Like the classic oldies? Have you seen Holiday (1938) with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn? You might have missed it… it didn’t get as much notoriety as Philadelphia Story or Bringing Up Baby and that’s a shame. Hard to imagine now, but Katherine Hepburn had built herself a bad reputation earlier in the 30s and was not a box office draw. This is the perfect vehicle for her– a strong, quirky, well-to-do Main Line woman who doesn’t want to bend to societal demands.
The story is straightforward — a self-made man with a middle class background (Grant) falls in love with a woman (Doris Nolan) born into the Seton dynasty –one of the six richest families in the U.S. He meets the family and soon discovers that getting married will be as complicated as getting marrying into a royal family. There are rules and expectations. And respectable society folk do not chuck their positions to find themselves as Grant’s character Johnny Case yearns to do, “…to try to find out who I am and what goes on and what about it.”( Unfortunately, this is perhaps why the film was not as well received as it should have been… post-Depression era folks did not embrace this philosophy.) As plans move forward he realizes he has more in common with his betrothed’s sister Linda (Katherine Hepburn).
Hepburn and Grant did four pictures together, three (including this one) with director George Cukor. I for one, will be hunting up more Cukor films as this is a gem for many reasons:
- acting is sublime–it is obvious that not only Hepburn and Grant had chemistry but they must have enjoyed their supporting cast members as well –Lew Ayres who plays her trapped and alcoholic brother; Edward Everett Horton (love him!!!) and Jean Dixon who play a sweet couple who are like surrogate parents to Grant. Scenes where they all escape the formal socialite scene to be themselves in the playroom are delightful.
- Most of the film takes place in the Seton home –a home so large it has an elevator and a kitchen just a bit smaller than a private airplane hangar. Opulent and stunning, it is a silent but shimmering character in the picture.
- Costume designs by Robert Kalloch! Unfortunately, many animals died to make this film as there are quite a few fur wraps and hats to be seen but this was an age when clothing was ELEGANT.
Justin Chang recently wrote a review in the Los Angeles Times commenting that Holiday is the best of the Hepburn/Grant collaborations:
For more detail, please check out Margaret Perry’s blog (with a fun little meme of Grant and Hepburn doing a dance over a couch: