Oscar Actors: Background–Holliday, Judy

Holliday was born Judith Tuvim on June 21, 1921 in New York City, the only child of Abe and Helen (née Gollomb) Tuvim. Her father later served as the executive director of the foundation for the Jewish National Fund of America. Her mother, who was previously divorced, taught piano and was of Russian-Jewish descent like her father.

She grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, New York, and graduated from Julia Richman High School in Manhattan. Her first job was as an assistant switchboard operator at the Mercury Theatre, administered by Orson Welles and John Houseman.

Holliday began her show business career in 1938 under her original name, as part of a nightclub act called The Revuers. The other members of the group were Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Alvin Hammer, John Frank, and Esther Cohen.

The Revuers played in New York night clubs including the Village Vanguard, Spivy’s Roof, the Blue Angel, and the Rainbow Room, and the Trocadero in Hollywood. Leonard Bernstein, a friend of the group who shared an apartment with Green at the time, sometimes provided piano accompaniment for the group’s performances. The Revuers shot a scene for the Carmen Miranda film Greenwich Village, but the scene was cut, though Holliday can be seen as an unbilled extra in another scene. The group disbanded in early 1944.

Her first film role was small, as an airman’s wife in the Twentieth Century Fox version of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ play Winged Victory (1944). She did not appear in the stage version, which toured the U.S. both before and after the film.

Holliday made her Broadway debut on March 20, 1945 at the Belasco Theatre in “Kiss Them for Me,” for which she received the Clarence Derwent Award.

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 the Best Actress Oscar and Golden Globe Award.

She was known 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 adaptation.

 

In 1952, Holliday was called to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee for suspicions for communist associations.

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