Theatre / Born Yesterday

"A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in."
Paul Verral

A 1946 play by Garson Kanin, Born Yesterday is best known for its 1950 film version directed by George Cukor. The play and film starred Judy Holliday, who won an Oscar as Best Actress for the film version. Her big screen co-stars were Broderick Crawford and William Holden. Another film version was made in 1993, starring Melanie Griffith, John Goodman and Don Johnson; it was not well-received.

The story concerns Harry Brock, an unscrupulous tycoon who wants even more money. He decides to buy the favors of a few congressmen to help further his schemes. Unfortunately, his girlfriend Billie is completely lacking in social skills; to remedy this, he hires journalist Paul Verral to give her an education. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't count on her realizing just what kind of man he is.

This work features examples of:

  • Amoral Attorney: Jim Devery, who serves as Harry's legal Dragon.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Harry wants to make Billie smarter so that she doesn't embarrass him in Washington society. Turns out she learns fast.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Harry.
  • Domestic Abuser: Harry hits Billie after she starts questioning the ethics of his business deals and refuses to sign.
  • Dumb Blonde: What Billie is initially. It doesn't bother her at all until Paul shows up:
    "I'm stupid and I like it."
  • Gone Horribly Right: Jim's idea to have Billie take legal possession of Harry's assets to hide them from the government. In the end, she refuses to give them back and uses them as leverage so that he'll leave her and Paul alone.
  • Genius Ditz: She may never have read a newspaper, but no one beats Billie at gin rummy.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Inverted. Billie initially doesn't wear them because she doesn't think they look good, but she starts to when she begins to read avidly under Paul's tutelage.
  • Hidden Depths: Billie quickly takes to learning and proves to be very sharp once she's given the opportunity and motivation.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Harry finding Billie's behavior embarrassing, when he's hardly a model of intelligence and good manners.
  • In Love with the Gangster's Girl: Paul.
  • Karma Houdini: Harry.
  • Malaproper: Both Billie and Harry at different points.
  • No Badass to His Valet: Jim is much smarter than Harry, which Billie points out late in the movie. It seems to flip a switch in him, and he barely lifts a finger to help his boss when Billie and Paul start to sabotage his deal.
  • Pretty in Mink: Billie commenting on how a mink coat was one of the few things she ever wanted.
  • Pygmalion Plot
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Harry is the epitome of this.
  • Self-Made Man: Harry's view of himself. While it's true in that he worked hard, what he worked hard at was being a thug and a criminal.
  • Simpleton Voice: Judy Holliday, who possessed a genius-level IQ in Real Life, intentionally invoked this trope to play Billie Dawn.