It Should Happen to You (1954)

Director George Cukor saw “It Should Happen to You,” starring Judy Holliday, Peter Lawford, and the then newcomer Jack Lemmon, as a frothy comedy about the hunger for publicity of people who lack any real talent or genuine qualifications. 

 

Achieving a celebrity status without doing anything, and the power of publicity in making careers, were new topics for the movies at the time.  Cukor’s targets in this satire are the rapidly growing world of advertising and the TV talk shows.

 

As Gladys Glover, Judy Holliday plays her earlier scenes marvelously, perfecting her blonde dumb type with intelligence, shrewdness and determination. The scene in which she just drives around Columbus Circle, infatuated with her billboard, is at once funny and chilling.

 

After Gladys becomes famous, she’s invited to appear on a TV show with other celebrities. Cukor cast the scene with his old friends, Constance Bennett and Ilka Chase.

 

Cukor had noticed that guests on these shows talk a lot but say nothing; he thus satirized their fatuous “personality.” The guests pretend to be very original, but they’re really just interested in putting themselves across. He hated with passion TV shows in which everything was false, especially the atmosphere of fake friendship.

 

Cukor’s real discovery in “It Should Happen to You” was Jack Lemmon, who plays Gladys’ love interest, Pete Sheppard.  Though he had some experience in television, this was Lemmon’s first chance at the big screen.

 

A novice, Lemmon was not easy to work with.  The scene when Gladys and Pete are talking between snatches of playing the piano and singing, seemed spontaneous but was well rehearsed.

 

As usual, Cukor was drawing on all the little things that his actors were doing naturally, trying to catch them when they behaved instinctively–not for the camera.  For him, the most delightful moments in a movie are the spontaneous or unexpectedly ones from his actors.

 

When the rich and rigid beau Evan Addams III (Peter Lawford) is trying to seduce Gladys, he chases her around the room. He gets her on the couch and starts nuzzling her neck erotically, as if he were taking her clothes off. Evans takes one of her earrings off and nuzzles her ear. She picks up the earring and tries to escape. He chases her again, and she ends up on the couch, in the same position, with the earring back on. “May I help on this?” a property man said during shooting. “Please do,” Cukor said. “Let her take the earring off herself,” he suggested, “So that he can nuzzle her ear.” Cukor saw that it made a terribly funny moment.

 

The ending of the film is problematic.  In the original script, penned by Garson Kanin, Pete and Gladys stop at a motel and Pete pointed at a sign out the window, which reads, “Mr. and Mrs. Pete Sheppard.”  But the studio came up with another ending, which Garson knew nothing about until some mimeographed pages were delivered to him, where Gladys looks up and sees an empty sign. Kanin allowed that neither of his finishes was perfect, but either was better than the studio’s stale ending.

 

Released on January 15, 1954, Garson Kanin thought that, overall, “It Should Happen to You” was their best collaboration, but he was wrong; “Adam’s Rib” and “Pat and Mike,” which he co-wrote with wife-actress Ruth Gordon, are better pictures. (See My Reviews).

 

 

“It Should Happen to You” was the last picture Cukor made with the Kanins. While the professional association ended, their friendship continued for another 20 years, until their falling out, caused by the publication of Kanin’s “Tracy and Hepburn.”

Oscar Nominations: 1

Costume Design (b/w): Jean Louis

Oscar Context:

The winner was Edith Head for her costumes for Billy Wilder’s “Sabrina.”

Cast:

Judy Holliday (Gladys Glover)

Jack Lemmon (Pete Sheppard)

Peter Lawford (Evan Addams III)

Michael O’Shea (Brod Bennett)

 

With:

 

Vaughn Taylor, Connie Gilchrist, Whit Bissel, Walter Klavun, Arthur Gilmore, Rex Evans, Heywood Hale Broun, Constance Bennett, Ilka Chase, Wendy Barrie, Melville Cooper.

 

Credits

 

Producer: Fred Kohlmar.

Director: George Cukor

Screenplay: Garson Kanin.

Photography (B&W): Charles Lang.

Editor: Charles Nelson.

Premiere: March 1954.

 

Running Time: 87 minutes.