Born Yesterday (play)

Born Yesterday is a play written by Garson Kanin which premiered on Broadway in 1946, starring Judy Holliday as Billie Dawn. The play was adapted into a successful 1950 film of the same name.

Born Yesterday
Written byGarson Kanin
Date premieredFebruary 4, 1946 (1946-02-04)
Place premieredLyceum Theatre
New York City
Original languageEnglish
SettingWashington, DC. September 1946.


An uncouth, corrupt rich junk dealer, Harry Brock, brings his showgirl mistress Billie Dawn with him to Washington, D.C. When Billie's ignorance becomes a liability to Brock's business dealings, he hires a journalist, Paul Verrall, to educate his girlfriend. In the process of learning, Billie Dawn realizes how corrupt Harry is and begins interfering with his plans to bribe a Congressman into passing legislation that would allow Brock's business to make more money.


1946 Original Broadway

Born Yesterday opened on February 4, 1946 on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre[1] and ran there until November 6, 1948; the play transferred to Henry Miller's Theatre on November 9, 1948 and closed on December 31, 1949, after a total of 1642 performances.[2] It remains the seventh longest-running non-musical play in Broadway history.[3] Judy Holliday starred as Billie, with Paul Douglas as Harry Brock and Gary Merrill as Paul Verrall. Written and directed by Garson Kanin, the scenic design was by Donald Oenslager and costume design by Ruth Kanin.[4] Jean Arthur was originally hired to play Billie but left during tryouts.[5]

For his performance as Harry Brock, Paul Douglas was awarded the 1946 Clarence Derwent Award for the most promising male performance.[6]

Original Broadway cast

Judy Holliday stayed in the role of Billie Dawn for over 1,200 performances.[7] Replacements included Jean Hagen and Jan Sterling.

Revival by the Negro Drama Group in 1953–54

A production mounted by the Negro Drama Group at Broadway's President Theatre, starring Edna Mae Robinson as Billie Dawn, Powell Lindsay as Harry Brock and Henry Scott as Paul Verrall, was given a full review in The New York Times on January 1, 1954, with the theatre critic (signature L. C.) mentioning that "...Mrs. Robinson is in private life the wife of Sugar Ray Robinson, the former welterweight and middleweight champion of the world" and that she " possessed of a natural flair for comedy. With some judicious direction she could go a long way toward achieving spectacular success in the theatre."[8]

Watergate Era

According to theatre scholar Jordan Schildcrout, the Watergate scandal brought renewed interest in Born Yesterday, with a surge of productions in the early 1970s starring Betty Grable, Sandy Dennis, Chita Rivera, and Karen Valentine at major regional theatres, as well as Lynn Redgrave in a London revival directed by Tom Stoppard.[9] The critic Michael Billington noted, "With the Watergate scandal coming to a head, the play suddenly seems as fresh and relevant as the day it was written."[10] Kanin himself later asserted, "When the play was written it was a fable, but after Watergate it became a documentary."[11]

1989 Broadway revival

The play was revived on Broadway in 1989. It opened at the 46th Street Theatre in previews on January 18, 1989, officially on January 29, 1989,[12] and closed on June 11, 1989 after 153 performances.[13] It was directed by Josephine R. Abady and starred Edward Asner and Madeline Kahn,[12] who received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play.[14]

1989 revival cast

Source:New York Times[12]

2011 Broadway revival

The second Broadway revival opened at the Cort Theatre for previews 31 March 2011, performances began on April 24, 2011. The show closed on 26 June 2011 after 28 previews and 73 performances. Produced by Frankie Grande and directed by Doug Hughes, the play starred Jim Belushi as Harry Brock, Nina Arianda as Billie Dawn and Robert Sean Leonard as Paul Verrall.[15]

The 2011 revival was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play and Best Costume Design of a Play (Catherine Zuber).[16]

2011 revival cast
  • Jim Belushi as Harry Brock
  • Nina Arianda as Billie Dawn
  • Frank Wood as Ed Devery
  • Robert Sean Leonard as Paul Verrall
  • Michael McGrath as Eddie Brock
  • Liv Rooth as A Manicurist
  • Patricia Hodges as Mrs. Hedges
  • Jennifer Regan as Helen, a maid
  • Fred Arsenault as Bellhop #1
  • Danny Rutigliano as Bellhop #2/Bootblack
  • Bill Christ as A Bellhop #3/Barber
  • Andrew Weems as The Assistant Manager
  • Terry Beaver as Senator Norval Hedges

Film adaptations

The 1950 film adaptation, made by Columbia Pictures with direction by George Cukor starred Judy Holliday and William Holden.[17] A 1993 remake directed by Luis Mandoki and released through Buena Vista Pictures, starred Melanie Griffith as Billie Dawn and 'updated' the plot.[18]


  1. Nichols, Lewis "The Play In Review; 'Born Yesterday,' Comedy at Lyceum, Shows Political Slant" New York Times (abstract), February 5, 1946, p. 30
  2. Calta, Louis."'Born Yesterday' To End Run Dec. 31; Kanin Comedy, on Boards Since 46, Will Leave Local Scene After 1,642 Performances" New York Times (abstract), December 24, 1949, p. 10
  3. Schildcrout, Jordan (2019). In the Long Run: A Cultural History of Broadway's Hit Plays. New York and London: Routledge. p. 87. ISBN 978-0367210908.
  4. Born Yesterday, 1946 Internet Broadway Database, accessed June 16, 2011
  5. Bordman, Gerald Martin and Hischak Thomas S. "Born Yesterday" The Oxford Companion to American Theatre, Oxford University Press US, 2004, ISBN 0-19-516986-7, p. 86
  6. "The Clarence Derwent Award, 1946" Archived 2010-10-25 at the Wayback Machine, accessed June 18, 2011
  7. Schildcrout, p. 91.
  8. L. C. (January 1, 1954). "AT THE THEATRE / Garson Kanin's 'Born Yesterday' Is Revived Here by Negro Troop Led by Edna Mae Robinson". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  9. Schildcrout, Jordan (2019). In the Long Run: A Cultural History of Broadway's Hit Plays. New York and London: Routledge. p. 95. ISBN 978-0367210908.
  10. Billington, Michael (21 April 1973). "Review: Born Yesterday". The Guardian.
  11. Kennedy, Eugene (21 February 1988). "Born Yesterday Reborn in Chicago". New York Times.
  12. Rich, Frank."Review/Theater; Right-Thinking Ingenuousness Cleans Up a Nation" New York Times, January 30, 1989
  13. "'Born Yesterday' Closing" New York Times, June 10, 1989
  14. Born Yesterday, 1989 Internet Broadway Database, accessed June 16, 2011
  15. Jones, Kenneth."A New Dawn for Billie: 'Born Yesterday', With Nina Arianda, Robert Sean Leonard, Jim Belushi, Opens" Archived July 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, April 24, 2011
  16. Jones, Kenneth and Gans, Andrew."2011 Tony Nominations Announced; Book of Mormon Earns 14 Nominations" Archived September 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, May 3, 2011
  17. "'Born Yesterday', 1950", accessed June 18, 2011
  18. "'Born Yesterday', 1993" Internet Movie Database, accessed June 18, 2011
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