Holiday (1938)    2 Stars

“If you had a million… which sister would you pick to spend it with?”

Holiday (1938)
Holiday (1938)

Director: George Cukor

Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan

Synopsis: 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.







Cary Grant (North by Northwest, The Grass is Greener) is Jonny Case, a free spirit who wants to take all his days off in the earlier stages of his life rather than the later ones. He’s engaged to be married to Julia Seton (Doris Nolan), whose unsuitability as a prospective spouse only becomes apparent when we meet Julia’s sister, Linda (Katharine Hepburn – The Little Minister, Bringing Up Baby). Linda’s a free spirit like Jonny, but she’s an example of what happens to such a spirit when its constrained by the weight of social expectations. The Setons are a wealthy family, and have acquired a position in society thanks to their contacts in the finance industry. Dismayed by his drunken son’s (Lew Ayres – All Quiet on the Western Front, Damien: Omen II) lassitude towards his position within the family business, Edwin Seton (Henry Kolker – Abraham Lincoln, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) intends to ensure they maintain their position of influence through the marriage of his daughters to appropriate menfolk. Jonny might not seem to be an appropriate candidate, but despite his ambition to spend the prime years of his life on holiday he has a natural talent for making a killing on the stock market, so Seton welcomes him into the fold intending to persuade him, with Julia’s willing help, of the folly of a life of… well… folly.

Back in the 1930s, characters played by leading ladies couldn’t be shown to have mental frailties, even if they were played by Hepburn, whose natural delivery always seemed to hint at such psychological complexities lurking close to the surface, which is why we have her wretched alcoholic brother Ned, who drinks to cope with a life role that prevents him from pursuing the musical career of which he dreams. Ayres makes a fairly convincing drunk at a time when alcoholics were usually depicted as figures of fun, but his character is in a hopeless position which the movie never resolves (other than to suggest that he will one day break the father-son binds that are slowly choking him).

The tragic situation of the Seton siblings at the heart of Holiday makes uneasy material for a so-called screwball comedy, but Grant and Hepburn, both hot off the success of Bringing Up Baby, make an attractive couple. Their mutual attraction is made all the more appealing by the fact that it remains unspoken for much of the picture, and the likeability of both Grant and the character he plays has the audience rooting for him to kick the materialistic Julie into touch.

(Reviewed 30th November 2014)

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