Friday, June 29, 2012

classic film favorite — it should happen to you

Long before Andy Warhol said his famous quote, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" in 1968, Judy Holliday tested out the concept in a little gem of a movie, It Should Happen to You.

The 1954 film, directed by George Cukor, stars Judy as Gladys Glover, a young woman who has been working as a model in New York City, but is pretty much fed up with her life there, which she feels is going nowhere. On a stroll through Central Park one afternoon she meets a cute filmmaker, Pete Sheppard, played by Jack Lemmon in his first film role. Holliday and Lemmon are dynamite together. Pete is immediately smitten with Gladys and manages to get her address by asking her if he can send her his documentary film when it is finished (he has shot some film of her feeding pigeons in the park).
Gladys, "Really? I'd give my right arm to see myself in the movies."
Pete, "You don't need to give me your right arm, just give me your right address."
How can she not fall immediately for this guy (or he for her)?
Gladys gets a look at her billboard in Columbus Circle while going for a ride in young Adams's convertible
They part, and Gladys, still dejected about losing her job as a girdle model (her hip size is 3/4" too big!), suddenly catches sight of a gigantic, blank billboard at Columbus Circle. She is suddenly overcome with a "great" idea — she pictures her name in lights and decides to contact the company that is advertising "this space for rent." She gets the brush-off at the advertising firm until she pulls out her nest egg of $1000 cash — and then she is able to rent the billboard for $210 per month, for a minimum of three months. She pays the fee, and we watch her directing painters to make her name as big as possible on the billboard.

Soon it seems the whole city and the Adams Soap Company, who usually rent the advertising space, are wondering who exactly is Gladys Glover? Peter Lawford, in hs usual second-banana role as the rich soap company scion Evan Adams III, adds some romantic complications when he becomes interested in finding out exactly who Gladys Glover is for himself. After wrangling with the soap company over her prime advertising space and location, Gladys manages to trade in her big sign for six small ones and her celebrity grows. Let's make a deal!

Meanwhile the adorable Pete has moved next door to Gladys, but she only seems to have eyes for her own fame. She gets a thrill when she is recognized at Macy's and is soon appearing on television shows —but she is just a familiar name, but without any discernible talent. Sound familiar? Instead of today's reality stars, however, Gladys becomes a figure of fun. Her quest for fame is shown to be shallow and ultimately unrewarding.
Gladys, "Listen, Peter, I'm over twenty-one."
Pete, "From the neck down, yeah."

Gladys could easily become an obnoxious, unlikable character, but played by Judy Holliday and loved by Jack Lemmon, it's impossible not to root for her and to like her. Pete finds possibly the cutest way ever to tell the obtuse Gladys that he loves her, by leaving his 16mm film called "Goodbye, Gladys" for her to watch on a projector in her apartment.

It Should Happen to You is a classic romantic comedy with some extremely appealing leads and some great footage of New York City in the 1950s — it was filmed on location. It is also impossible not to watch it without thinking how people like Gladys have shaped our current culture of celebrity. The last scene in the movie is not afraid to hint at how addictive fame can really be.
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