Judy Holliday

Holliday in her dressing room, Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, 1959

Judy Holliday (June 21, 1921 – June 7, 1965) was an American actress, comedian and singer.

She began her career as part of a nightclub act before working in Broadway plays and musicals. Her success in the 1946 stage production of Born Yesterday as "Billie Dawn" led to her being cast in the 1950 film version for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. She appeared regularly in films during the 1950s. She was noted for her performance on Broadway in the musical Bells Are Ringing, winning a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical and reprising her role in the 1960 film.

In 1952, Holliday was called to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee to answer claims she was associated with communism.

    Early life

    Holliday was born Judith Tuvim (Hebrew: tovim means good, Yiddish: yomtoyvim means holidays, lit. "good days") in New York City, she was the only child of Abe Tuvim and Helen (née Gollomb) Tuvim, who were both of Russian Jewish descent. Her father was the Executive Director of the Foundation for the Jewish National Fund of America (1951-1958, his death from cancer).

    She grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, New York and graduated from Julia Richman High School. Her mother was previously divorced.

    Holliday's first job was as an assistant switchboard operator at the Mercury Theatre run by Orson Welles and John Houseman.

    Holliday reportedly had an IQ of 172.

    Career

    Holliday began her show business career in 1938 as part of a night-club act called "The Revuers." The other four members of the group were Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Alvin Hammer and John Frank. The Revuers played engagements at various New York night clubs including the Village Vanguard, Spivy's Roof, Blue Angel, Rainbow Room, and Trocadero in Hollywood, California. The group disbanded in early 1944.

    In 1944, she played a small, but noticeable role as an airman's wife in the Twentieth Century Fox film version of the U.S. Army Air Forces' hit play Winged Victory. She did not appear in the stage version, which toured the U.S. both before and after production of the film. Holliday made her Broadway debut on March 20, 1945 at the Belasco Theatre in Kiss Them for Me and was one of the recipients that year of the Clarence Derwent Award.

    In 1946, she returned to Broadway as the scatterbrained Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday. Author Garson Kanin wrote the play for Jean Arthur, who played the role of Billie out-of-town but left the role for personal reasons. Kanin then selected Holliday, two decades Arthur's junior, as her replacement.

    In his book Tracy and Hepburn (1971), Kanin mentions that when Columbia bought the rights to the film Born Yesterday, studio boss Harry Cohn would not consider casting the Hollywood-unknown.

    Kanin, along with George Cukor, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn conspired to promote Holliday by offering her a key part in the 1949 film Adam's Rib.

    She received rave reviews for her performance in Born Yesterday on Broadway, and Cohn offered her the chance to repeat her role for the film version, but only after she did a screen test (which at first was used only as a "benchmark against which to evaluate" other actresses being considered for the role). She won the first Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and at the 23rd Academy Awards, Holliday won the Academy Award for Best Actress, defeating Gloria Swanson, nominated for Sunset Boulevard, Eleanor Parker, for Caged, and Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, both for All About Eve.

    In 1954, she starred opposite then-newcomer Jack Lemmon in his first two feature films, the popular comedies It Should Happen to You and Phffft!

    Bernard Dick summed up Holliday's acting: "Perhaps the most important aspect of the Judy Holliday persona, both in variations of Billie Dawn and in her roles as housewife, is her vulnerability...her ability to shift her mood quickly from comic to serious is one of her greatest technical gifts."

    George Cukor said Holliday had, "In common with the great comedians ...that depth of emotion, that unexpectedly touching emotion, that thing which would unexpectedly touch your heart."

    Investigated for Communism

    In 1950, Holliday was the subject of an FBI investigation looking into allegations she was a Communist. The investigation "did not reveal positive evidence of any membership in the Communist Party," and was concluded after three months, unlike many others tainted by the Communist investigation. In 1952, she was called to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee to "explain" why her name had been linked to Communist front organizations. She was advised to play dumb (like some of her film characters), which she did very well.

    Later career

    In November 1956, Holliday returned to Broadway starring in the musical Bells Are Ringing with book and lyrics by her Revuers friends, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and directed by Jerome Robbins. In 1957, she won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. In 1960 she starred in the film version of Bells Are Ringing. Of her performance in the stage musical Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times;

    Nothing has happened to the shrill little moll whom the town loved in Born Yesterday. The squeaky voice, the embarrassed giggle, the brassy naivete, the dimples, the teeter-totter walk fortunately remain unimpaired ... Miss Holliday now adds a trunk-full of song-and-dance routines...Without losing any of that doll-like personality, she is now singing music by Jule Styne and dancing numbers composed by Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse. She has gusto enough to triumph in every kind of music hall antic.

    In 1956 she starred in the film version of The Solid Gold Cadillac. In October 1960, Holliday started out-of-town tryouts on the play Laurette based on the life of Laurette Taylor. The show was directed by José Quintero with background music by Elmer Bernstein and produced by Alan Pakula.

    When Holliday became ill and had to leave the show it closed in Philadelphia without opening on Broadway.

    She had throat surgery shortly after leaving the production in October 1960.

    Her last role was in the stage musical Hot Spot, co-starring newcomers such as Joseph Campanella and Mary Louise Wilson, which closed after 43 performances on May 25, 1963.

    Personal life

    The grave of Holliday in Westchester Hills Cemetery
    The footstone at Judy Holliday's grave

    In 1948 Holliday married clarinetist, and later classical music and television producer and academic David Oppenheim, with whom she had a son, film editor Jonathan Oppenheim, before the couple divorced in 1958. She reportedly had a long-term relationship with jazz musician Gerry Mulligan, but the two never married.

    She died from breast cancer on June 7, 1965, aged 43, and was interred in the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

    Holliday has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Blvd.

    Filmography

    Source:

    Year Film Role Other notes
    1938 Too Much Johnson Extra short subject
    1944 Greenwich Village Revuer uncredited
    Something for the Boys Defense plant welder uncredited
    Winged Victory Ruth Miller
    1949 Adam's Rib Doris Attinger Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
    On the Town Daisy (Simpkins' MGM date) uncredited, voice only
    1950 Born Yesterday Emma 'Billie' Dawn Academy Award for Best Actress
    Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
    Jussi Award Diploma of Merit for Best Foreign Actress
    New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress (2nd place)
    1952 The Marrying Kind 'Florrie' Keefer Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
    1954 It Should Happen to You Gladys Glover
    Phffft! Nina Tracey née Chapman Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
    1956 The Solid Gold Cadillac Laura Partridge Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
    1957 Full of Life Emily Rocco
    1960 Bells Are Ringing Ella Peterson Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy

    Stage

    Source:

    Year Production Role Other notes
    1942 with The Revuers
    1945 Kiss Them for Me Alice
    1946 Born Yesterday Billie Dawn
    1951 Dream Girl Georgina Allerton
    1956 Bells Are Ringing Ella Peterson Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
    1960 Laurette Taylor Closed out-of-town
    1963 Hot Spot Sally Hopwinder

    Discography

    Holliday recorded two studio albums (not including her film and Broadway soundtracks) during her lifetime.

    • Trouble Is a Man (1958)
    • Holliday with Mulligan (1961)

    References

    External links

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