No this is not the Nancy Meyers Christmas classic, but the witty and perfectly nuanced romantic comedy directed by George Cukor and starring the beautiful and unique Katharine Hepburn and the always charming Cary Grant from 1938.
Sitting in a large lecture theatre at my American college I attended for a year, my professor told us he was about to show us his favourite film. I had never seen the film before but was more than familiar with this screen pairing. Having been made to watch The Philadelphia Story (1940) countless times by my mother (her favourite film) and loving Bringing up Baby (1938) ever since I discovered you could watch it for free on YouTube (I don’t think you can any more sadly) I was certain this film was going to be an absolute delight; And it was. From start to finish I was laughing and crying and generally falling for this film. Whilst the jocks and uber-tanned girls took this class for an easy A grade, I was there for moments such as that one, despite any embarrassment caused at the end of the screening when I could hear people whispering “did you see that weird British chick that was crying?!”
HOLIDAY is a thoughtful, almost philosophical story about Johnny Case (Grant) who becomes engaged to wealthy Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) 10 days after meeting her on vacation at Lake Placid. He meets the family to discover they are very wealthy with a bunch of personal problems. He confides in Julia’s sister Linda (Hepburn) about his dreams to make enough money to quit work and take an extended holiday to think things over (basically to ‘find himself’). Linda is a bit of an outcast in the family herself. She, like Johnny, has always disliked wealth and the frivolous lifestyle it creates. It becomes clearer as the film goes on that Linda and Johnny, despite their different upbringings, are two of the same and although they understand the grand potential of his scheme, he has a harder time convincing his fiancée and their father the viability of the plan. He may be able to achieve his goal sooner than planned as a financial deal pays off. Julia, who doesn’t agree with or understand this plan, doesn’t believe Johnny will go through with it, but Linda tries to convince her that he will and should and that she should go with him. Johnny may come to his own realizations concerning if and if so where he really does fit within the Seton family.
I shan’t give away the ending for those who have yet to see this Cukor classic, but you can guarantee it’s a happy one.
Cary Grant’s charisma is electric in this film. He back-flips onto our screens (literally, Grant was in the circus as a teen) and gives everything you would expect as the chirpy yet thoughtful Johnny. The chemistry between himself and Hepburn is wonderful as always. Her quick and often sharp tongue works wonderfully for the role of Linda, a role in which she understudied on Broadway, although only got to perform once. You can feel their comfortableness together when they are in the playroom examining all of the toys of the Seton children’s past.
Although the film is a critical victory, the film was not a box office success and it is believed this is due to the movie’s content. American’s loved watching films about the rich and how they went about their lives, however, the film came out at the end of the depression, a time when America was still in deep financial turmoil. Viewers resented the fact that Johnny turned down a position to work with Linda and Julia’s father and wanted to give up his job to go on a holiday. This was a time in when pragmatism was the preferred way of thinking and so this plot was not seen highly by many. Hepburn also was still considered ‘box office poison’ and would continue to be thought of as such until the 1940 smash which reunited her and Grant, A Philadelphia Story.
I truly love this film, the performances are beautiful, and although lost on a 1930s American audience, the idea of truly knowing yourself before you commit to life is something I can believe in, which makes this film still very relevant today.