Holiday (1938)

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  • directed by George Cukor
  • starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horten, Jean Dixon, Henry Kolker
  • A young man falls in love with a girl from a rich family. His unorthodox plan to go on holiday for the early years of his life is met with skepticism by everyone except for his fiancée’s eccentric sister and long suffering brother.

“You’ve got no faith in Johnny, have you, Julia? His little dream may fall flat, you think. Well, so it may, what if it should? There’ll be another. Oh, I’ve got all the faith in the world in Johnny. Whatever he does is all right with me. If he wants to dream for a while, he can dream for a while, and if he wants to come back and sell peanuts, oh, how I’ll believe in those peanuts!”

Box office poison was the label carried by Katherine Hepburn for the three or four years leading up to 1938. There’d been a string of poorly received films on top of her prickly public persona, as well as a lot of opining by society on things like her unconventional fashion choices, her “boyish behavior,” and her perceived inability to bring the traditional level of sexual charm to her work as a typical Hollywood leading lady. But 1938 represented something of a transition year, and a career revival would take place starting with her two films this year, as well as Philadelphia Story and Woman of the Year, in 1940 and 1942 respectively.

Now I don’t know if it’s just that I’m 70+ years removed from the tabloids at the time, but I had no problem with Hepburn here whatsoever and the chemistry between her and Cary Grant was as good as it gets. It was the supporting cast, though, that I enjoyed the most. Johnny’s friends Mr. and Mrs. Popper were not only hilarious throughout the entire party scene, but they served an important purpose in driving home the differences between Johnny and this new world of his without even needing him on screen. Just like You Can’t Take It With You, the film’s characters can be separated into two groups: those that thrive on business and social pretense and those that yearn for life outside of the workplace and would rather party with their actual friends, not the almighty Ambassador to so and so. The first character I’ve encountered so far that has been stuck straddling that line, and did so in such a funny and personable way was Ned Seton. He belongs alongside Linda and Johnny and the Potters and has a lot of musical potential being squandered, but he’s in the family business too deep and, for reasons we aren’t quite sure of, can’t stomach to disappoint his closed-minded father aside from drinking himself silly at all times. If Linda can look out for herself and get away with being such a black sheep, why can’t he have a slice of that freedom? I haven’t said too much about Cary Grant, so I’ll just say that his John Case was my kinda guy, dreaming of something more, not taking much of anything too seriously, and employing the funny trick of performing somersaults to distance himself mentally from stressful situations.

I liked this movie a lot because, though it ended with some sense of finality, I still have a ton of questions as to where everyone will end up going forward. There’s no reason to believe that Julia and Edward will have any kind of awakening as to what’s truly important in life, but can the duo of Linda and Johnny have influence on Ned in any way? The Setons disagree plenty, but they still come to the aid of each other and care deeply. It would be interesting to see a sequel and learn how the new couple fits in with the family dynamic. Holiday 2: Electric Boogaloo, anybody?

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About classixquest
all the things I should have seen

One Response to Holiday (1938)

  1. anon says:

    First!!

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