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.”

Piffle.

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.


Movie review: “The Mask of Dimitrios” (1944)

mask of dimitrios


I fell in love with this small movie, “The Mask of Dimitrios,” the first time I saw it. I ululate with pleasure every time it’s on Turner Classic Movies, and I record it and watch it two or three times over.

Summary: Peter Lorre, a Dutch mystery writer, becomes interested in the death of a criminal named Dimitrios Makropoulos in Istanbul. He follows Dimitrios’s story from Istanbul to Athens to Sofia to Geneva to Paris. He comes across all kinds of interesting people, all of whom know strange and incriminating things about poor dead Dimitrios. Then he realizes that Sydney Greenstreet, a jolly Englishman, seems to be following him on his journey of discovery . . .

Robert Osborne, the TMC host, calls this “no great shakes of a movie,” and a “guilty pleasure”: one of those noirish Warner Brothers movies in which people look mysterious and run up and down staircases.

He’s right about all of the above.

But the movie is a real pleasure, not just a guilty pleasure.

It is a pleasure to watch the creepy / plausible Peter Lorre make his way through Europe, discovering what he can about Dimitrios. (This is one of those movies in which we see a physical map of Europe, and we move from city to city, step by step.)

It is a pleasure to see Sydney Greenstreet run the gamut from obnoxious fellow tourist to threatening criminal to – what? – a friend.

It is a pleasure to see Faye Emerson as a bar-owner in Sofia, throatily intoning her memories of Dimitrios.

It is a pleasure to see the lean dark-eyed weasel-like Zachary Scott as Dimitrios, who may or may not be dead.

My favorite moment is toward the end of the movie, when Greenstreet gets shot. Lorre has a conniption fit, as only Lorre can. “He vas my friend!” he seethes. “Vell, he vasn’t exactly my friend, but – vell, I liked him!”

It’s a dramatic moment, and it makes me laugh every time.

“No great shakes of a movie”?

It’s a terrific movie.


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