| Holiday





George Cukor

USA, 1938


Review by Rich Watts

Posted on 01 May 2005

Source Columbia/Tristar DVD

To be seen, perhaps, as an aperitif to The Philadelphia Story, Holiday is a wittily entertaining illustration of the restrictions of privilege. It stars the sublime Cary Grant as Johnny Case – an unpretentious and unguarded young businessman engaged to the eldest daughter of a wealthy, establishment family. By placing the lower-class Case in the grandest of environments, Holiday carefully challenges those structures which arise as the result of great wealth, whilst maintaining a healthy respect for the individuals and social classes involved.

A great deal of Holiday’s action takes place in a playroom, which acts as a refuge for Case and the younger siblings of his fiancée, Linda and Ned. The use of a playroom is apposite, since it represents the childhood dreams of Linda and Ned. At the same time, it also demonstrates the siblings’ reconciliation to the demands of their family heritage, a reconciliation that has notably taken its toll on the unfortunate Ned.

The sole male heir to the Seton business, Ned cuts a sad figure in the playroom, a reluctant alcoholic busy wishing away his considerable inheritance. Much to the chagrin of his rigid patriarchal father, Ned’s unconscious attachment to the playroom’s comfort hides his lack of any discernible financial aptitude or desire to uphold the family name. His lot is a sympathetic reminder of the many individuals who have little choice in the matter—this particular matter being the trappings of money and privilege, alongside the stern expectations of a father steeped in a demanding heritage.

Ultimately, Ned is unable to escape his surroundings and follow the path of the liberal and liberated Case. Similarly, Case’s fiancée is unwilling to accept the mindset of her freethinking beau and decides to forgo his hand in marriage. These rejections re-establish the distinction in class and wealth between the moneyed upper-class and the aspiring lower-class, such that the natural order of things is uncompromised by the film’s ending.

Certainly a companion to The Philadelphia Story, (both stage plays share, in Philip Barry, the same writer), Holiday remains a polished surface under which veins of true emotion flow.

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