This film is notable for being Jack Lemmon’s big-screen debut, and also for being way ahead of its time in terms of celebrity culture. In this romantic comedy, he plays film-maker Pete Sheppard, who, while filming in Central Park, NYC, meets Gladys Glover (Judy Holliday), a model who has just lost her job, and is considering leaving New York and going back to her home town. After their brief chat, Gladys decides to rent a billboard and put her name on it. Just her name, nothing else. Before long, she becomes a celebrity, although nobody is sure exactly what it is that she does, but she is invited on to tv chat shows, and even has the Air Force name a plane after her! Trouble is, that all of the stardom that she so craved and now has, causes friction between her and Pete, who have become friends, and harbour a deep affection for each other. Pete recognises the shallowness of her fame for what it is, but Gladys has trouble seeing past the fact that everybody finally knows who she is. She also has to cope with the unwanted attentions of Evan Adams III (Peter Lawford), a businessman who wants to get together with Gladys for his own nefarious ends.
The film is very enjoyable, and both Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon are great in their roles. There is real chemistry between them, and although they are divided by their opinions on Gladys’ fame, they are both very endearing. I kept rooting for them to get their act together, and for Gladys to realise what was important to her.
The storyline seems more relevant today than ever, highlighting as it does the nature of celebrity; people become famous for being famous, or they become stars because the public are told that they should like these people. What does Gladys actually do to get invited to give her opinions on a tv programme? Why does she deserve to have an Air Force plane named after her? In this day and age, it seems that people are always getting famous, despite not having any job, or indeed the talent and intelligence required for such a job.
However, this film is not a serious study – it’s a comedy and a very sweet and charming one. Jack Lemmon definitely had the likeability factor, and this film demonstrates that it was there for him right from the beginning. Judy Holliday is perfect also, and Peter Lawford is just fine as the horrible Evan.
Overall, definitely a film I would recommend!
Year of release: 1954
Director: George Cukor
Producer: Fred Kohlmar
Writer: Garson Kanin
Main cast: Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, Peter Lawford