I approached Holiday with some trepidation. Like The Philadelphia Story it’s based on a Philip Barry play and has a screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart. Like The Philadelphia Story it’s directed by George Cukor and stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Given that I found The Philadelphia Story to be a total bore I was understandably not terribly confident about enjoying Holiday. It turns out I was right to be worried.
Cary Grant is Johnny Case and he’s about to be married to Julia Seton (Doris Nolan). Johnny is a successful businessman. He’s not short of money, but his money is new money. The Setons are old money. Julia has quite a deal of trouble persuading her crusty and very straitlaced father (Edward Seton, played by Henry Kolker) to agree to the marriage.
Julia has a brother, Ned (Lew Ayres). Ned is permanently drunk because he blames his father for stifling his creativity and preventing him from following his dreams. Julia also has a sister, Linda (Katharine Hepburn). Linda feels just as stifled as Ned although she hasn’t yet given up completely. She has however retreated into neurotic hypochondria. If you’re thinking that this sounds like a remarkably depressing setup for a romantic comedy then you’re dead right.
Even though it’s painfully clear that Johnny and Julia are not only spectacularly ill-matched but actively dislike each other the movie insists on making us wait until the very end before these very obvious facts occur to the characters concerned.
I have to come clean at his point and confess to a rather considerable dislike of Katharine Hepburn. Linda as portrayed by Hepburn strikes me as being a shrill, tiresome hysteric. This dislike of Hepburn may to some extent explain why I found it impossible to like this movie, although in my view it has plenty of other problems.
The big problem is that there are very few laughs in this movie. Edward Everett Horton provides most of the movie’s very rare amusing moments. A lack of laughs is a pretty serious problem for a comedy, but Holiday is not just unfunny, it’s often perilously close to out-and-misery.
This movie also has a rather stagey feel to it at times. Some of Hepburn’s dialogue is too overwrought and too much like speechifying - you might get away with it on stage but on film it seems clumsy.
Columbia’s Region 4 DVD release is barebones and the transfer is very grainy.
I found Holiday to be an ordeal. It isn’t funny and I didn’t like any of the characters enough to care particularly what happened to them. I can’t recommend this one, even as a rental.