Free-thinking Johnny Case finds himself betrothed to a millionaire's daughter. When her family, with the exception of black-sheep Linda and drunken Ned, want Johnny to settle down to big business, he rebels, wishing instead to spend the early years of his life on "holiday." With the help of his friends Nick and Susan Potter, he makes up his mind as to which is the better course, and the better mate.
Katharine Hepburn ... Linda Seton
Cary Grant ... John 'Johnny' Case
Doris Nolan ... Julia Seton
Lew Ayres ... Edward 'Ned' Seton
Edward Everett Horton ... Professor Nick Potter
Henry Kolker ... Edward Seton
Binnie Barnes ... Mrs. Laura 'The Witch' Cram
Jean Dixon ... Mrs. Susan Elliott Potter
Henry Daniell ... Seton 'Dopey' Cram
I just saw this incredible film for the third time. Unlike what most people comment about this movie, it is more than just "delightful" and "whimsical", or worst yet calling it a screwball comedy. If you call Holiday a screwball comedy, you may as well call It's A Wonderful Life the same thing. There are distinct parallels between these two groundbreaking works. Both deal with strong dreams being crushed. But in the case of Lew Ayres' character it is his "place" in society that stops him from becoming a serious composer. And though he comes from a wealthy family he does not have the freedom that many believe (falsely) to chose what he truly wishes to do. In a tightly-wound capitalistic society as ours, the obligations to continue the legacy of money-making overwhelms the individual's desire to create what many believe is frivolous artistry. What many of us, as well as his father, fail to realize is when this desire is crushed apathy sets in. This brings up the singularly amazing theme of this movie, a theme Philip Barry uses in many of his works, that a society that chases wealth without conscience, that suppresses truly individualistic idealism is a society of superficial, mean-spirited and back-biting people. The party scene in Holiday is a clear-eyed view of our society and how lost we are. Everyone talks down about others under their breath, than hypocritically smiles and fawns over these same people to insure their own place in society. Those who refuse to go along with this status quo are relegated, as Hepburn,Ayres,and the Professor and his wife are, to the childrens' playroom until they "grow-up" and accept things as they are. This films warms an audience with it's superficial whimsy, as "...Wonderful Life" did, yet can drive a cold stare with its slashing and often hurtful glances at how we are all relegated to the playroom of society if we express criticism of the narrow-mindenness and suffocating aspects of capitalism.
Holiday should be an important lesson to many of us on not just how important Life is, but shows us how much more important it is to grasp on to what truly makes it worth living.
Today, the world around us may be changing by leaps and bounds, but as this film so aptly illustrates, this is nothing new; the world has always been, and always will be, in a constant state of flux, from one generation to the next. In `Holiday,' a delightful romantic comedy directed by George Cukor, a young man of thirty has some decisions to make about his life and love that are going to determine the course of his life. After a whirlwind, ten day romance with Julia Seton (Doris Nolan), a girl he's just met, Johnny Case (Cary Grant) asks her to marry him; and she accepts. But the story really begins when he shows up at her house to meet her widowed father, Edward (Henry Kolker), to ask for Julia's hand in marriage.
This is not an early version of `Meet the Parents,' however; Johnny's a regular guy with a good job at an investment firm, and he's in love. All is going well; he's about to meet the family of the woman he loves, and he's made a decision about his life. And when he arrives at Julia's house, he makes some startling discoveries: First, she's filthy rich-- her house is so big he calls it a museum-- and she has a beautiful, spirited sister named Linda (Katharine Hepburn). But soon he'll be married to Julia, and if all goes right with a deal he's been working on for the firm, he'll also be able to follow through on his decision. If the deal at work goes through, it'll put some change in his pockets, which is all he wants; but not because it'll put him on the fast track to getting ahead with the company. He wants to make enough to get married and quit his job, so he can take a `holiday' while he's still young enough to enjoy it-- even if it only turns out to be three months or so-- and have some time to discover just where he fits into a world that's rapidly changing. Now all he has to do is explain it all to Julia. And to her father. And all while trying to deny the fact that he's attracted to Linda.
