Thursday, April 16, 2015

Apparently I haven't blogged about Holiday before

Tonight's TCM lineup is a bunch of heiress comedies, starting at 8:00 PM with Holiday. A search of the blog claims I haven't mentioned this one before, so today would be a good time to do a post on the movie.

Cary Grant plays Johnny Case, a young man of modest birth who isn't quite certain what he wants out of life, but he knows that whatever it is, it's going to be the strenuous life. But it looks like there's going to be happiness in that life. He's recently met a nice young lady named Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) and is going to marry her. He just needs a little advice from his mentor/quasi-foster parents the Potters: Prof. Nick (Edward Everett Horton) and his wife Susan (Jean Dixon) tell him to see Julia's fmily and tell them that he needs to take a sabbatical and that if Julia really loves him, they can get married after the sabbatical.

What Johnny finds shocks him. Julia Seton is a Seton, one of the Setons, as though everybody should know who the Setons are. After all, their father is only Edward (Henry Kolker), one of the wealthiest bankers in all of New York. He's run the family fairly conservatively much like the sort of family that Arthur's parents want him to marry into in that Dudley Moore movie. Julia has taken her father's guidance to heart and, while she's not a bad person, she's just a bit boring. At the house, Johnny meet's Julia's sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn), and finds that Linda is completely different from everybody else in the family. We know that she's going to be the apparent right one for Johnny, not just because we need a plot conflict, but because Katharine Hepburn is billed first and Doris Nolan only third. Rounding out the family is Julia and Linda's brother Ned (Lew Ayres). He too is living the life his father thinks the Setons should live, but you can tell it chafes at in in a way he can't really understand, because he's a dissolute drinker.

You can probably guess more or less what happens in the movie, although there are two possible endings: the You Can't Take It With You ending where the family is changed by the newcomer (the Jean Arthur character being the newcomer, not her family being changed), or the Arthur ending in which the man marries for love and the jilted "proper" family basically gets written out of the story if there were a movie about the couple's life post-marriage. Holiday does what it does pretty well, except that it's got Katharine Hepburn in the cast. I've always had difficulty warming to Hepburn, feeling that in a lot of her movies she's basically playing a spoiled, self-centered bitch of the sort that you want to smack the way Cary Grant does at the beginning of The Philadelphia Story. I've never really been able to get the impression that Hepburn's characters would be compatible with anybody in the long term.

Holiday is based on a stage play that had already been turned into a movie once, back in 1930. That version stars Mary Astor as Julia and Ann Harding as Linda and is a movie I'd be interested to see. Only the 1938 version seems to be on DVD, however, as part of a Cary Grant box set.

1 comment:

Ann said...

The first time I watched this movie, it was just entertaining and amusing. The more I've watched it, the more Hepburn's character annoys me. It's the night of her sister's engagement, and she makes the whole night about herself? Of all nights, she couldn't choose another one to declare her independence since she'd already waited so long? She's mad because her sister doesn't choose to have the party that she-Linda-wanted, instead of the one which will smooth things over with her father? Of course Julia has to be shown to be an unmitigated witch after all that, because up until that point, she hadn't done anything so very horrendous. And it's awfully "courageous" to declare her independence while still making use of the comfort and reliability of her father's wealth.

If the film hadn't made the other characters so unbelievably repellant, Linda would've looked like the self-centered person she was.

The Philadelphia Story got closer to the truth of a person like this.