Sunday, February 3, 2013

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for February on TCM

"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 1928-29 running for over 200 performances and touring. The first film version in 1930 starred Ann Harding, Mary Astor and Robert Ames in a fast-paced early talkie. The actors fit their roles perfectly.

The 1938 version from RKO directed by George Cukor is a movie that has become 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 of 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 realize 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.

Katharine Hepburn, Doris Nolan

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. Johnny has worked for that dream and he deserves it. 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 is the sort of thing that Linda understands. Unfortunately, Johnny isn't engaged to Linda.  

The screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart (Kitty Foyle), who played Nick Potter on Broadway, and Sidney Buchman (The Talk of the Town) 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 1930 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 (The Black Room) lords it over all as the patriarch of the Seton clan. Binnie Barnes (Frontier Marshal) and Henry Daniell (The Body Snatcher) are too much fun to watch as grasping Seton cousins.

Henry Daniell, Binnie Barnes, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan, Henry Kolker

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.

Katharine Hepburn, Jean Dixon, Lew Ayres
Cary Grant, Edward Everett Horton

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 playroom where life feels real.

TCM is screening Holiday as part of their 31 Days of Oscar on Friday, February 22nd at 9:45 a.m.


  1. I didn't see this movie until last year sometime at the urging of several bloggers. I'm glad I did though I admit it is NOT my favorite Cary Grant performance. Not his fault. It's his character, Johnny, I have trouble with.

    But I love Johnny's slow awakening. His eventual understanding of the soul-killing Seton way of life that Julia will NEVER give up. She is a born daddy's girl who revels in the comforts of money and power. My heart breaks for poor Ned who will never escape and will in all likelihood die young. He is beyond help though I was very frustrated by the fact that no one tries very hard to intervene.

    I love Katherine Hepburn and wonder if she wasn't a changeling left in the nursery....

    The story is remarkably black and white with everyone rich one side and everyone not rich on the other.

    I loved Edward Everett Horton (when do I not love EEH?) and his wife - what a picture of a cozy, comfortable marriage. The sort of thing I would have loved to have had.

    My problem with Johnny: He is a just a tad too loosey-goosey. Too frantic to enjoy himself. I couldn't help thinking that a spot of Zoloft might have helped him a bit. :)

    Henry Daniell. Hsssssssss....! I hear he was exactly the same in real life. I shudder to think it. I still love him.

    The ending, of course, is perfection.

  2. Johnny Case is a bit of a blank as a character, isn't he? His sole purpose seems to be as a professional "againster". It is Grant's inherit charm, and Johnny's friendship with the Potters, that wins him audience acceptance. However, we certainly want to believe that he is worth Linda's faith.

  3. A lovely post on a swell movie. Everyone so well cast. I've not seen the 1932 version, but I think it might still be on YouTube in parts. So many movies, so little time.

  4. Thanks.

    I never thought of checking the inestimable YouTube for the '32 version. Harding and Astor!

    I don't think I should like remakes, then discover so many favourites that fit into that category. I admit to really enjoying different takes on the same story. Ah, the tortured soul of the movie buff!

  5. While I find this film funny, I am not a huge admirer. Hepburn and Grant have undeniable chemistry, but I found Hepburn's character somewhat annoying.

  6. Awesome choice! While everyone raves about BRINGING UP BABY (which I love, too), HOLIDAY has been pushed into the background. It's just as good in its own way. I love that Cary and Kate essentially swap roles in the two movies, with Cary the reserved half in BABY and Kate in that role in HOLIDAY.

  7. This is one of the film classics, after first time watching it, I wanted to add it to my ever growing dvd collection..

    Like so many of Katharine Hepburn's movies, I thought this one was also very witty and romantic.

    Cary Grant, as always is very charming.

  8. CW,
    I hope you get the opportunity to see Holiday on the big screen one day. This certainly is one that is such a visual bonanza that you would wish for a pause button though just to take it all in. ha ha

    I had forgotten or perhaps I didn't even know that Holiday started out on the stage. I loved the original with Harding and Astor but when you pair Grant and Hepburn together, the original doesn't stand a chance! Grant certainly brought out the best of Kate's comedic abilities for me.

    A nice review of a top notch comedy. So glad it was remade.

    I hope all is well with you and the family.

  9. Nice to see so many fans of "Holiday". You (well, at least I) don't see many films today that reach its level of entertainment and excellence.

  10. Calling this film an old friend is a perfect description. I love every second of this film and could watch it every week. Katharine and Cary finally hit a comfortable groove for this one and their chemistry is electrifying.

  11. I've only seen this movie once, which is not nearly enough. I loved your post.

  12. Shame on me -- I've never seen this, and I love both the stars. I don't know why, but it never appealed to me, just the title I guess, which is a dumb reason. I will rectify this mistake at the first opportunity!

  13. Oh, how I love this movie! I just mentioned it to someone as the most romantic movie I can think of. Thanks for letting me know it's on this month! I can't wait to see it again.

  14. Caftan Woman, I must confess I've never had the opportunity to see HOLIDAY, but your wonderful review and your description of it as an old friend you've been out of touch with for a while is so endearing that I'll have to check it out! Being a fan of Mary Astor, I'm now equally interested in seeing the 1932 version, too. Have a great Presidents Day weekend!

  15. Well, guys and gals, it looks like we've convinced Becky to join us at the New Year's party with Linda and the gang.

  16. Exactly, C.W. You've hit it right on the head. He's a blank. I'm trying to think who else might have played him and have come up with zero.



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