Holiday (1938)
Holiday (1938)

Genre: Romantic Comedy and Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: June 15th, 1938 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: George Cukor Actors: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horton, Henry Kolker, Binnie Barnes, Jean Dixon, Henry Daniell




ohnny Case (Cary Grant) rushes home after his ski vacation in Lake Placid to the household of good friends Professor Nick Potter (Edward Everett Horton) and his wife Susan (Jean Dixon). Despite Johnny’s best efforts to return to his waiting cab after dropping off his luggage, the Potters stall him long enough to interrogate him about his waiting, hot date – with a woman he met on holiday, whom he intends to marry. He doesn’t know a lot about her family, but his newfound love has the most adorable dimples.

Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) is the target of Johnny’s affections, a simple girl with simple parents and siblings. But when Case arrives at the Seton residence, he’s bewildered to discover that it’s an absolutely massive palace, full of staff members, hallways, elevators, grand staircases, marble floors, and glittering chandeliers hanging from the ceilings and walls. “It’s enormous! I’m overcome!” As it turns out, the Setons are ludicrously wealthy – and Johnny will be forced into becoming yet another financier in a long line of millionaire financiers. “You didn’t think it would be simple, did you?”

Of course, it’s entirely evident from the moment Nolan steps into frame that she’s not the right woman for Grant. So when the couple heads off to church, and are interrupted in the elevator by Julia’s sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn), the plot instantly thickens; hearts are bound to be broken, because Hepburn couldn’t be a better match for Grant. She’s the black sheep of the family, but she’s clearly charming, fun-loving, and brimming with energy. Just a few minutes of conversation between the two and it’s undeniable that their chemistry utterly eclipses that of Case’s intended bride. “It’s terribly important that she should marry the right person.”

“Holiday” is a character study of seeking approval, fitting into expectations, and keeping up appearances, all as elitists contest commoners (in attitude more than visual displays) – a comedy of manners fueled by fast-paced dialogue (wars of words), a hint of slapstick (Grant gets to exhibit a few of his acrobatic abilities), and plenty of sarcasm. While maintaining propriety and composure, there’s plenty of subtle humor to highlight the feigning of such attributes: Horton plays his usual wide-eyed, childish, clumsy sidekick; Lew Ayres is the browbeaten, drunken Seton brother, who offers up morsels of wisdom from time to time; and Hepburn excels in playful disobedience. After all, the stuffiness of New York royalty (epitomized by Binnie Barnes and Henry Daniell as pompous, cheerless, upper-crust relatives) demands comical mutiny. And Grant’s most endearing, complementary quality is to be himself – with confidence – and not bend to the wills of the hoity-toity. “There’s no such thrill in the world as making money.”

It’s difficult not to be enthralled by any Grant/Hepburn vehicle, though “Holiday” doesn’t possess quite the same hilarity or drama as “Bringing Up Baby” and “The Philadelphia Story.” There’s an intermittent slowness every time the leading stars aren’t onscreen, and the familial quarreling contains a disconcerting bitterness, but these both fade when the rightness of Grant and Hepburn clashes so strongly with the wrongness (a striking incompatibility) of Grant and Nolan. It’s somewhat nerve-wracking to endure the love triangle complications, particularly as they highlight a potent maturity that routinely quells the levity, but relief arrives in the knowledge that a picture from the ’30s wouldn’t dare deny audiences the satisfaction of a happy ending. And, indeed, it’s a whopper of a finale – one in which the stuffed-shirts are finally put in their place and the freedoms of individuality are gloriously embraced.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10