Here are 10 things you should know about the delightful Judy Holliday, born 97 years ago today. Though she appeared in fewer than a dozen pictures (and starred or was featured in even fewer), her impact on Hollywood was indelible. We have a big movie-star crush on her, and so should you.
The delightful Judy Holliday, born Judith Tuvim in New York City 95 years ago today, appeared in fewer than a dozen pictures and starred or was featured in fewer than that, but her impact on Hollywood was indelible. She remains one of our very favorites.
Here are 10 Judy Holliday Did-You-Knows:
- Holliday grew up in Sunnyside, Queens and graduated from Julia Richman High School.
- Holiday was rejected by Yale Drama School out of high school.
- She went on to work briefly as a switchboard operator in Orson Welles‘ Mercury Theater.
- Early in her career, Judy Holliday was a member of a cabaret group called The Revuers that was founded by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
- She made her motion picture debut in a small role in Greenwich Village (1944). After two more bits parts that year, she returned to New York City and the theatre for five years.
- Prior to its Broadway debut, Holliday replaced Jean Arthur as Billie Dawn in Garson Kanin‘s play Born Yesterday. Though there was talk of casting Rita Hayworth in the movie adaptation of the play, Katharine Hepburn, impressed by Holliday’s work in Adam’s Rib (1949), helped Holliday nab the screen role.
- Though she was associated with dumb blonde roles, Judy Holliday’s IQ was said to be 172.
- Holiday was investigated in 1950 (and eventually cleared) by the FBI due to allegations that she was a Communist. In 1952, she was called to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee regarding those same allegations. She wasn’t blacklisted as a results of the (unfounded) rumors surrounding her, but it is thought her career was negatively impacted.
- Holliday won the 1957 Tony Award as best actress in a musical for Bells Are Ringing. She went on to play the same role in the 1960 film version opposite Dean Martin.
- Holliday wrote a number of songs with jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan; he wrote the melodies, she wrote the lyrics. They also recorded an album, Holliday with Mulligan, together
Judy Holliday died of cancer three weeks before her 44th birthday, on June 7, 1965.
Happy birthday, Ms. Holliday, wherever you may be; you are sorely missed!
THE GREAT GOD O’NEILL
The Woman Accused (1933), starring Cary Grant and Nancy Carroll, was an unusual picture in that it was co-written, as is trumpeted in the movie’s opening credits, by “ten of the world’s greatest authors”: Rupert Hughes, Vicki Baum, Viña Delmar, Irvin S. Cobb, Gertrude Atherton, J. P. McEvoy, Zane Grey, Ursula Parrott, Polan Banks, and Sophie Kerr.
That roster of once-prominent scribes moves one to ponder the fleeting nature of fame. How many of those names are familiar to the average person today? An entirely unscientific survey we conducted found that most folks recognize exactly one: Zane Grey. The others, it seems, are all but forgotten. It’s as if Stephen King, David Sedaris, Dan Brown, Dean Koontz, J. K. Rowling and another handful of today’s most prominent authors teamed to write a serialized novel that was then made into a movie. Would movie buffs in the year 2090, while watching that picture, scratch their heads over the identities of these writers?
We did a little digging on The Woman Accused‘s ten authors and found Parrott most intriguing. She was sort of the Candace Bushnell of her day, trafficking in proto-chick lit that examined the trials and tribulations endured by the “New Woman” of the 1920s and the freshly minted morals by which she lived.
Born in Boston in 1899, Parrott graduated from Radcliffe. She moved to Greenwich Village in 1920, where she married the first of her four husbands, Lindesay Marc Parrott, in 1922. The Parrotts divorced in 1925. Parrott wrote what she knew in composing her first novel, Ex-Wife, in 1929. The book’s subject matter was so scandalous in its time that it was initially published anonymously. Despite that (or perhaps because of it), it sold more than 100,000 copies the first year. Ex-Wife tells the tale of Pat and Peter, a married couple in their twenties who are convinced they needn’t follow the old rules in the pursuit of marital bliss. But when Peter, who has strayed, learns that Pat has done the same (just once, and in a tipsy moment of emotional weakness), his attitude toward her behavior is no longer so modern.
