“Holiday” (1938)


As I have headed west for the holiday season, I will do my due diligence and start my holiday recommendations with the old and faithful In N Out.

My go-to is the Double Double Cheeseburger which holds up like you would not believe, paired with a vanilla milkshake.

Pro-tip: There’s a secret menu that includes animal cheesy fries.

Holiday Hidden Gem #1:

“Holiday” (1938) directed by George Cukor is an absolute blast of a holiday romantic comedy that has somehow gone overlooked in Christmas classic history, a remake of a 1930’s film by the same name. The film stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in the third of four films where they share the screen – along with “The Philadelphia Story” (1940), “Bringing Up Baby” (1938), “Sylvia Scarlett” (1935) – they bring their quick wit and high energy to these characters in a way that feels more memorable than the rest. Grant does a whole back flip and there is a sequence of them doing acrobatics together, for goodness sakes!

Grant plays Johnny Case, an adventurous, enthusiastic free-spirit who falls head over heels for a young woman Julia Seton (Doris Nolan), who he is convinced he should marry. When he heads out to meet her family, he is surprised to learn that she comes from a very wealthy family, is the youngest daughter of banker Edward Seton (Henry Kolker), and meets her vibrant sister Linda (Hepburn) whom he confides in about his view on the world and his desire to take a long holiday to see the world. Linda and their brother Ned (Lew Ayres) take to Johnny Case right away, immediately embracing his charm and playful energy, and Linda becomes increasingly invested in making him a part of their family. Meanwhile, his bride-to-be seems begins concocting plans to have Case work in big finance with her father, inevitably tying them down for years to follow, going against the spontaneous traveling that he so desires.

The film primarily takes place the night of the engagement party, where all the characters true colors begin to come out and the contrast between some feels more stark. Linda suggests that the party take place in her favorite room of the large residency, a quaint play-room where their late mother loved to spend time. “This was Mother’s idea. She thought there ought to be one room in the house where people could come and have some fun. She used to be up here as much as we were before she died. I think it was kind of an escape for her.” Her suggestion is ignored, and the event turns into a swanky black tie affair, driving her to stubbornly spend the night upstairs feigning an illness. Johnny Case’s dear friends Professor Nick Potter (Edward Everett Horton) and his wife Susan Potter (Jean Dixon) find themselves in the playroom with Linda, livening her spirits and building new friendships of their own. Through silliness and drunkenness, meaningful conversations and nonsensical skits, the night brings each with an honest look at their own deep-seated wishes and deciding once and for all on the lives they want to live.

The film is quick, fast-paced and a lot of fun. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction by Stephen Goosson and Lionel Banks, and with the rooms in the house acting as mirrors for the characters that dwell in them, it is fitting. Time Out London referred to Holiday as “one of Cukor’s best films” which is a remarkable compliment seeing that he is responsible for such hits as “The Philadelphia Story” (1940) and “My Fair Lady” (1964). Yet, this film somehow got placed among the more forgotten classics of its time, and speculation goes that it could have been due to the fact that Johnny Case’s merry-go-lucky ability to subvert the job market likely did not appeal to wider audiences at the time who were struggling with the economic crises that was the Great Depression. However, the self-made, anti-corporation mentality is likely to appeal much more to the millennial audiences of 2020.

“I don’t know, that’s what I intend to find out. The world’s changing out there, there are a lot of new, exciting ideas running around. Some may be right and some may be cockeyed but they’re affecting all our lives. I want to know how I stand, where I fit in the picture, what it’s all gonna mean to me. I can’t find that out sitting behind some desk in an office, so as soon as I get enough money together, I’m going to knock off for a while,” reflects our lead. “Holiday” is an entertaining, enjoyable and inspired seasonal film for all audiences. One of the best surprises that I’ve found in the vault this break.

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