Born Yesterday Review

Born Yesterday

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1993

Running Time:

100 minutes



Original Title:

Born Yesterday

A remake of George Cukor's 1950 adaptation of Garson Kanin's Broadway smash that won Judy Holliday the Best Actress Oscar as Billie Dawn, the know-nothing mistress of a scrap metal tycoon, this combines the infallible plots of My Fair Lady and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and could probably be remade every five years and still seem fresh.

This version has great casting, canny scripting and only fair direction, but still jollies along nicely. It's been minimally updated with real estate replacing scrap metal and contemporary names dropped (though it's hard to know how to take the "That's as likely as a Democrat in the Whitehouse" jokes).

Goodman, with a mile-wide mean streak, is a good comic heavy, not imitating Broderick Crawford's definitive Harry Brock, but coming close. And when Brock hires a professor (Johnson) to tutor Billie (Griffith) in the ways of Washington and render her less of an embarrassment to his lobbying, the upshot of her self-improvement is that she sees him for the crook he is, discovers true love and makes a moral stand.

Griffith and Johnson are fine here: Griffith revives the sexy comedienne of Working Girl, while Johnson, as an unlikely egghead in professorial glasses, provides a moral centre without being too starched. What's most welcome is that the one truly embarrassing sequence of the original (Holliday's tour of Washington and sudden attack of religious patriotism) has been excised and replaced with a wonderfully played sequence in which Griffith explains the Constitution to a dinner party by conducting the company in her version of The Twelve Days Of Christmas.

And while the preachy flag-loving finish is fumbled just as much as Cukor's was, by then you've had enough fun not to care.

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