Movie Stars: Holliday, Judy–Screen Image

Screen Image

Holliday’s screen image was defined by her naked vulnerability, her ability to shift moods quickly from comic to serious. Director George Cukor also observed that Holliday had “that depth of emotion, that unexpectedly touching emotion, that thing which would unexpectedly touch your heart.”

In 1950, Holliday’s name appeared on a list of 151 “pro-Communist” artists in the conservative publication Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and TV. The next year, she was subpoenaed by Senator Pat McCarran’s Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, which was investigating subversion and Communist activity in the entertainment industry. She appeared before the committee on March 26, 1952, with Simon H. Rifkind as her legal counsel.

Holliday was advised to play dumb, a la Billie Dawn, and she did.  The investigation “did not reveal positive evidence of any membership in the Communist Party” and concluded after three months, unlike others tainted by the anti-Communist investigation.

She starred in the film version of The Solid Gold Cadillac, which was released in August 1956.

In November 1956, Holliday returned to Broadway to star 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.  Critic Brooks Atkinson wrote in the N.Y. 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 …”