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Judy Holliday

Judy Holliday

[hol-i-dey]

Judy Holliday (June 21, 1921 – June 7, 1965) was an American Academy- and Tony Award-winning actress.

Biography

Early life

Born Judith Tuvim ("Tuvim" is Hebrew for "Holiday") in New York City, she was the only child of Abe and Helen Tuvim, Jewish immigrants from Russia. She attended elementary school at PS 150, a school in Sunnyside, Queens, New York. Her first job was as an assistant switchboard operator at the Mercury Theatre run by Orson Welles and John Houseman.

Career

Holliday began her show business career in December, 1938, as part of a nightclub act called "The Revuers." The other four members of the group were Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Alvin Hammer and John Frank; one of their accompanists was Leonard Bernstein. The Revuers were a staple of the New York nightlife scene until they disbanded in early 1944.

Holliday made her Broadway debut on March 20, 1945, at the Belasco Theatre in Kiss Them for Me and was one of the recipients that year of the Clarence Derwent Award. In 1946, she was back on Broadway, as the scatterbrained Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday. Author Garson Kanin had written the play specifically for his friend, the brilliant but difficult Jean Arthur. Arthur played the role of Billie out-of-town, but after many complaints and illnesses, she resigned. Kanin chose Holliday as her replacement.

Garson Kanin's book on Tracy and Hepburn mentions that when Columbia bought the rights to film Born Yesterday, studio boss Harry Cohn wouldn't consider casting the unknown (outside of Broadway) Holliday. Kanin, together with George Cukor, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, conspired to promote Holliday by offering her a key part in the 1949 film Adam's Rib. She got rave reviews and Cohn offered her the chance to repeat her role for the film version of Born Yesterday, but only after she did a screen test (which at first was used only as a "benchmark against which to evaluate" other actresses being considered for the role). She won the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Actress, beating out such formidable competitors as Gloria Swanson, who was nominated for Sunset Boulevard and Bette Davis for All About Eve.

Investigated for Communism

In 1950, Holliday was the subject of an FBI investigation looking into allegations that she was a Communist. The investigation "did not reveal positive evidence of membership in the Communist Party" and was concluded after three months. Unlike many others tainted by the Communist scandal, she was not blacklisted from movies, but she was blacklisted from performing on radio and television for almost three years.

In 1952, she was called to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee to "explain" why her name had been linked to Communist front organizations. In spite of her 172 IQ, she was advised to play dumb (like some of her film characters) and did so. She used this technique to avoid giving up names of people she knew to be Communists.

In 1954, she starred with a then-rising young star Jack Lemmon for the popular comedy, It Should Happen to You. Holliday and Lemmon next starred together (in that same year) in Phffft!. Their comedic chemistry on screen made the two films into big hits.

Later life and death

In 1956 she starred in The Solid Gold Cadillac, and in 1960 in the film version of Bells Are Ringing, a musical with lyrics by Comden and Green that had debuted on Broadway in 1956, and for which she had won the 1957 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.

Holliday died from breast cancer, in 1965 at the age of 43. She was survived by her young son, Jonathan Oppenheim, and by her ex-husband, clarinetist and conductor David Oppenheim. She was interred in the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Jonathan Oppenheim grew up to become a documentary film editor of note, editing Paris is Burning, Children Underground, and Arguing the World.

Holliday has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Blvd.

Filmography

Year Film Role Other notes
1938 Too Much Johnson Extra short subject
1944 Greenwich Village Revuer uncredited
Something for the Boys Defense plant welder uncredited
Winged Victory Ruth Miller
1949 Adam's Rib Doris Attinger Nominated - Golden Globe
On the Town Daisy (Simpkins' MGM date) uncredited, voice only
1950 Born Yesterday Emma 'Billie' Dawn Academy Award for Best Actress; Golden Globe
1952 The Marrying Kind 'Florrie' Keefer Nominated - BAFTA Award
1954 It Should Happen to You Gladys Glover
Phffft! Nina Tracey nee Chapman Nominated - BAFTA Award
1956 The Solid Gold Cadillac Nominated - Golden Globe
1957 Full of Life
1960 Bells Are Ringing Nominated - Golden Globe

Stage work

Year Production Role Other notes
1942 My Dear Public with The Revuers
1945 Kiss Them for Me Alice Tony Award - Theatre World Award
1946 Born Yesterday Billie Dawn
1951 Dream Girl
1956 Bells Are Ringing Ella Peterson Tony Award
1960 Laurette
1963 Hot Spot Sally Hopwinder

References

External links

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