Day 27 of #CleanMovieMonth: “It Should Happen to You” from 1954

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Today is July 27, the twenty-seventh day of #CleanMovieMonth. We Brannans are still evacuated because of the Cranston fire, which is threatening our mountain community of Idyllwild, California. Today is the third day of the fire. Although the fire’s acreage has increased considerably, it doesn’t seem to be putting our town in too much danger. For now, we will leave that job to the tireless fire crews, which number over 1,300 personnel, and turn our attention to Code movies. After all, PEPS has dedicated July to celebrating the decent entertainment of the Breen era (1934-1954). Our daily articles are discussing and exploring the different aspects and elements of the Breen era. We hope to show why this time was so wonderful and so important.

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My film choice for today is It Should Happen to You from 1954. This film stars Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon, who made his credited film debut in this picture. This movie, which was directed by experienced director George Cukor, was released by Columbia Pictures in March of 1954, just seven months before Joseph Breen’s retirement on October 14, 1954, which would mark the end of the Golden Era of the Code and, ultimately, the Golden Era of Hollywood. This movie, which was filmed in 1953, is the latest film we have reviewed so far in #CleanMovieMonth, but it is just as much a Code film as movies made in 1939. Its full of laughable moments as well as tender and romantic ones.

Outline

Gladys Glover is going for a walk in Central Park on a hot summer afternoon in New York City. She is walking barefoot, carrying her shoes, and feeding the pigeons. A disgruntled man doesn’t like her presence, and he picks a fight with her. The commotion draws a crowd, including an eager young man with a movie camera who has been observing Gladys curiously for some time. After the irascible fellow has stormed off, the young man offers to take Gladys to a water fountain because her “whole throat’s dry from getting’ so mad.” As they walk through the park, they exchange thoughts on life. She came to New York two years ago to make a name for herself. She’s saved a thousand dollars, but that’s all she’s achieved. She had a good job modeling girdles, but she got fired this morning. Now, she feels like she’s getting nowhere. She came to the park, since she thinks better in the park and with her shoes off. The young man is Pete Sheppard, an amicable fellow from New Jersey who has lived in New York for ten years. He makes documentaries. He takes an immediate liking to Gladys. He encourages her to stay positive, since he thinks that she’ll make a name for herself if that’s what she really wants. He cheerfully advises, “Not only where there’s a will, there’s a way, but if there’s a way, there’s a will.” She gives him her address so that he can send her the finished Central Park documentary, and they part. Afterwards, Gladys continues to wander around the park, and she ends up at Columbus Circle. She sees a huge billboard with information about its rental; suddenly, she imagines her name written across it in bold letters. When she takes off her shoe, she knows what she needs to do. The next day, she goes to the Pfeiffer Building and inquires about renting the space. She learns that the huge billboard can be rented for three months for $600. She eagerly rents the space with the money she saved up. A few days later, Glady is called to the office of Evan Adams III. The Adams Soap Company always uses the Columbus Circle billboard for its summer campaign, but young Mr. Adams neglected to secure the space. Now, young playboy Evans III must acquire the desired billboard at all costs. He offers to return all Glady’s money and give her a $500 bonus if she will give up the sign. She doesn’t like that suggestion, and she refuses to make a counter-offer. She just wants her sign. She soon has had enough of pressuring, so he leaves. Later that afternoon, Gladys is happy to see Pete sitting on the front steps of her apartment building. He has just moved into an apartment right down the hall from her, and she seems to believe that it’s a coincidence. They show each other around their respective apartments like children, and she invites him to eat at her apartment any time. Pete asks her to come out to dinner with him tonight in exchange, and she agrees. She encourages him to go to Columbus Circle and “look at different things,” refusing to say exactly what he should say; she suggests that they go their tonight after dinner. Before they are ready, Evan Adams III calls and asks to dine with Gladys so they can discuss business. He attempts to use his wealth and romantic charm to persuade her to give up her sign, but she isn’t interested. After he brings her home, Pete angrily bangs on her door. He is in an outraged uproar because he went to see the “thing” on Columbus Circle. He can’t believe that a grown woman could spend her hard-earned money on nonsense. They have a heated argument, after which he pops back in to confirm that they are going to have lunch on Friday. The next day, Gladys has another meeting with the representatives of Adams Soap. Seeing how much the sign means to her, they offer her two signs instead of her one. However, she won’t take smaller spaces. She’s a tough dealer, and they eventually decide on six prime locations for her. Now she has six signs with her name on them spread throughout New York City! She’s giddy about it, but Pete can’t wait for the three months to be over. He knows that she’s obsessed with her notoriety, but he tells her that it’s getting her no place. He wants her to learn to enjoy real things and stand for something, but she can’t understand that. As her short-lived fame nears its end, Gladys is at a café with Pete, having a pleasant evening. Suddenly, she hears a television broadcaster, Brod Clinton, say her name. She’s insulted when he says that one of the most unimportant questions of the day is, “Who, or what, is Gladys Glover?” She calls his station and tells him so over the telephone. Eager to be the first person to reveal the “mystery woman,” he meets with her and convinces her to go on “The People Speak” to tell her story. She agrees, much to Pete’s chagrin, and Mr. Clinton arranges for lots of other television engagements for her. She’s finally making a name for herself. The Adams Soap Company decides to cash in on her publicity by using her in their campaigns as “The Average American Girl.” This brings her more notoriety and money. How long can her popularity last? What will she have left when its gone? Will the lecherous Evan Adams III try to tempt her with his wealth and importance? Will she ever be able to enjoy simple pleasures with Pete, the man who really loves her? Watch the movie to find out!

