Movie review: “Holiday” (1938)

holiday 1938

Partner told me that, at a recent training/educational session, the trainer asked each member of the class: What’s your favorite movie?

Partner found it an impossible question. Who has just one favorite movie, after all? I have about twenty, a few of which I’ve spoken about here: “Annie Hall,” “The Mask of Dimitrios,” “Dodsworth.”

But, absolutely, “Holiday” (the 1938 version with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant) is on my list.

It’s a witty little Philip Barry play from the 1920, which was first made into a 1930 movie, and then (immortally) into this 1938 movie. The movie didn’t do well, supposedly because late-Thirties audiences didn’t want to see a movie in which the hero didn’t want to work; also, Katherine Hepburn had recently been declared “box-office poison.”


Summary: Wealthy-by-birth Doris Nolan meets wealthy-by-hard-work Cary Grant at Lake Placid, and brings him back to New York City as her fiancé. Cary meets Doris’s carefree sister Katherine Hepburn, and realizes within a few days that he’s in love with the wrong sister.

There are lots of things to admire here: Lew Ayres as alcoholic brother Ned, who’s pathetic but brave; Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon as Cary Grant’s funny best friends; George Cukor’s quiet sympathetic direction.

Best of all, however, is the dialogue. Many of the best lines are given to Hepburn, as follows:

Cary Grant has just admired an icky-poo doll once owned by his fiancé (Hepburn’s sister), saying “It even looks like her.” This follows:

Linda Seton: [Hugging a toy giraffe] “Now don’t you a word about Leopold, he’s very sensitive.”

Johnny Case: “Yours.”

Linda Seton: “Looks like me.” [turning its head in profile]

Or, when Hepburn’s horrible cousins appear in the doorway:

Linda Seton: “Oh, for the love of Pete – it’s the witch and Dopey!”

Or, questioning Cary on his family background:

Linda Seton: “Do you mean to say that your mother wasn’t even a Whoozis?”

This movie is a slice of lemon meringue pie, cool and refreshing. I could watch it morning, noon, and night.

Do yourself a favor and take a look at it.

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