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HOLIDAY (director: George Cukor; screenwriter: from the play by Philip Barry/Donald Ogden Stewart/Sidney Buchman; cinematographer: Franz Planer; editors: Al Clark/Otto Meyer; music: Sidney Cutner; cast: Katharine Hepburn (Linda Seton), Cary Grant (John ‘Johnny’ Case), Doris Nolan (Julia Seton), Lew Ayres (Edward ‘Ned’ Seton), Edward Everett Horton (Professor Nick Potter), Jean Dixon (Mrs. Susan Elliott Potter), Henry Kolker (Edward Seton), Binnie Barnes (Mrs. Laura ‘The Witch’ Cram), Henry Daniell (Seton ‘Dopey’ Cram); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Everett Riskin; Columbia Pictures; 1938)
“This is one of Grant’s best performances and one of the best film’s Cukor directed.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

George Cukor directs this delightful sophisticated romantic comedy about a self-made man who falls in love with a society heiress and at the last minute realizes that he loves her more down-to-earth sister. It’s based on the play by Philip Barry, who also wrote the play The Philadelphia Story which had the same director and stars; the animated script is written by Sidney Buchman and Donald Ogden Stewart. The latter starred in the Broadway play in the part played in the film by an effervescent Cary Grant (he even does cartwheels). This is one of Grant’s best performances and one of the best film’s Cukor directed.

After meeting at a ski lodge Johnny Case (Cary Grant) is invited to snobbish wealthy socialite Julia Seton’s Park Avenue mansion during the holiday season, where he meets her tipsy brother Ned (Lew Ayres), someone who is depressed because his father wouldn’t let him be a musician, and flamboyant younger liberal-minded sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn). The reactionary Julia’s plan is to announce their engagement at a New Year’s Eve party and marry by the tenth of January. The stodgy Mr. Seton (Henry Kolker), a banking tycoon, interviews the lad and is not impressed with his self-made journey of coming up the hard way from working-class parents, who both died when he was young, and how he worked his way through Harvard doing odd jobs until his present position as a financial wizard at a stock brokerage house. Though he is impressed by the favorable report he receives from his present boss and reluctantly agrees to the marriage plans when Julia insists. But at the engagement reception Case turns down her father’s offer of a banking position and the carefree suitor says he plans to retire at 30 and pursue only things that interest him.

The film, though lighthearted and weighing in heavily in favor of love as a reason for marriage rather than money matters, is more serious about telling of the drawbacks the privileged might have in fulfilling their dreams because they are not allowed to pursue them as they are pressured to maintain their place in society. Interestingly enough the sensitized brother and sister talk about lost hopes in the play room, where they both spent a happy childhood.

When Julia shows her stripes as a beautiful but dull woman, who only wants a cushy life and doesn’t see a greater thrill in the world than making money, in steps the loyal Linda who now feels free to pursue the man she’s crazy about. Linda’s a kindred spirit of Case’s, and joins him as he goes on a boat trip with his wryly comical professor friend Nick Potter (Edward Everett Horton) and his sweet wife (Jean Dixon).

This elegant film, played with a great sense for comedy and pathos, is in the same high class as The Philadelphia Story but has never received the same attention.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”