- June 15, 1938
- George Cukor
- Katharine Hepburn
- Cary Grant
- Doris Nolan
- Lew Ayres
- Edward Everett Horton
- Henry Kolker
- Jean Dixon
- Binnie Barnes
- Henry Daniell
Social satire wrapped inside a romantic comedy.
Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, one of the greatest pairings of Hollywood superstars. And in George Cukor’s social satire/romance ‘Holiday’ we get the middle of a trilogy of Grant/Hepburn pairings. A classic film about the differences and ultimately the similarities between the very rich (at least some of them) and the rest of us.
It took years before Grant could be called an “actor”, in fact I think Hitchcock helped bring out the best of him. Back in 1938, Cary Grant was still getting his footing. We’d have to settle for him simply being a Movie Star. As free-thinker and charming Johnny Case, Grant could play off of all his strengths–his charisma, good looks, physicality, and great sense of comedy.
Katharine Hepburn, however, was not just a Movie Star she was a great actress, right from the start. Many consider her mannerisms and “Mid-Atlantic” speech as over-dramatic. For me that’s part of her charm. Hepburn can easily win over the audience and just as easily gain empathy for her character. As not-so spoiled but very rich Linda Seton, Hepburn shines, a role perfectly suited to her.
Johnny meets and quickly falls for Julia, Linda’s sister, on a holiday (his first!). They impetuously get engaged and return to the city to announce their intent.
Linda instantly gets behind this marriage idea. Mostly, we sense, because Linda’s become smitten with Johnny. But, Johnny has a more of a challenge convincing Julia’s father, the businessman millionaire Edward Seton.
It is clearly demonstrated in this film adaptation of the stage play that the rich are not like the rest. They value money above all else, including love, loyalty, and happiness. In their world someone like Johnny seems alien. Only Linda sees Johnny as a kindred spirit. Someone looking to leave the monotony of the daily grind and pursue the things that really matter–to explore life before life becomes a burden, an inescapable routine.
Much of the comedy comes from Hepburn and Grant’s quick and playful sparring. And from Johnny’s surrogate parents, Professor Nick and Susan Potter. Adding Ned Seton, Julia and Linda’s lush brother, into the mix gives the audience plenty to root for and plenty to laugh along with. These five “misfits” are the perfect antidote for the stuffy and pompous wealthy on display.
As the wedding plans are made, the plot seems to unravel in a predictable fashion. But we are no less entertained. These characters are fascinating studies of both a time long past (over 75 years ago) and somehow still strangely familiar. We embrace Johnny, Linda, Ned, Nick and Susan’s whimsical observations of the “other” class vs the “real” world. We also relate and see the same disconnect in today’s world.
If one doesn’t know what living from paycheck to paycheck feels like, one doesn’t understand our dreams. If you don’t have money to value, one doesn’t grow up to value it.
Of course we cheer for Johnny and Linda. With a relaxed an easy going rapport, they almost complete each other’s jokes. And they are ever so “pretty”.
George Cukor is not afraid of controversial subject matter, having directed so many serious and intense dramas in his long career. But here he mostly plays it safe. ‘Holiday’ is a light and comedy filled romance–the commentary on the class differences and any tension between then (however significant) is mostly played for laughs. The tragedy of this subject is to be reserved for other films (like ‘My Man Godfrey’ and Capra’s ‘You Can’t Take It With You’).
We get some great scenes, the engagement party away from the engagement party is a highlight. This band of misfits sees fit have their own party, Linda’s party. They have it in an upstairs playroom separate from all the pomp and circumstance below. Quick clever joking, some wonderful physical comedy, and lots of biting humor. And Linda quite painfully lamenting on the divided between freedom and the acquisition of money.
Lew Ayres, as Ned, does a great job of showing the inner turmoil of both hating and needing his father’s wealth and what it’s done to his “dreams”. Using alcohol quite freely to dull the pain. Maybe too lightly portrayed, as though alcoholism could be “funny”. Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon do a great job as Nick and Susan Potter. Playing these larger than life characters as typical middle class–putting happiness first and, along with Johnny, living a carefree life.
Henry Kolker as the domineering Edward Seton and Doris Nolan as Julia don’t really get a fair shake. Their roles are meant as caricatures, not as real people. We are not meant to understand nor relate to them. Henry Daniell, the great snobbish villain of so many classic films, makes a small appearance as you guessed it, a snobbish villain–cousin Seton Cram.
This was 1938, Hitler hadn’t yet invaded Poland. The world was a much simpler place. There’s a “Nazi” joke at the expense of cousin Seton Cram and his wife that might have seemed funny back then, but now seems wholly inappropriate. And at least one “Yes Masser” joke is put in someplace, as well. It was a different world.
It’s completely dated, melodramatic and, at times, down right silly. But ‘Holiday’ is also great fun, poignant towards our modern world of one percenters, full of brilliant biting dialog, and a showcase for one of the best on-screen couples, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Recommended.
Aspect Ratio: 1.33 : 1
MPAA Rating: Approved
Length: 95 minutes