Monday 10 February 2014

Movie Review: It Should Happen To You (1954)

A featherweight romantic comedy, It Should Happen To You benefits from a vibrant Judy Holliday and takes a few perceptive shots at the shallow world of fame, but otherwise has limited substance.

Free-spirited New York fashion model Gladys Glover (Holliday) has lost her job, but still dreams of being famous. Wandering through Central Park she meets budding photographer Pete Sheppard (Jack Lemmon), who has a down-to-earth view of life and cares little for the celebrity culture. Pete immediately falls in love with Gladys, but she is pursuing her dreams of fame and fortune. Gladys then spots an empty billboard in Columbia Circle and invests all her savings into buying the space and putting her name up in bold letters.

The Adams Soap Company usually rents that advertising board, and company executive Evan Adams III (Peter Lawford) attempts to negotiate with Gladys, offering her money and several alternative billboards around the city to free up the lucrative Columbia Circle location. Evan also starts to fall in love with Gladys, and as her dream of becoming famous suddenly becomes real, it's up to Pete to try and keep her feet on the ground while trying to win her heart.

It Should Happen To You predicts the ever increasing obsession with celebrity for the sake of celebrity, Gladys literally buying her way to notoriety and gaining fans, and then a contract, simply by emblazoning her name on billboards. Her stunt is the most crass form of marketing, and it works, an indictment of the industry and the public's fascination with a familiar name.

With a limited, one-idea premise, the film's appeal resides with Holliday, and she delivers with a deft comic touch. Holliday keeps Gladys on an even keel, mixing starry-eyed determination with large doses of naivete as she strides towards her goal of being a somebody. Her eyes are only opened when she gets close to the success she craves, and unfortunately the Garson Kanin script saddles her with a sudden and unconvincing awakening to the hazards of her ambition.

Lemmon, in his first credited role, quickly establishes his screen persona as normal man happy to be the voice of reason and one of the crowd, but still marching to the beat of a slightly peculiar drummer. His role as Pete is the straightforward conscience of Gladys, and although there are traces of chemistry between them the romance remains a stretch. Overall, the love triangle between Gladys, Pete and Evan plays second fiddle to the commentary on Gladys' fascination with fame.

Director George Cukor keeps the pacing brisk and wraps up the movie in 86 minutes. It Should Happen To You lingers just long enough to deliver it's simple message, then moves along like a time-limited ad campaign.

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