Holiday (1938)

Last year for the first time we watched the original film version of this play by Philip Barry. You can read that post here with a link to a YouTube video showing two ways a key scene was shot.


Johnny Case (Cary Grant) has fallen in love with Julia Seton (Doris Nolan), not realizing that she is the daughter of a Wall Street banking mogul with a “reverence for riches.” Linda Seton (Katharine Hepburn) is the black sheep of the family but develops an immediate affinity for Johnny, whose dream is to make enough money to retire while he’s young and go on a “holiday” to figure out what life is all about. Julia is perfectly happy with her wealthy socialite life and can’t understand Johnny’s dream and they begin to pull apart as suddenly as they came together. Linda realizes that she loves Johnny but doesn’t want to steal him from her sister, but when Linda realizes that Julia doesn’t love Johnny, she rushes to join him on his “holiday.”


The film begins with a stock establishing shot of the Manhattan skyline and follows with exterior footage of the Potters’ apartment building on West 114th Street and the Setons’ mansion at 843 Fifth Ave. Most of the film, true to its stage origins, is shown in interior set pieces with contrasting flavors of upper class and middle class living.


The film actually begins on Christmas Day, though the only things that indicate this are the hymns being sung during the church service (“O, Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”) and a garland and wreath in the church narthex. There are no decorations in the Seton mansion or the Potter apartment. A tighter holiday connection is that the party where Johnny and Julia’s engagement is announced is also a New Year’s Eve party. We hear the fireworks at midnight from a window and strains of “Auld Lang Syne,” and see Johnny trying to steal a New Year’s kiss from Linda, who resists, having just realized that she has fallen in love with him.


Jean Dixon has a delicious role as the maid in My Man Godfrey. Lew Ayres, who plays Ned Seton, played Dr. Kildare in the movie series during the late 1930s and early ’40s. He was married to Ginger Rogers from 1934 to 1941. Henry Kolker (Edward Seton) has a similar role in the delightful screwball comedy Theodora Goes Wild (1936).


Edward Everett Horton, who plays Nick Potter, appeared with Fred Astaire in The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat and Shall We Dance.

Philip Barry, the author of the play Holiday, attended a party thrown by Condé Nast, which the Astaires also attended in January 1925.


Any time we can see the on-screen chemistry between Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, we love it. We also love seeing Cary Grant’s tumbling tricks, reminders that he began his show business career in an acrobatic troupe. (For more information on that see my video: Suave, Sophisticated and Silly: The Role of Slapstick in the Comedies of William Powell & Cary Grant.)