"What are you doing?" "Well, if you don't know, I must be doing it wrong."
Fans of cinema are certainly going to enjoy the years to come, assuming the studios continue in the fashion Columbia/TriStar has been recently with their Columbia Classics line. Reaching back into the vintage and treasured films of Hollywood history, the collection assembles films long lost to home viewers, and presents them in the best form they've ever seen a living room in.
Born Yesterday is a great example of "the films of yesteryear." From the moment you pop the disc in your player, you instantly know you're looking into a time capsule. The trailers, the one-sheets for the film, and of course the film itself, you're looking at a style of cinema, a way of going about the business, not seen in today's slick, fast paced, money hungry Hollywood.
The story is straightforward and direct. Where today's Hollywood attempts to dazzle the audience (and usually fails) with clever plot twists and cute story tricks, Yesteryear's relied on the charisma and skill of the actors. The difference is startling, and makes the truly great actors of today all the more cherished.
Emma "Billie" Dawn (Judy Holliday, Greenwich Village, The Marrying Kind, Bells are Ringing) is the mistress of loud mouthed, rude business tycoon Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford, All the King's Men, Woman Chases Man, Liar's Moon). While on a business trip to Washington DC, where Brock is working backroom deals using bribes and shady methods, Brock hires newspaper reporter Paul Verrall (William Holden -Stalag 17, Sunset Boulevard, Network) to help educate Billie.
The acting is wonderful. Judy Holliday handles her part with panache and style, she really had great screen presence. She's surrounded by an excellent cast of players; Crawford's loud mouthed Brock is offensive and makes for great comedic turns at the right moment, while Holden's Verrall is quiet and insightful. Watching them work without the advantages directors and producers can give a cast today makes me appreciate the efforts of actors such as Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Jodie Foster all the more.
This is a very nice transfer of an old print. While a more extensive effort could have been made, it's hard to fault Columbia/TriStar's resistance to make a heavy investment into a disc that likely only seriously appeal to vintage film fans. The transfer is fairly clean, with only a few instances of patterning (a few difficult fabric patterns don't come through the compression process all that well, but they're isolated and few). There is a small amount of grit, and towards the latter half of the transfer the print degrades a bit more with film blemishes from the print. Ultimately though, this is a very good transfer of a print that's fifty years old.
The audio is mono only, but is up to the task regardless. Dialogue is always forward and easy to discern. Six subtitle options are available, just in case. In addition, there are film trailers from the era (Born Yesterday, Picnic, Bell, Book and Candle, His Girl Friday), all markedly different from the more polished, slicker trailers one sees today. Rounding out the offerings are text resumes on the cast, and one-sheet advertisements from the film's release.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The only major complaint that can be made is that two of the subtitle tracks (Korean and Thai) are incorrectly labeled, though they do appear, I think, to have the correct text in them. What do I know, I'm just a silly American.
Born Yesterday is a classic film with real flair, excellent performances, and great comedy. The disc is as good as one can expect a fifty-year-old film to be, and is highly recommended to all vintage film fans.
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