Overlooked Oldies: Holiday

Giving the label "overlooked" to some movies seems to me a risky thing to do. It begs for people to pounce on the choice, saying "That's not an overlooked movie! Everyone has seen that! What are you talking about?" My purpose in making a list of Overlooked Oldies is to highlight some movies that are worthy of watching even though they haven't gotten as much attention as some other classics. They might not be the most obscure films ever, but they're not the movies on the top of everyone's classic must-see lists, either. If you haven't seen the movies that always seem to make these lists (like Citizen Kane and Casablanca) by all means do so. My selections are meant to supplement and round out such lists.

Now I'll stop being defensive and share my next Overlooked Oldies pick: Holiday. Not The Holiday or Roman Holiday, just Holiday.

This 1938 George Cukor movie stars Cary Grant as Johnny Case, a self-made man recently engaged to the beautiful Julia Seton (Doris Nolan). Since their courtship has been brief, he knows very little about her, and is thus shocked when he goes to meet her family and finds out how rich they are.

The other Seton children are Linda (Katharine Hepburn) and Ned (Lew Ayres). The sibling relationships can be summed up in this bit of dialogue:

Linda: "Well, I know you wouldn't expect it of a man in father's position, but the fact is, money is our god here."

Julia: "Johnny, it isn't true at all."

Ned: "No? What is then?"

Julia is the most like her father and shares his reverence for riches while Linda is fed up and looking for something else to do with her life. She is thus known as the black sheep of the family. Ned tends to agree with Linda although he appears to have given up on his dreams, spending his time drinking instead of fighting his father. It's quite heartbreaking to watch him, actually.

The movie is not named for any holiday celebrations (although there are two very different New Year's Eve parties in the film). The title instead refers to Johnny's goal of taking some time off to enjoy life. He's been working since he was ten and is now ready for a break to find out why he's doing it. His plan is this: "Retire young, work old. Come back and work when I know what I'm working for."

Julia and her father have other ideas for Johnny and try to pressure him into a new job and way of thinking. More understanding of Johnny's plan is sister Linda. You can probably guess how things will turn out, but it is still fun to go along with these characters for the ride.

Other things that make the movie enjoyable: the moments that showcase Cary Grant's acrobatic skills ("Can you do a back-flip-flop, can you really?") and Johnny's down to earth friends Nick and Susan Potter, played by Jean Dixon and wonderful character actor Edward Everett Horton.

If you've seen and enjoyed The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby, don't miss Holiday, another great pairing of Grant and Hepburn.


David Bishop said...

I'll try to keep this one in mind. I certainly would have put it in my overlooked category.

Wendymoon said...

Cool. It's available on Netflix as an Instant selection until January 1st.

Genevieve said...

I absolutely love Holiday! It is so overlooked, especially when it comes to the rest of the Hepburn/Grant movies. That flip trick the two do together is one of my favorite parts in the movie!

Wendymoon said...

The flip is great.

There's just something so sweet and uplifting about the movie. I actually like it better than Bringing Up Baby (although that is one wacky fun movie).

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

One of my favorite movies of the 1930s. Hepburn's performance has so much heart and charm. I go on and on (and on!) about it over at my own neck of the woods:


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