Born Yesterday ★★★

Gangster's moll
Armed with a dictionary
And glasses to see the truth.
A shrill voice
Learns to beat brawn.

Not to play Oscar shaming, but Holiday’s performance beat both Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd AND Bette Davis in All About Eve. Woof. The problem isn’t that her whole high toned shtick doesn’t work, but making it the main texture of a movie means I have to find it interesting to watch (and unlike The Marrying Kind, watching Broderick Crawford belittle her is just No Fun in the way Aldo Ray balances her). Better here is Cukor’s camera, always moving, always making this gigantic hotel space feel like both a place of openness and a prison, using multiple doorways, staircases, and building them into the plot as well. There’s a particular use of deep focus he seemed to take on in this and other late films where the camera seems to make these spaces feel three dimensional—something I think less apparent in the 30s and 40s films—that makes the compositions and the various power dynamics as Holiday and Holden (really boring here imo, way too limited by the fact his character is so god damn introverted) rise over the large gangster Crawford, who shrinks into the space during the final monologue. The staging here is simply fascinating enough to make up for what I think is an otherwise pretty frustrating picture, script-wise.

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