It Should Happen to You (1954)- Comedy with Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Take for instance It Should Happen to You(1954). One day, Gladys Glover (Judy Holliday) decides she would like her name plastered on one of New York City's billboards for no reason. She wants to enjoy fame and feel important, but not for anything noteworthy.

This plot was filmed over half a century ago, yet it could have been ripped out of today’s magazines.
Her would-be boyfriend Pete Shepherd (Jack Lemmon) argues with her about wasting time and money, but Gladys soldiers on with her plan.

Through a series of convoluted plot points, she ends up with, not one, but several billboards. She also gains the attention of a wealthy love interest in the form of Peter Lawford. Lemmon's character is further frustrated by this turn of events.
Holliday and Lawford
Though the Lemmon-Holliday-Lawford triangle is interesting, this is mostly a film about the love of celebrity. Gladys' 15 minutes of fame is stretched to much more than that as we follow a woman who longs to be well-known for nothing. After placing her name on billboards, Gladys garners endorsement deals and speaking engagements.

[There is even a scene where our heroine shares a guest spot on a prominent talk show with other elite females. It's like watching a prototype for more recent television talk shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show or The View. ]

Lemmon and Holliday

Pete tries to reason with Gladys. “Usually people want their name to stand for something,” he says. He’s right; we share in his frustration over people being awarded for doing nothing.

Gladys counters, “… different people do different things that may seem crazy to other different people but that doesn’t make it…. And furthermore, do me a favor and butt out!” Gladys is also correct. It’s her money, her life. The lady may live as she pleases.

In real life, Lemmon's fame would soon be on the rise. But he, like most successful people, did not achieve acclaim overnight. It Should Happen to You was his film debut. In the forward for Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian, the actor describes getting advice from Lloyd for working in movies:
Harold was not the kind of man who would give unsolicited advice. However, if one asked him, he was more than willing. Although I had had experience before cameras in live television, I had no motion picture experience at the time. I remember discussing film acting with him while I was in rehearsals for my first film, George Cukor's It Should Happen to You (1954). His advice was: "Less is better." It was excellent advice for a fledgling film actor.

I played opposite the incomparable Judy Holliday, and the film contains a scene where I have an enormous argument with her, make an exit, slam the door, and then open the door immediately and say: "So, are we still on for Friday lunch?" She responds: "Certainly." I say: "Thank you very much!" and slam the door again. It is a wonderful scene that really lets out all the stops. While filming the scene, in the back of my mind I was thinking: "Less is better." However, I think I was trying to do two things at once: play the scene fully and pay attention to his sage advice.

Fortunately for me, the film and my performance received good reviews, but I was anxious to get Harold's reaction. When I saw him next, I asked him if he happened to see the film. He said: "Yes, I did. I loved it. I especially like you and your work." I was delighted, as Harold was not the kind of person to say something like that just to be polite. I said to him: "About the one big scene, where I blow up, make the false exit, come back and leave..." "Yes," he said. "I tried not to go overboard and do too much. What do you think?" He smiled and said: "Close, wasn't it?" And he just looked at me. And from that day I tried desperately not to give in to overplaying, no matter how right it may feel at the moment. Less is indeed always better.

What a dedicated performer.

It Should Happen to You is a film about notoriety - who should have it and for what reason. The film does not fully flesh out the topic of fame, but it does satirize the concept of instant celebrity.


  1. Some people would say that "It Should Happen to You" was ahead of its time, but we know that the truth is that people haven't changed all that much. So much fun to watch Judy and Jack.

  2. Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon make a great comic pair. I just watched their other movie together - PHFFFT!(1954).

    I had a good laugh imagining people buying tickets at the box office and having to pronounce that title. Unfortunately, you cannot really say it without spraying the person in front of you. The window at the ticket takers' booth must have needed lots of cleaning after this one.


  3. You're right about this movie being as timely today as it was then.

    Judy Holliday is always a treat, isn't she?

  4. Silver Screenings,

    Yes she is! If Judy Holliday likes someone, the audience likes him as well. In this movie, Jack Lemmon argues with her a lot, which can be very irritating. But somehow, Ms. Holliday makes everything ok.

    - Java


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