buy her way into a legitimate page. Indeed, in the Allen interview in which he raved about Born Yesterday, he also mentioned he was just about to start the script for his next film, which became Bullets Over Broadway.
The writing by Garson Kanin, who also penned Adam’s Rib, is fantastic, and William Holden, Broderick Crawford, and especially Judy Holliday are all perfectly cast. Holliday famously had to fight to win the role she had developed on the Broadway stage, as the producers resisted hiring the actress who was largely unknown to film audiences. Katharine Hepburn, who had previously starred with Holliday in Adam’s Rib intentionally planted items in the paper to the effect that she felt upstaged by the newcomer in their scenes together, in a covert effort to help her win the role. Their efforts paid off, and Holliday perfectly pulled off the airhead who transitions to a free thinker, a role that won her an Oscar.