Skip to main content

The "...And Scene!" Blogathon: The Gin Rummy Scene from "Born Yesterday" (1950)

George Cukor's Born Yesterday (1950) follows a newspaper reporter as he takes on the task of educating a crooked bussinessman's brassy girlfriend. The crooked businessman, Harry Brock, is played by Broderick Crawford, who received the Oscar for Best Actor for All the King's Men (1949) just before he started working on Born Yesterday. He is a crude, menacing, nefarious self-made man who goes to Washington D.C. looking to "influence" a politician or two. The brassy girlfriend, Billie Dawn, is played by Judy Holliday, reprising the role she originated on Broadway in the play written by Garson Kanin. After Billie's ignorance and lack of manners embarrass Harry during a meeting with a congressman, he hires Paul Verrall (William Holden) to be her tutor. She eventually learns not just about U.S. History and Literature, but also about self-respect and love. In the end, Billie turns out to be much smarter than anybody knew.

Billie prepares the drinks
Exactly 32 minutes into Born Yesterday, Harry and Billie start to get ready for a game of gin rummy. He deals the cards, while she walks over to the mini-bar to prepare drinks for the both of them. She returns to the table, puts out her cigarette, fixes up her hair, then her bracelets, tears a page from her little notebook, scrunches it into a ball, throws it into the ashtray, fixes her hair again, and then shuffles and reshuffles her cards before she is finally ready to play. Harry is obviously annoyed by all of this, but she pays absolutely no attention to him. They remain silent during this first game, with Billie rearranging her hand after each play. "Gin!" she calls after three plays. Harry counts his points. "41," he says. "41?" Billie asks. "41!" he exasperately confirms. Billie writes the points down in her little notebook, takes a sip of her drink and deals the cards for the next game, while Harry lights a cigarette, only to extinguish it a few seconds later. 

"You gotta learn to fit in."
The second game begins. "If you pay attention, that Verrall guy can do you some good," Harry advises. "All right," Billie says, concentrated on the game. "You're in the big league now, and I want you should watch your step," he goes on. "All right," she says, still focusing on the game. "You gotta learn to fit in. Can't have you around if you don't, and that's no bull. Have to be careful of what you do and what you say," Harry continues. "Three!" Billie suddenly calls. Harry, amazed that she won again, counts his points. "28," he says. "28?" she asks. "28!" he angrily confirms. Billie writes the number down in her book and adds the points, using her fingers to help her count. "You could use a little education yourself, if you ask me," she remarks, before taking another sip of her drink. "Who asked ya?" Harry questions. "Nobody," she says. "So shut up!" he harshly responds. Billie hisses at him and she is so exasperated that she has some difficulty dealing the cards for the next game.

"Gee, I like to see you lookin' swell, ba-a-by..."
"Can't I talk?" she whines, after dealing the cards. "Go on. Play your cards," he says. Billie looks hurt, but she quickly recovers. "It's a free country," she points out. "That's what you think," Harry says. As the game begins, Billie enthusiastically starts humming the song "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby," which makes Harry extremely annoyed. "DO YOU MIND?" he shouts. "Gin," she immediately calls, unaffected by his explosive behavior. Harry counts his points. "34," he says. "34?" she asks. "34!" he furiously confirms. "Schneider!" Billie happily says after adding up all the points. "Where do you get that Schneid?" Harry asks in disbelief, looking at her notebook. "Fifty-five dollars and sixty cents," she says with a big smile. "All right, that's enough," he says, getting up from the table. 

"Sore loser!"
"Pay me now!" she demands. "What's the matter, don't you trust me?" Harry says, while walking over the mini-bar to fix himself another drink. "Sore loser!" she teases. "Shut up!" he shouts. "Fifty-five dollars and sixty cents," Billie repeats, as she starts dealing a hand of solitaire. Harry walks towards her and slams the money on the table. "Thanks," she says, looking up at him, before turning back to her game. "You gonna play like that all night?" Harry asks. "What?" she inattentively responds, concentrated on her cards. Harry turns around to leave the room. "Hurt your eyes," he says, but she is so engrossed in the game that she pays no attention to him. He then walks up the stairs, leaving Billie alone in room playing solitaire and humming "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby."

...And scene!

I absolutely love this scene. No matter how many times I watch it and I must have watched hundreds of times by now it never ceases to amaze me. It is seven minutes and fifty seconds of pure cinematic gold. The greatest thing about it is that, even though Harry and Billie barely speak a word, the scene is the perfect way not only to describe their relationship, but also to show that she is not the ignorant showgirl everyone thinks she is. Columbia initally hired Rita Hayworth to play Billie Dawn, but I am so glad they ultimately chose Judy Holliday for the part. I don't think this scene (or the film) would have been half as good with Hayworth as Billie.

