Holiday (1938)

Eighty-three years ago today, the film Holiday premiered. Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and George Cukor are the sure-fire ingredients to making a wonderful movie. I learned of this film after falling in love with The Philadelphia Story, then investigating other films that George Cukor. You have to watch this film.

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Title: Holiday
Directed by: George Cukor
Produced by: Everett Riskin
Screenplay by: Donald Ogden Stewart, Sidney Buchman
Based on: Holiday 1928 play by Philip Barry
Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Lew Ayres, Doris Nolan
Music by: Sidney Cutner
Cinematography: Franz Planer
Edited by: Al Clark, Otto Meyer
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release date: June 15, 1938 (US)
Running time: 95 minutes

Jonathan “Johnny” Case (Cary Grant), a self-made man who has worked all his life, is about to marry Julia Seton (Doris Nolan), whom he met while on holiday in Lake Placid, New York. He knows very little about his bride-to-be, and is surprised to learn that she is from an extremely wealthy family, the youngest daughter of banker Edward Seton (Henry Kolker).

Then Johnny meets Julia’s vivacious elder sister, Linda (Katharine Hepburn), to whom he confides his plan to take a long holiday from work to find the meaning of life. He also meets the sisters’ younger brother, Ned Jr (Lew Ayres), an alcoholic whose spirit has been broken by subservience to their father. At first Julia’s father is stunned when she tells him her plan to marry Johnny, but is appeased after meeting Johnny and looking into his work history. Edward Sr. plans an elaborate New Year’s Eve engagement party, even though Julia had promised Linda that she, Linda, could throw a smaller party for Johnny and herself, one that would include only close friends.

On New Year’s Eve, upset that she did not get to throw the engagement party she was promised, Linda refuses to come downstairs. Julia sends Johnny to get her, and he finds her and Ned in “the playroom”, the one truly human room in the enormous and over-built Park Avenue mansion. They are with Johnny’s off-beat friends, Professor Nick Potter (Edward Everett Horton) and his wife Susan (Jean Dixon), who had gotten lost in the house and serendipitously ended up there. The group spends a joyful time together, and Julia and Edward Sr. find them just as Johnny and Linda are completing a tumbling trick.

Holiday 003Mr. Seton later offers Johnny a job at his bank, and Johnny reveals his plans for a holiday from work. Julia is appalled that her boyfriend had said no to her father. After seeing in the New Year with Linda, and the announcement of the engagement to the assembled guests, Johnny tries to kiss Linda. She kindly rebuffs Johnny, reminding him that she will soon be his sister-in-law. Johnny leaves the mansion in a dark mood without saying goodbye to the family, although wishing the kitchen staff a Happy New Year as he goes. Linda tells her brother that she has fallen in love with Johnny but, because of her love towards her younger sister, she will keep her feelings to herself.

Hoping to patch things up between Johnny and Julia, Linda visits the Potters, and finds them packing for a voyage to Europe. They tell her that Johnny is planning to go as well, and that he has asked Julia to go with them. A telegram arrives, informing them that Julia has turned him down. Linda returns home, hoping to change her sister’s mind, but they argue instead. Julia is certain that Johnny will give up his plans and return to her. Just then Johnny arrives with a compromise: He will work at the bank for two years, but will quit then if he is unhappy.

Mr. Seton accepts this, and Julia and he begin planning the couple’s honeymoon in minute detail, mixing together stops at the homes of relatives with business-related matter. They discuss hiring servants to work in Julia and Johnny’s new home, which he also just finds out about. This makes Johnny realize that Julia and Edward Sr.’s plan won’t work, that marrying Julia on these terms will be more of an encumbrance on his freedom than he can abide. He begs Julia to marry him that evening, and travel to Europe with him. She says no. He leaves to meet the Potters and sail.

Linda sees from Julia’s reaction that she is relieved by Johnny’s decision. Linda makes Julia admit that she does not really love Johnny after all. With the way now clear, and inspired by Johnny, Linda renounces her father’s stifling influence and declares her independence. She asks Ned to go with her, and when he can’t, she promises to come back for him. Linda rushes off to meet Johnny and the Potters to go on holiday.

Meanwhile, the Potters arrive at the ship, saddened that Johnny had decided to take the job at the bank. Johnny surprises them, and explains that he couldn’t go through with it, and they cheerfully celebrate. Johnny is doing a back flip in the ship’s hallway when Linda arrives. Seeing her while in mid-handspring, Johnny falls on his stomach rather than finishing. As she greets the three of them Johnny takes her hand, pulls her to the floor, and they kiss.

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