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USA 1954
Directed by
George Cukor
86 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

It Should Happen to You

Don’t get your hopes up because George Cukor directed this satire about the empty-headed pursuit of fame for its own sake.  It has a couple of attractive qualities but is largely pedestrian. One of those qualities is the prescient idea by screenwriter Garson Kanin of a talentless woman who becomes famous for being famous. The other is Judy Holliday’s performance as the woman.

The story concerns Gladys Glover (Holliday) who after two years of failing to make a name for herself in New York City is about to throw in the towel. After she meets Pete Sheppard (Jack Lemmon) a serious young insect who is making a documentary about ordinary people she gets the idea to rent a billboard and put her name on it. Thanks to a lucky break everyone wants to know who Gladys Glover is and before long she is appearing on talk shows and endorsing consumer products notably Adams Soap whose CEO and heir, Evan Adams III (Peter Lawford), is keen to extend their relations to his boudoir. 

The idea of a woman who simply wants to be “above the crowd” even though she has done nothing to deserve that position and the slavering propensity for the media and commerce to exploit that fantasy is a remarkable anticipation of modern celebrity culture and that resonance helps to carry us through the film as does Holliday’s ditzy blonde (who nevertheless has a sound moral compass).

The rest of the film leaves much to be desired. I not only have never understood the appeal of Jack Lemmon but find his mugging style of comedy profoundly annoying (although it is mercifully under-developed here in what was his big screen debut). His character is solely designed as a counterweight to Lawford’s corporate sleazebag (as we would call him now) and the complete lack of realism is extended to Holliday’s Gladys who has a fabulous wardrobe for someone on their druthers. For the mid-1950s this kind of fol-de-rol was considered quite acceptable but unlike predecessors from the 1940s and ‘30s it is not graced with the charm of nostalgia (in one of it few such moments Holliday and Lemmon sing "Let's Fall in Love" which was written almost 20 years earlier by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler). It is too perfunctory in execution for that. Also Kanin fails to appreciate the irony that the Capra-esque crowd that is supposed to be so heart-warmingly real in comparison to Gladys's vacuous fantasies is the same crowd that elevated her to celebrity status in the first place, thus bluntingn hte film's satirical thrust.

FYI: The film was the fifth and final collaboration between Cukor and Holliday, the most notable of which was Born Yesterday (1950) also written by Kanin, and for which Holliday won an Oscar for a similar turn as a dumb blonde. 




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