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The Solid Gold Cadillac

The Solid Gold Cadillac(1956)

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teaser The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956)

The hit Broadway stage version of The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956), written by George S. Kaufman and Howard Teichmann, ran over 500 performances beginning in 1953 and starred the famed stage actress Josephine Hull. She was 67 when she took on the role, and she earned raves.

But when the Columbia Pictures film version was released in 1956, moviegoers instead saw 34-year-old Judy Holliday in the part. It turns out that the play as originally written had actually called for a much younger actress, but it was rewritten to suit Hull; screenwriter Abe Burrows simply changed things back to the original conception.

Certainly Holliday was already as famous as Hull, a grande dame of the stage who had also left her mark in Hollywood with memorable performances in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and Harvey (1950). Holliday had scored big on Broadway with Born Yesterday and recreated that role to astonishing success in the movie version. In fact, Hull and Holliday both won their only Oscars® in the very same year, with Holliday taking Best Actress for Born Yesterday (1950) and Hull nabbing Best Supporting Actress for Harvey. With Jose Ferrer winning Best Actor for Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), another stage adaptation, and All About Eve (1950), perhaps the best movie about theater ever made, winning the rest of the major awards including Best Picture, it was definitely a Broadway-themed Oscar®: night. And just to hammer home the point, the greatest movie about Hollywood ever made, Sunset Blvd. (1950), lost the Best Picture award that same evening.

In The Solid Gold Cadillac, a corporate satire, Holliday's comedic abilities are aptly displayed. She plays a dizzy blonde who owns ten shares of stock in a major company and basically serves the profiteering board members their comeuppance. Paul Douglas co-stars as the former head of the company who joins forces with Holliday; a romantic subplot between the two was added for the movie. The stars' chemistry was a known commodity, as they had already worked together a few years earlier on stage in Born Yesterday. Narrating the movie from off-screen is George Burns, a job held by Fred Allen on Broadway.

Critics loved The Solid Gold Cadillac. The New York Times raved that "[Holliday] is knocking the role completely dead... She's an actress who has the ability to move mountains." Variety noted that the production "achieves a plushy look without the use of color or big-screen assists" (though there is a color sequence at the end). Indeed, that "look" landed an Oscar nomination for Best Black-and-White Art Direction, though the movie won only for Best Black-and-White Costume Design.

Producer: Fred Kohlmar
Director: Richard Quine
Screenplay: Abe Burrows, George S. Kaufman (play), Howard Teichmann (play)
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Film Editing: Charles Nelson
Art Direction: Ross Bellah
Music: Cyril J. Mockridge
Cast: Judy Holliday (Laura Partridge), Paul Douglas (Edward L. McKeever), Fred Clark (Clifford Snell), John Williams (John T. Blessington), Hiram Sherman (Harry Harkness), Neva Patterson (Amelia Shotgraven).

by Jeremy Arnold

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