A fun bit of trivia: Judy Holliday and Broderick Crawford extended their gin rummy scene in Born Yesterday to their off-screen relationship. Afraid of flying, Holliday insisted on taking the train to Washington D.C. for location shooting, while the rest of the cast went by plane. Columbia chief Harry Cohn did not want his leading lady to travel alone, so he ordered Broderick Crawford to join her. The last thing he wanted was to spend four days in a cramped train, but after a long discussion with Cohn, he finally agreed to do it. During the trip, Holliday and Crawford spend their time by talking and playing gin rummy for money. When they arrived in Washington, she had won $600 from him, along with his lifelong friendship.


This post is my contribution to The "...And Scene!" Blogathon hosted by Sister Celluloid. To view all entries, click HERE.



____________________________
SOURCES:
Judy Holliday by Will Holtzman (1982) | TCMDb (Articles)

Comments

  1. It is the most wonderful scene. I'll be humming "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" all day! Lovely to hear about the bonding of Judy and Brod.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a wonderful scene, and now I like it even more. Thank you! I love the idea of Holliday playing it on the train too. You're right. I like how perfectly it shows the character's intelligence, but also makes clear that she probably wouldn't think of this as smarts--to her, she's probably just good at the game. And his irritability (and her reaction to it) say so much about their history.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Golden Couples: Gary Cooper & Patricia Neal

It was April 1948 when director King Vidor spotted 22-year-old Patricia Neal on the Warner Bros. studio lot. A drama graduate from Northwestern University, she had just arrived in Hollywood following a Tony Award-winning performance in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest . Impressed by Patricia's looks, Vidor approached the young actress and asked if she would be interested in doing a screen test for the female lead in his newest film, The Fountainhead (1949). Gary Cooper had already signed as the male protagonist, and the studio was then considering Lauren Bacall and Barbara Stanwyck to play his love interest.          Neal liked the script and about two months later, she met with the director for sound and photographic tests. Vidor was enthusiastic about Patricia, but her first audition was a complete disaster. Cooper was apparently watching her from off the set and he was so unimpressed by her performance that he commented, « What's that!? » He tried to con

Golden Couples: Henry Fonda & Barbara Stanwyck

In the mid- and late 1930s, screwball comedy was in vogue and practically every actress in Hollywood tried her hand at it. Barbara Stanwyck never considered herself a naturally funny person or a comedienne per se , but after delivering a heart-wrenching performance in King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937), she decided she needed a « vacation » from emotional dramas. In her search for a role, she stumbled upon a « champagne comedy » called The Mad Miss Manton (1938), originally intended as a Katharine Hepburn vehicle. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as Melsa and Peter in The Mad Miss Manton .   Directed by Leigh Jason from a script by Philip G. Epstein, The Mad Miss Manton begins when vivacious Park Avenue socialite Melsa Manton finds a corpse while walking her dogs in the early hours of the morning. She calls the police, but they dismiss the incident — not only because Melsa is a notorious prankster, but also because the body disappears in the meantime. Sarcastic newspaper editor

Films I Saw in 2020

For the past four years, I have shared with you a list of all the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019 , so I thought I would continue the «tradition» and do it again in 2020. This list includes both classic and «modern» films, which make up a total of 161 titles. About three or four of these were re-watches, but I decided to include them anyway. Let me know how many from these you have seen. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favorites. Sherlock Jr. (1924) | Starring Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire and Joe Keaton The Crowd (1928) | Starring James Murray, Eleanor Boardman and Bert Roach Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) | Starring Henry Fonda, Alice Brady and Marjorie Weaver Brief Encounter (1945) | Starring Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard and Stanley Holloway The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) | Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman The Girl He Left Behind (1956) | Starring Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood Gidget (1959) | Starring Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson an

Wings of Change: The Story of the First Ever Best Picture Winner

Wings was the first ever film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since then, it has become one of the most influential war dramas, noted for its technical realism and spectacular air-combat sequences. This is the story of how it came to be made.   A man and his story The concept for Wings originated from a writer trying to sell one of his stories. In September 1924, Byron Morgan approached Jesse L. Lasky, vice-president of Famous Players-Lasky, a component of Paramount Pictures, proposing that the studio do an aviation film. Morgan suggested an «incident and plot» focused on the failure of the American aerial effort in World War I and the effect that the country's «aviation unpreparedness» would have in upcoming conflicts. Lasky liked the idea, and approved the project under the working title «The Menace.»   LEFT: Byron Morgan (1889-1963). RIGHT: Jesse L. Lasky (1880-1958).   During his development of the scenario with William Shepherd, a former war correspondent, Morga

