Synopsis– When a low-class tycoon makes a trip to Washington D.C. to buy off a politician, he becomes ashamed of his mistress’s lack of manners and hires her a tutor. Newspaperman Paul Verall (William Holden) begrudgingly accepts the job, but warms up to his new position when he meets his uncouth but beautiful student, Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday). Between lessons, Verall uses the sights of Washington for educational field trips and, as Billie learns more about the ideals of freedom and democracy, she also begins to glimpse her boyfriend’s corruption.
Why it’s better– Alright, you’re going to have to accept that actresses like Judy Holliday and Jean Arthur could get away with these shrill, grating voices because they were drop-dead gorgeous and charming and talented– it’s how the system worked. If you can get past Holliday’s voice, the rest of the movie is a dream.
George Cukor (close friend of Katharine Hepburn, I had to say it) directs beautifully, and William Holden is the perfect choice as mentor, writer, and object of Billie’s affection. Other than that, this movie is ALL about the brilliant performance of Judy Holliday as the classless Billie. She’s so vulnerable, but still strong and capable and a surprisingly quick study! She walks the perfect line between the bawdy, Mae West-esque chorus singer and the doe-eyed farm girl. You always have the feeling that she’s going to cry or take a swing at someone.
Holliday won the Oscar for her performance, but the award was marred by speculation that, had the vote not been split between All About Eve stars Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, the Oscar may have gone home with someone else.