Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Born Yesterday (1950)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Born Yesterday (1950)

In George Cukor's comedy - one of the greatest of all-time, based upon Garson Kanin's 1946 play, and remade as Born Yesterday (1993) with Melanie Griffith, John Goodman, and Don Johnson:

  • the opening sequence, in which all three of the major characters were introduced during an elaborate arrival scene at Washington DC's Hotel Statler:

    - corrupt, disreputable and uncouth, ignorant, and crooked millionaire junkyard (scrap-iron) tycoon Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford)

    - and his unrefined, expensively-dressed (with multiple fur coats) "dumb blonde" ex-chorus girl mistress/fiancee (a 'kept woman' for seven years) Emma "Billie" Dawn (Judy Holliday, a Best Actress Oscar winner in a major upset) from Brooklyn

    - political journalist Paul Verrall (William Holden), who was stunned by their lengthy entourage and amount of luggage; Verrall was unsuccessful in speaking to Brock as he entered the hotel's private elevator, as the group (with the over-accommodating leadership of the hotel's concierge (Grandon Rhodes)) was escorted to an upper-floor, reserved "entire wing" of three suites of rooms "usually reserved for foreign diplomats" - costing $400/day
  • the first instance of hearing Billie's screeching, shrill, unabashedly vulgar, stupid-sounding (Betty Boop-like) voice - as loud-mouthed meat-head Brock shouted at her from one wing of the hotel to another - she responded with a thick-accented, brassy: "WHAT?!"
  • the famous scene of Billie playing gin rummy game against Harry and always winning ("Gin!")
  • Brock's hiring of a tutor for $200/week - influential DC reporter Paul Verrall - to refine Billie and make her more socially respectable and happy ("Show her the ropes, sorta, and kinda explain things to her"), while he was working bribes and trying to influence politicians; Paul explained his mission to Billie, who at first thought he was a gigolo until he specified: "He'd just like me to put you wise to a few things, show you the ropes, answer any questions"; she admitted, however, that she was mostly satisfied and happy ("He thinks I'm too stupid, huh?...He's right. I'm stupid, and I like it....I'm happy. I got everything I want. Two mink coats. Everything. There's somethin' I want, I ask. If he don't act friendly, I don't act friendly....So, as long as I know how to get what I want, that's all I wanna know" - but there was one thing she did request: "I'd like to learn how to talk good"
  • Billie's ignorance about the difference between a peninsula and penicillin, but with increased intelligence after her lessons with Paul about proper diction - i.e., Harry Brock: "Shut up! You ain't gonna be tellin' nobody nothin' pretty soon!" Billie Dawn: "DOUBLE NEGATIVE! Right?" Paul: "Right!"
  • the sequences of Paul's civic-lessons field trip/tours around Washington DC with Billie, when they shared ice-cream bars, and she stated: "It's interesting how many interesting things a person could learn if they read"; he became amused when she put on her glasses and admitted that she was "practically blind" (he had to correct her misplaced adverb: "I'm blind, practically"); after he summarized for her the meaning of his own obtuse article about American democracy: "The Yellowing Democratic Manifesto" in just a simple sentence, she exclaimed: "That's this?...Well, why didn't you say so?"
  • the burgeoning romance between Billie and bachelor Paul, when he kissed her in an elevator: (Billie: "What are ya doin'?" Paul: "If you don't know, I must be doing it wrong")
  • the climactic scene, when the newly-independent, free-thinking Billie realized that she needed to escape from Brock forever, when he was becoming more aggressively abusive, and still calling her 'dumb': "I feel like I wanna go away!...I just know I hate my life. There's a better cut. I know it. And if you'd read some of these books, you'd know it too. Maybe it's right what you say: I'm still dumb. But I know one thing I never knew before. There's a better kind of life than the one I got. Or you!...You eat terrible! You got no manners! Takin' your shoes off all the time, that's another thing, and pickin' your teeth. You're just not couth!...You don't own me. Nobody can own anybody. There's a law that says"; when he shouted at her to "Beat it!" and mercilessly slapped her - she called him a "Big Fascist!"
  • Billie's retort to Harry: "Would you do me a favor, Harry?...Drop dead!"
  • the final sequence in which Billie finally stood up to Harry, and laid down an ultimatum: ("When you steal from the government, you steal from yourself, ya dumb ox!") - she decided to slowly relinquish his 126 different properties back to him that she legally owned (he had signed them over to her to hide them from the government), but only one by one: "In this whole thing, I guess you forgot about me - about how I'm a partner....So here's how it's gonna be. I don't want 'em. I don't want anything of yours or to do with you, so I'm gonna sign 'em over ...only not all at once. Just one at a time. One a year. Only you gotta behave! 'Cause if you don't, I could let go on everything! For what you've done, even since I've known you, I bet you could be put in jail for about 900 years. You'd be a pretty old man when you got out"
  • the film's final lines were spoken to a motorcycle cop who asked for their license, but he was given their recent marriage license; he chuckled: "License please. No, not this license" - but then quickly forgave their crime: "Okay, forget it. My wedding present. But take it easy, or you'll never make it"; Billie spoke about her recent marriage to Paul: "Oh, don't worry, we'll make it. It's a clear case of predestination." Officer: "Pre--- what?" Billie: "Look it up!"

Opening Sequence:
Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday) Screeching - "What?!"

Billie to Brock: "Gin!"

Billie's Civic Lesson DC Tours with Paul

Paul and Billie Kissing in Elevator

Ultimatums to Brock: "Drop dead"

Billie to Motorcycle Cop:
"Look it up!"


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