Cast

Gladys Glover is played by Judy Holliday. Pete Sheppard is played by Jack Lemmon. Evan Adams III is played by Peter Lawford. Brod Clinton is played by Michael O’Shea.

Additional Information

As I mentioned in an article about George Cukor for the Directors’ Blogathon, there is a really natural style in this film. The acting is effortless. Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon are so relaxed and normal that you can truly believe that they are their characters instead of actors. During the filming, Mr. Cukor did his best to bring the greatest acting out of Jack Lemmon. He would frequently say, “Marvelous, Lemmon. Just a little bit less,” and “Splendid, Lemmon. Just a little bit less.” Finally, in frustration, Jack said, “If I do any less, I won’t be acting!” “Exactly!” Mr. Cukor declared. You can really see that in this movie. They don’t really act; they deliver their lines and actions as though they themselves are the characters.

A lot of this movie was filmed on location in New York City. It is really interesting to see famous New York landmarks. Some of the best shots are of Central Park and Columbus Circle. We have found many of the locations in the park when we went there ourselves. The opening shots of the stairs by the lake are unchanged, even after sixty-four years. New York has a strange immutability. There is something about it that always remains the same. That really authentic New York feeling is captured in this movie. Watch this movie as a precursor to, substitute for, or memory of a trip to the Big Apple!

Code-Compliance

This movie is a good Code film. It’s clean, decent, and thoroughly entertaining. The relationship between Pete and Gladys is so charming and wholesome. He is a simple, honest, honorable man. He is very different from Evan Adams, a selfish playboy who exists only for his own pleasure. He thinks he is entitled to special privileges because he is wealthy and powerful. This movie teaches a powerful message about the danger of wanting to make a name for yourself at any cost. Gladys knows that Mr. Adams wants some sort of business arrangement with her, and she says that some people are willing to do anything to make a name for themselves. She has to decide if she is one of those people.

Gladys Glover is an exaggerated example of a lot of people. She wants to make a name for herself, but she has no further goals. She doesn’t want to be an actress or to have a particular career. She doesn’t even care about making a lot of money. She just wants her name to be well-known. Pete delivers a speech which is a motto to everyone: “It isn’t just making a name; don’t you understand, Gladys? It’s making a name stand for something. Different names stand for different things…. It’s better to have a name stand for something on one block than to have it stand for nothing or something bad all over the entire world.” That’s a lesson which a lot of modern celebrities should learn. What’s the use of being a star on reality television or the internet if you don’t stand for anything? It’s more important to work on making yourself stand for something important than to just have idle notoriety. This is a wonderful Code film which profited from the great breening of the PCA. This is the last year of Breen era. Watch this movie to see a charming, witty comedy about fame and what really matters in life.

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3 thoughts on “Day 27 of #CleanMovieMonth: “It Should Happen to You” from 1954

  1. Pingback: Jack Lemmon’s Career and the Path of Shurlock Era Hollywood | pure entertainment preservation society

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