Born Yesterday (1950)

Born Yesterday
Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford and William Holden

'Born Yesterday' is a moving, brilliantly acted romantic comedy made in 1950, directed by George Cukor and starring Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford and William Holden. The movie was adapted from the stage play of the same name by Garson Kanin which ran for three years on Broadway from 1946 and which also starred Judy Holliday.

It was successful at the box-office and also with the critics. It received five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, and Judy Holliday won the Best Actress Oscar for her brilliant portrayal of Billie Dawn.

In 2012 the film was selected, by the United States Library of Congress, for preservation in the National Film Registry.


Judy Holliday plays Billie Dawn, the mistress of uncouth tycoon, Harry Brock, played by Broderick Crawford. Brock decides that Billie should be taught good manners and be given an education to equip her for her new life with him. He hires a teacher, for her, journalist Paul Verrall, played by William Holden. With Paul's encouragement, Billie transforms herself, and she and Paul fall in love.


The Production Company was Columbia Pictures whose head was Harry Cohn. Writer Garson Kanin often stated that Cohn was the model on whom he had based his boorish Harry Brock character. Cohn paid Kanin the then record sum of $1million for the film rights to the play.

Casting Billie Dawn

The part of Billie Dawn is pivotal to the movie. It was written by Kanin specifically for Jean Arthur, but she pulled out at short notice and Judy Holliday replaced her. For the film, a number of actresses were considered for the role including Jean Arthur again, Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Gloria Grahame, Paulette Goddard and Rita Hayworth. Harry Cohn was convinced to offer Judy Holliday the role after seeing her brilliant performance in 'Adam's Rib' earlier in 1949, performing on equal terms with her illustrious co-stars, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.


Credits for the screenplay go to Albert Mannheimer, but much of the dialogue between Billie Dawn and Harry Brock was rewritten by the original playwright, Garson Kanin, as director George Cukor felt that the stage dialogue's rhythm and flow were better.

Judy Holliday found that performing without a live audience was difficult, playing many comic scenes in total silence. Cukor's answer was to build a small theater within the Columbia studio. The cast gave six live performances there which helped Cukor and the performers to get a feel for where the laughs were and how to time the quick-fire dialogue.

Judy Holliday had thirteen outfits created by designer, Jean Louis. Each outfit became more stylish to reflect the character's growing self-knowledge.

Main Cast

The cast is a strong one and the acting, particularly by Judy Holliday, is superb.

Judy Holliday ... Emma "Billie" Dawn
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


Director … George Cukor
Producer … S. Sylvan Simon
Screenplay … Albert Mannheimer
Based on ... 1946 play 'Born Yesterday' by Garson Kanin
Cinematographer … Josph Walker
Music … Frederick Hollander
Distribution Company ... Columbia Pictures
Release date ... December 26, 1950
Running time ... 103 minutes

Academy Awards

One Win:
Four Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Columbia Pictures
Best Director ... George Cukor
Best Writing, Screenplay ... Albert Mannheimer
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White ... Jean Louis