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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Pete: I don't know what you're talking about and neither do you.
DVD ReviewAs the public's bizarre fascination with celebrity culture and reality TV hits peak levels, it's unfathomable some hotshot producer hasn't stolen the premise of It Should Happen to You and turned it into a television show. After all, the concept's a natural. Take a prominent billboard in a thriving metropolis, plaster someone's name on it in gargantuan letters, and see how long it takes for the person to become a household name. Nationwide notoriety might not happen overnight, but by week's end, a booking on Letterman would be a slam-dunk.
Of course, results took a little longer back in the '50s, but Gladys Glover (Judy Holliday) coined the idea and reaped the benefits. A self-professed nobody, the starry-eyed blonde arrived in the Big Apple hoping to make a conspicuous splash, but after toiling for a year as a girdle model, she's nowhere near the diving board. Discouraged and depressed, she finds herself staring at a blank billboard in Columbus Circle, when all of a sudden, a light bulb clicks on in her head.
Gladys rents the sign for three months, using her life savings to finance the venture. Her name dominates the area, and her attitude and self-image immeasurably improve. But there's trouble a-brewing. A soap company covets the same space, and the corporation president, Evan Adams III (Peter Lawford), pressures Gladys to relinquish it. At first, she won't budge, but when Adams offers her six other signs in return for the Columbus Circle location, she accepts the deal. The increased exposure prompts media attention, and Gladys soon winds up on TV talk shows, endorsing soap products, and signing autographs. Her dream becomes a reality: she's famous—but for absolutely no reason! And she loves every minute of it.
Unfortunately, Pete Sheppard (Jack Lemmon), the amateur documentary filmmaker whom she's romancing, doesn't. He abhors her brazen pursuit of empty fame, and can't bear how she happily endures the accompanying ridicule. Pete's also jealous of her infatuation with Adams and the trappings of wealth. When Adams starts to woo the fun-loving Gladys, she's flattered by the attention, but questions his motives.
The fact that It Should Happen to You often seems like a pale imitation of Born Yesterday should come as no surprise. Both films are directed by George Cukor, written by Garson Kanin, and star Holliday (who won an Oscar® for the latter). But sadly, It Should Happen to You lacks its precursor's sparkle and depth. Gladys Glover may be less dimwitted than Billie Dawn, but her naïve, doe-in-the-headlights personality could easily be interpreted as an off-shoot of the classic Born Yesterday character. Both women learn their lessons well; it's just more fun to go to school with Dawn.
Although Gladys achieves notoriety without resorting to violence, like Roxie Hart in Chicago, the celebrity satire in It Should Happen to You is equally acute, and perhaps more relevant today than at the time of its initial release. Like Kato Kaelin, Rula Lenska, and Paris Hilton, Gladys Glover is famous simply for being famous—nothing more. And despite the bogus origins of that fame, people still treat her like royalty and fight to bask in her aura. Kanin does a fine job making the farce socially relevant, yet does so at the expense of laughter. It Should Happen to You contains several funny bits (Holliday reading cue cards on her first TV appearance is hilarious), but they're far too isolated, and often lack energy and spontaneity. When the movie should be lively and brisk, it instead struggles to make cogent points and adopts an oddly serious tone. Dialogue doesn't crackle like it should, and for an 87-minute film, the pace severely lags.
Cukor, of course, shoulders some of the blame, although he wins points for extensive location shooting in New York City. As the saying goes, anything can happen in New York, and the setting makes some of the film's far-out events seem downright plausible. As always, Cukor extracts marvelous performances from his actors, working wonders with the usually plastic Lawford, and helping Lemmon, in his film debut, smoothly transition his inimitable personality to celluloid.
Yet It Should Happen to You is first and foremost a showcase for the one-of-a-kind Holliday, and it wonderfully spotlights her talents. Sure, she's basically reinventing Billie Dawn, but Holliday softens the edges, tones down the brass, and ends up creating a flesh-and-blood character instead of a caricature. Simultaneously dizzy and clear-headed, with an irresistible husky laugh, Holliday takes a stereotypical dumb blonde and transforms her into a delightful everygirl. And though Gladys' methods might seem extreme, Holliday makes us admire her spunk and spirit.
She also coaxes laughter with ease. With Holliday, comedy is never forced or labored, and her natural way with a line often brings out hidden humor in the most mundane dialogue. In other words, she's a true comedienne, and most of the pleasure we derive from It Should Happen to You emanates from this immensely gifted lady.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: One of Columbia's first widescreen efforts, It Should Happen to You is presented in its original aspect ratio, and the black-and-white photography possesses above average clarity and contrast. Close-ups especially shine, but even the location sequences—though a bit too bright—look crisp and vibrant. A fair amount of grain remains, but age-related grit and speckles are thankfully kept to a minimum. For a 50-year-old film, this is an impressive transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The original mono track has been given a good scrubbing, and no defects or distortion remain. Sometimes during exterior scenes the dialogue sounds a bit distant, but that's due more to the recording equipment than any transfer problems. The play's the thing here, and conversations are always clear and understandable.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Japanese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Born Yesterday, It Happened One Night
Extras Review: Just a few trailers and Columbia's standard 28 chapter stops.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsA hit-and-miss script and spotty direction hamper It Should Happen to You, but still can't dim the bright performances of Jack Lemmon and especially Judy Holliday. Together, they're the fairy godmothers to this so-so Cinderella story, but their magic isn't quite potent enough to transform the film into a classic.
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