Holliday, Judy: How George Cukor Discovered Her?

There were very few roles for women in “Winged Victory,” mostly of mothers and sweethearts. One of those was played by Judy Holliday, who in the next decade would become Cukor’s quintessential actress, appearing in five of his movies, including “Born Yesterday,” for which she won the Best Actress Oscar.

The first time Cukor heard about Judy Holliday was when Fox’s Darryl Zanuck mentioned “these clever kids,” Al Green, Betty Camden, and Judy Holliday, from the Village in New York. But Zanuck couldn’t convince anyone to use them.

Tested for one of the housewife roles, Holliday was heavily made up and dressed in what she thought a movie star would wear. Pretty in an odd way, Cukor thought she was decidedly not the “motion-picture type.”

Cukor asked Holliday to read for a small, uninteresting part of a tragic wife. He had seen the scene done in a more conventional way by other actresses. Holliday had little acting experience, but her phrasing was poignant, moving, and intensely personal. “Can you do this again asked Cukor. “Yes,” said Judy.

Holliday landed the part. When Cukor was casting “Adam’s Rib,” he remembered Holliday and offered her a major role. The rest is history.