The rest of the novel is devoted to Pat’s coming to terms with her new status as an ex-wife. From our 21st century perspective, Pat’s post-split behavior is not especially shocking—she allows herself a few dispassionate flings and submits to the abortion of a pregnancy for which Peter is responsible. Having moved out of the apartment she shared with Peter, Pat rooms with Lucia, a woman in her thirties who, having already undergone the transition from wife to ex-wife, serves as a soothing and encouraging mentor to Pat. They are two fashionable, well-read, cosmopolitan women navigating an existence that more closely resembles life in 2011 than one might expect.
Author Francine Prose, in her introduction to the 1989 reissue of Ex-Wife wrote: “It’s striking how much of Ex-Wife seems far less dated than many of [F. Scott] Fitzgerald‘s Jazz Age stories”—and it’s true. Pat’s daily life comes off as remarkably similar to those led by so many urban, urbane women today.
MGM paid the then-extravagant sum of $20,000 fro the film rights to Ex-Wife, though the resulting picture, 1930’s The Divorcee, starring Norma Shearer and Chester Morris, is at best a loose adaptation of Parrott’s novel. That didn’t keep her from answering the door when Hollywood again came knocking. Between 1930 and 1936, eight more pictures were made based on Parrott’s novel and stories.
As a writer, Parrott was at her most successful between 1929 and the early 1940s. Her son has estimated that she earned in the neighborhood of $700,000—between $8-$10 million in today’s dollars—over that span. But Parrott spent the money as quickly as she made it, and when her career began a slow but steady slide in the ’40s, there was little left to show for her successes.
Like her fiction, Parrott’s life was not without its marital disruptions and scandals. Wed and divorced four times, she found herself hauled into court in 1943 for helping a young soldier escape from military prison. What’s more, the soldier was accused of trafficking in marijuana. Parrott was also reportedly the victim of numerous attempts at blackmail, and in 1953 she was again in the news when, as Time magazine reported, “her hotel presented a $225.20 bill and refused to accept her check.” Parrott spent 30 hours in a jail in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, with her French poodle, Coco.
In 1957, Ursula Parrott died of cancer at age 58. Her final days were spent in the charity ward of a New York City hospital. Today, the once-celebrated Parrott is so little remembered that only recently was she finally given an entry at Wikipedia, that online repository for otherwise forgotten figures. When first we composed this account, in the summer of 2010, no entry for her was to be found there.
This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of Zelda, the Magazine of the Vintage Nouveau.
One thing we especially love about New York is that not only is it a city with a rich history, its denizens (or, at least, a reasonably high percentage of them) remain fascinated by that past, even as they keep an eye cocked toward the future.
A fellow we used to know, who hailed from London but came to deeply appreciate New York City, once wrote, “Even New Yorkers who have lived here all their lives are happy to sit back and chat away about the place as if they’d just come across it. It’s a regular topic of conversation. And what’s nice is that it’s neither particularly narcissistic nor self-loathing, this chatter, but more curious and delighted.”
Which, for our money, sums up nicely the way many, if not most, New Yorkers feel about the city.
If you’ve even a little interest in New York’s past, present and future, we encourage you to pick up this week’s New York magazine. You can find it at any decent newstand or, one would think, your local library.
It includes a lengthy and multi-faceted feature entitled “The Greatest New York” that is a must-read for anyone with even the slightest affection for the greatest city in the world.
Only a bit of the lengthy feature appears to be available online (after all, they’ve got to move some magaines), but we found one particular section that appealed to us and will interest the Cladrite community, too, we’re convinced.
It’s entitled The Greatest Year to…” and includes such categories as “The Greatest Year to Be a Newspaper Reader,” The Greatest Year to Go to Coney Island,” and “The Greatest Year to Be in the West Village,” among others.
Give it a look and if it piques your interest, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of the magazine.