"The rich are not like you and me." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Or maybe they are, just better dressed. Philip Barry's comedy-of-manners Holiday was a success on Broadway in 1928-28 running for over 200 performances and touring. The first film version in 1932 featured two actresses I admire, Ann Harding as Linda and Mary Astor as Julia. In my imagination they are perfection. The 1938 version from RKO directed by George Cukor is a movie that has become like an old friend. Like that old friend with whom we have become too familiar and comfortable, Holiday has been sitting in the corner of my movie universe patiently waiting for me to call. It was a long overdue call. A call that made me realize just why we became friends in the first place.
Katharine Hepburn understudied Hope Williams in the role of Linda during the original Broadway production. According to her autobiography Me, Ms. Williams offered to take a night off giving Kate a chance at the role, but despite having all the confidence in the world Ms. Hepburn declined, playing the role only once during a later tour. Linda Seton is the black sheep in an extremely wealthy family. The societal and family expectations that go along with the money stifle and strangle our Linda. She is a lost lamb trying to find herself. The son of the family, Ned played by Lew Ayres, puts in token appearances at the family business during the day and drinks the rest of the time. Julia played by Doris Nolan is the family's golden girl. She behaves as expected and enjoys the good life. Her good life led her to a ski vacation where she has met and fallen in love with a young businessman named Johnny Case played by Cary Grant. Johnny is a bright fellow. He wasn't born to money, but he has worked hard and is about to come into his first great success. He has certain ideas about life and he wants to share that life with Julia. Johnny is head over heels in love.
Doris Nolan (Julia), Katharine Hepburn (Linda)
Love, as we all know, is blind. Johnny is blind to the fact that his beloved Julia doesn't quite understand his plan of using his hard earned money to take some time off and see the world and find out what it's all about. Well, maybe Johnny's ideas aren't very definite, but it is his dream and he wants to give it a go. Where the money or fear or love of it has trapped someone like Linda, Johnny sees it as the key to freedom, to explore. It's the sort of thing that Linda understands. Unfortunately, Johnny isn't engaged to Linda.
The screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart (Kitty Foyle, Love Affair), who played Nick Potter on Broadway, and Sidney Buchman (The Talk of the Town, Theodora Goes Wild) is a lovely combination of wit and heart. The players are grand including Edward Everett Horton (The Merry Widow) as Nick Potter, repeating the role he played in the 1932 film and Jean Dixon (My Man Godfrey) as his wife, Susan. The Potters are Johnny's friends and they are OK. Familiar character actor Henry Kolker lords it over all as the patriarch of the Seton clan. Binnie Barnes and Henry Daniell are too much fun to watch as grasping Seton cousins.
"Home, Sweet Home"
Cary Grant (Johnny), Lew Ayres (Ned), Thomas Braidon (Butler)
Stephen Goosson and Lionel Banks were nominated for the Oscar for Best Art Direction for Holiday. Goosson received five nominations throughout his career for the 1930 fantasy Just Imagine, 1942s The Little Foxes, 1946s A Thousand and One Nights and winning the award in 1938 for Lost Horizon. Columbia's Holiday lost the art direction award to the Warner Brothers The Adventures of Robin Hood. I long to see Holiday on the big screen to revel in the astounding sets including the immense Seton mansion where the expanse is at odds with the trapped souls of Linda and Ned, and the cozy play room where life feels real.
Katharine Hepburn, Jean Dixon (Susan Potter), Lew Ayres
Cary Grant, Edward Everett Horton (Nick Potter)
TCM is screening Holiday as part of their 31 Days of Oscar on Friday, February 22nd at 9:45 a.m.