Film Flick: Holiday

Friday, December 23, 2016

We're continuing a holiday tradition on Never Fully Dressed by sharing some classic holiday films. Some might be institutions in your home this time of year; others might be delightful new friends, but they're all sure to impart some the season's spirit and sense of fun. Consider it my way of wishing you and yours nothing but the Happiest New Year.  

Holiday is indeed a holiday film, though not a Christmas movie. Rather, much of the story revolves
around New Year's and that 1930s standard symbol for glamour- a New Year Eve party.

When Cary Grant's character, Johnny Case, takes his first holiday, he meets and falls in love with Julia Seton (Doris Nolan). In a whirl-wind - and off-screen- romance, he proposes. Now all that's left to do is meet the girl's family. Easier said than done. The family runs in a different circle than Johnny- in fact, they're Old Money and not too keen to be impressed by Johnny's "commoner" background. The family does include some allies- A drunken brother is played with a surprising blend of sensitivity and comedy by Lew Aryes, and there's also Julia's sister, Linda, played Katherine Hepburn (one guess as to who is the real leading lady here). In fact, Linda is something of a kindred spirit to Johnny, and soon finds herself in love with both Johnny and what he represents to her- living life in one's own way.
For a screwball comedy, Holiday contains some surprisingly sophisticated relationships, including a very loving one between sisters who don't really understand each other, and the father's with each child. All of these relationships will be put to the test- especially Johnny and Julia's- when it becomes clear that the father and bride-to-be want Johnny to take a position in the family business, but all the man himself wants is to take a few years, now that he has saved enough, to explore the world and find himself!

This remake was directed by George Cukor, and the famed "women's director" might account for the nuanced performances and complex relationships. The story had been seen several of iterations before this though. The original film was made in 1930, with the same actor, Edward Everett Horton, playing the father. Before that, it was a play in 1928 with Katherine Hepburn understudying for the part she would portray 10 years later in this film.  She had also screen-tested with a scene from that same play in order to land her first film part, which shows she had many connections to the story! Interestingly though, Hepburn was not the only choice for the role- both Joan Bennett and Ginger Rogers were considered. Ultimately, the studio fell back on a pairing that they hoped would work, despite previous films being commercial failures.

This would be the third pairing of Katherine Hepburn with Cary Grant, and though their other films often get more praise, Holiday is worth watching. Grant plays things mostly straight here, but Hepburn is also more restrained, not such a caricature of the flighty, intellectual socialite she often portrayed in earlier films. There is a delicacy and sensitivity to her Linda that makes the comedy, when it comes, all the more sweet. Their usual chemistry shines through, especially in the their first meeting when she jokes about looking like a toy giraffe or when playing at being acrobats at a party. Perhaps another reason for the more restrained performance was the fact that the character Linda Seton was based on a real life person- Gertrude Sanford Legendre, a former débutante who left high society to become a big-game hunter and later a spy for the OSS during WWI.

Still, don't mistake this nuance in acting as a sign the film is maudlin or a serious venture. It is a fun and funny film with a lot of zingers like, "When I find myself in a position like this, I ask myself what would General Motors do?- And then I do the opposite!" With its message of taking off time from viable work to "find yourself", it should be of little surprise that the film was not a financial success, but you may find you have more luck with it today. This would be a fun film to ring in the New Year with- or to watch through out the year, anytime you need a little Holiday.



  1. Quite interesting..Liked it. keep sharing interesting post. Thanks.

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  2. I don't think I've seen this one, but the movie sounds fantastic!

  3. I love these old films! Especially holiday! Today is a great time to get into watching them again! xo -l


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