Judy Holliday (Judith Tuvim)

Judy Holliday

Judy Holliday was born Judith Tuvim (Hebrew: tovim means good, Yiddish: yomtoyvim means holidays, lit. “good days”) in New York City, she was the only child of Abe Tuvim and Helen (née Gollomb) Tuvim, who were both of Russian Jewish descent. Her father was the Executive Director of the Foundation for the Jewish National Fund of America (1951-1958, his death from cancer). She grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, New York and graduated from Julia Richman High School. Her mother was previously divorced. Holliday’s first job was as an assistant switchboard operator at the Mercury Theatre run by Orson Welles and John Houseman. Holliday reportedly had an IQ of 172. Judy Holliday began her show business career in 1938 as part of a night-club act called “The Revuers.” The other four members of the group were Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Alvin Hammer and John Frank. The Revuers played engagements at various New York night clubs including the Village Vanguard, Spivy’s Roof, Blue Angel, Rainbow Room, and Trocadero in Hollywood, California. The group disbanded in early 1944. In 1944, she played a small, but noticeable role as an airman’s wife in the Twentieth Century Fox film version of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ hit play Winged Victory. She did not appear in the stage version, which toured the U.S. both before and after production of the film. Holliday made her Broadway debut on March 20, 1945 at the Belasco Theatre in Kiss Them for Me and was one of the recipients that year of the Clarence Derwent Award.

In 1946, she returned to Broadway as the scatterbrained Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday. Author Garson Kanin wrote the play for Jean Arthur, who played the role of Billie out-of-town but left the role for personal reasons. Kanin then selected Holliday, two decades Arthur’s junior, as her replacement. In his book Tracy and Hepburn (1971), Kanin mentions that when Columbia bought the rights to the film Born Yesterday, studio boss Harry Cohn would not consider casting the Hollywood-unknown. Kanin, along with George Cukor, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn conspired to promote Judy Holliday by offering her a key part in the 1949 film Adam’s Rib. She received rave reviews for her performance in Born Yesterday on Broadway, and Cohn offered her the chance to repeat her role for the film version, but only after she did a screen test (which at first was used only as a “benchmark against which to evaluate” other actresses being considered for the role). She won the first Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and at the 23rd Academy Awards, Holliday won the Academy Award for Best Actress, defeating Gloria Swanson, nominated for Sunset Boulevard, Eleanor Parker, for Caged, and Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, both for All About Eve. In 1954, she starred opposite then-newcomer Jack Lemmon in his first two feature films, the popular comedies It Should Happen to You and Phffft! Bernard Dick summed up Holliday’s acting: “Perhaps the most important aspect of the Judy Holliday persona, both in variations of Billie Dawn and in her roles as housewife, is her vulnerability…her ability to shift her mood quickly from comic to serious is one of her greatest technical gifts.” George Cukor said Judy Holliday had, “In common with the great comedians …that depth of emotion, that unexpectedly touching emotion, that thing which would unexpectedly touch your heart.”

In 1956 she starred in the film version of The Solid Gold Cadillac. In October 1960, Judy Holliday started out-of-town tryouts on the play Laurette based on the life of Laurette Taylor. The show was directed by José Quintero with background music by Elmer Bernstein and produced by Alan Pakula. When Holliday became ill and had to leave the show it closed in Philadelphia without opening on Broadway. She had throat surgery shortly after leaving the production in October 1960. Her last role was in the stage musical Hot Spot, co-starring newcomers such as Joseph Campanella and Mary Louise Wilson, which closed after 43 performances on May 25, 1963. Judy Holliday died from breast cancer on June 7, 1965 at age 43. She was interred in the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Holliday has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Blvd.

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Born

  • June, 21, 1921
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Died

  • June, 07, 1965
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Cause of Death

  • breast cancer

Cemetery

  • Westchester Hills Cemetery
  • Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
  • USA

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