Cukor takes a lighthearted approach to this story, which keeps it upbeat and entertaining, and he laces it with warmth and humor that'll give you some laughs and put a smile on your face. But beyond all that, Cukor shows some real insight into human nature and the ways of the world. And it makes this film timeless. Consider Johnny's comments about how the world is changing, and wanting to find out for himself where he fits in; or the comment by one of Julia's cousins, Seton Cram (Henry Daniell)-- who is already wealthy, apparently, beyond all comprehension-- that there would be a lot of money to be made if only `The right government was in place.' To make this film today, you'd only have to change the dates on the calendar, shoot in color, substitute Norton for Grant, Danes for Hepburn and bring in Nora Ephron to direct.
But what really makes this one special are the performances of Grant and Hepburn. Grant is as charming as ever, but just a bit looser and slightly less debonair than he is in most of his later roles. And it becomes him; he endows Johnny with youthful exuberance, good looks and personality, as well as a carefree yet responsible attitude that makes him someone you can't help but like. And Hepburn fairly sparkles as Linda, a role she was born to play; this young woman filled with a zest for life and an indomitable spirit. She imbues Linda with that same, trademark Hepburn feistiness you'll find in so many of her characters in films like `The Philadelphia Story,' `Adam's Rib' and `The African Queen.' All of whom she plays with a variation that makes each of them unique. And it's that personal spark of life that she's able to transfer to her characters that makes Hepburn so special. Whether she's locking horns with Tracy, pouring Bogart's gin into the river or falling in live with Grant, nobody does it quite like Kate. And Cukor had an affinity for Hepburn that enabled him to bring out the best in her, always. Arguably, her best work was with Cukor.
The memorable supporting cast includes Lew Ayres (Ned), Edward Everett Horton (Nick), Binnie Barnes (Laura), Jean Dixon (Susan) and Mitchell Harris (Jennings). A thoroughly enjoyable film, `Holiday' makes a subtle statement about embracing the time you have and grabbing for the brass ring while you're still able; that in the end, life is what you make of it. But Cukor never lets it get too serious, and never lets you forget that the main thing here is to have some fun, beginning with this movie. And by the time it's over, the world seems just a little bit brighter somehow. And that's the magic of the movies.
This movie is one of my all time Hepburn and Grant favorites. It is truly a classic -- directed by George Cukor and written by Broadway playwright Philip Barry.
What really sets the film apart for me, as a comedy, is that the main characters are fully realized and complex. Cary Grant is Johnny, engaged to Hepburn's shallow, but socially acceptable sister. Hepburn's Linda is the black sheep of a vary ambitious, conceited family. It is her very humanity that makes her the "black sheep". She spends half of the movie in love with Johnny, but her respect for her sister and decency thwart her desires. Johnny wants to make his fortune as a young man, retire, and enjoy life. His fiancée attempts to control and manipulate him for her own ends and ambitions.
Edward Everett Horton is marvelous as one of Johnny's best friends. It is a warm and deep friendship.
As Johnny approaches the business deal that could leave him set for life, and marriage to a controlling woman conflict ensues.
I love the scene in the children's playroom -- it is witty and melancholy at the same time. There is a wonderful balance of drama, comedy, and heart in this movie. Don't miss it!
* Edward Everett Horton repeats the role of Nick Potter, which he also played in the previous version of the film, Holiday (1930).
* The screenwriter of this version of "Holiday", Donald Ogden Stewart, played the role of Nick Potter in the original Broadway production of the play.
* The play originally opened in New York City On 26 November 1928 and ran 229 performances.
* Katharine Hepburn understudied the role of Linda Seton (played by Hope Williams) in the original Broadway play. She also performed a scene from Holiday for her first screen test, which led to her first film role.
* Eighteen months before Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind (1939), Katharine Hepburn says "damned" in a Production Code-approved Hollywood movie. The occurrence isn't gratuitous: She's recounting her experience in amateur theatrics and, in camp style, performs a fragment of Lady MacBeth's "Out damned spot" sleepwalking line from Shakespeare.