Born Yesterday is one of the best movies of all time. I’m talking about the 1950 version starring Judy Holliday, Paul Douglas, and William Holden. I haven’t seen the Melanie Griffith version (and don’t plan to).
If you can catch it on TCM or some other place, don’t miss it. Even if you’ve seen it a zillion times as I have, I guarantee that today you will view it with different eyes. Here’s the gist of the plot:
The first dozen or so times I saw it over the years, I thought (rightly so) that the corrupt businessman Harry Brock was a caricature. I focused on the lighter side of the plot-- the lessons being given to the not-so-dumb blond Billie (Judy won an Oscar for her role) by the gorgeous William Holden (in his absolute smooth-talking prime).
But today when I watched it, when I looked at Harry Brock, I saw Donald Trump, sadly, not a caricature, but in fact, an accurate representation of the language, attitudes, and behavior of the current President of the United States. When Harry successfully buys a Senator, brags about how he always gets what he wants, displays his ignorance of government with pride, scorns reading (and even tears up some books because they make him realize how stupid he is), flies off the handle at loyal close staffers-- holy shit, I felt like weeping. This is the man we have in the White House right now: Harry Brock.
In the past, too, I never noticed how patriotic this movie is, and not in a nationalistic, “America First” sort of way (which is NOT patriotism). As William Holden takes Judy around to important monuments in Washington, D.C., gives her books to read, introduces her to the Founding Fathers, and explains the principles upon which the United States was created, you are reminded of the idealism that underlay our government institutions. And you realize how those principles and ideals have been shat upon by the current administration.
Twice in the movie you hear the quote read aloud that is inscribed in the Thomas Jefferson Memorial: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Each time I heard those words, I felt my heart sink when contemplating how thump and the Republican Congress have desecrated our government, removed the US from its position of wise leadership in the world, and turned our country into a power hostile to knowledge, history, education, immigrants, and indeed, our own citizens suffering from poverty and ill health.
God help us all.