80 Reasons Why I Love Classic Films (Part II)

I started this blog six years ago as a way to share my passion for classic films and Old Hollywood. I used to watch dozens of classic films every month, and every time I discovered a new star I liked I would go and watch their entire filmography. But somewhere along the way, that passion dimmed down. For instance, I watched 73 classic films in 2016, and only 10 in 2020. The other day, I found this film with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. that I had never heard of — the film is Mimi (1935), by the way — and for some reason it made me really excited about Old Hollywood again. It made me really miss the magic of that era and all the wonderful actors and actresses. And it also made me think of all the reasons why I fell in love with classic films in the first place. I came with 80 reasons, which I thought would be fun to share with you. Most of them are just random little scenes or quirky little quotes, but put them together and they spell Old Hollywood to me. Yesterday I posted part one ; here i

Top 10 Favourite Christmas Films

Christmas has always been a source of inspiration to many artists and writers. Over the years, filmmakers have adapted various Christmas stories into both movies and TV specials, which have become staples during the holiday season all around the world. Even though Christmas is my favourite holiday, I haven't watched a lot of Christmas films. Still, I thought it would be fun to rank my top 10 favourites, based on the ones that I have indeed seen. Here they are.  10. Holiday Affair (1949) Directed by Don Hartman, Holiday Affair tells the story of a young widow (Janet Leigh) torn between a boring attorney (Wendell Corey) and a romantic drifter (Robert Mitchum). She's engaged to marry the boring attorney, but her son (Gordon Gebert) likes the romantic drifter better. Who will she choose? Well, we all know who she will choose.   Holiday Affair is not by any means the greatest Christmas film of all time, but it's still a very enjoyable Yule-tide comedy to watch over the holi

The Gotta Dance! Blogathon: Gene Kelly & Judy Garland

In 1940, up-and-coming Broadway star Gene Kelly was offered the lead role in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's new musical Pal Joey , based on the eponymous novel by John O'Hara about an ambitious and manipulative small-time nightclub performer. Opening at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Christmas Day of that year, the show brought Gene his best reviews up to that date. For instance, John Martin of The New York Times wrote of him: «A tap-dancer who can characterize his routines and turn them into an integral element of an imaginative theatrical whole would seem to be pretty close, indeed, to unique .»   One of Gene's performances in Pal Joey was attended by established Hollywood star Judy Garland , who requested to meet him after the show. Gene agreed and then accompanied Judy and her entourage, which included her mother Ethel and several press agents, to dinner at the newly-opened Copacabana nightclub, at 10 East 60th Street. They sang and danced until 3 a.m., after whi

Films I Saw in July & August

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in July and August, which make up a total of 18 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Resistance (2011) | Starring Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha and Michael Sheen Siberian Education [Educazione siberiana] (2013) | Starring Arnas Fedaravi čius The Last of Robin Hood (2013) | Starring Kevin Kline and Dakota Fanning The Water Diviner (2014) | Starring Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko and Yılmaz Erdoğan Holding the Man (2015) | Starring Ryan Corr, Craig Stott and Anthony LaPaglia The Last King [Birkebeinerne] (2016) | Starring Jakob Oftebro and Kristofer Hivju The Pass (2016) | Starring Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene Access All Areas (2017) | Starring Ella Purnell, Edward Bluemel and Georgie Henle

The Sinatra Centennial Blogathon: Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly

  In January 1944, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer happened to see a young crooner by the name of Frank Sinatra perform at a benefit concert for The Jewish Home for the Aged in Los Angeles. According to Nancy Sinatra, Frank's eldest daughter, Mayer was so moved by her father's soulful rendition of « Ol' Man River » that he made the decision right then and there to sign Frank to his studio. Sinatra had been on the MGM payroll once before, singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in the Eleanor Powell vehicle Ship Ahoy (1942), although it is very likely that Mayer never bothered to see that film. Now that Frank was «hot,» however, Metro made arrangements to buy half of his contract from RKO, with the final deal being signed in February of that year. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in  Anchors Aweigh Being a contract player at the studio that boasted «more stars than there are in the heavens» gave Frank a sudden perspective regarding his own talents as a film performer. The «g

Films I Saw in May & June

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in May and June, which make up a total of 16 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Pelle the Conqueror [Pelle Erobreren] (1987) | Starring Pelle Hvenegaard The Elementary School [ Obecná škola] (1991) | Starring Václav Jakoubek Female Agents [Les Femmes de l'ombre] (2008) | Starring Sophie Marceau Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe [Vor der Morgenröte] (2016) | Starring Josef Hader ❤ Cold War [Zimna wojna] (2018) | Starring Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig and Borys Szyc Dreamland (2019) | Starring Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel and Garrett Hedlund Mr Jones (2019) | Starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard Official Secrets (2019) | Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith an