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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU (1954)

Ultra-charming romantic comedy for Judy Holliday (and a debuting Jack Lemmon) gives the tough-to-cast comedienne a perfect role as a nobody who wants, more than anything, to be a somebody. So, she rents a big billboard in New York’s Columbus Circle, puts her name up and waits for fame to strike. Lemmon, a freelance documentary filmmaker, likes everything about this off-center gal, except her obsession with empty celebrity. But damned if it doesn’t seem to be working for her. Even gaining a rich rival suitor in smooth, handsome Peter Lawford, who’s real passion is for Holiday’s billboard space. Garson Kanin’s witty script isn’t shy about pushing the Joy of Hoi Polloi at us, but director George Cukor keeps the sentiment as trim as possible, with lots of tasty Manhattan location shooting (still rare at the time), and, at a particular low moment, a real cinematic coup in a little indie-style movie short Lemmon makes as a farewell offering. A bit of movie magic that’s feels as fresh & modern as an award-winning student film from next year. And what a treat to watch Jack Lemmon before he built up his debilitating acting arsenal of tics & mannerisms. Watch Cukor turn this novice into a movie star in the film-within-the-film; it’s the moment where Lemmon compares his Regular Joe profile to Peter Lawford’s arrow-collar man perfection.  (And note the completely accurate copy under his ‘Introducing’ picture on our poster: ‘a guy you’re gonna like.’)

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The Kardashian Clan must have studied this film like a textbook . . . then learned all the wrong answers.

DOUBLE-BILL: For a more jaundiced view of similar ideas (in a stagier treatment), try A THOUSAND CLOWNS/’65.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: After LA STRADA/’54 and NIGHTS OF CABIRIA/’57, Italian actress (and wife of Federico Fellini) Giulietta Masina often found herself compared to Chaplin. But she’s a lot more like Judy Holliday, right down to their 1921 year of birth. Check out the matching big, dark mischievous eyes on these two.

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