Classical Film Reviews · Film Reviews

Classical Review: Holiday [1938]

Lovely Johnny Case (we’re being conditioned to like men called ‘Johnny’) has the most peculiar fashion of dealing with nerves- he flips! Unsurprising really as he’s played by the equally-lovely, Cary Grant- who ran away to join the circus aged 14. No, he really did! He was born in Bristol (England), was abandoned by his parents and went on to play gentleman bachelors in Hollywood romantic comedies. In fact, Ian Fleming modeled James Bond with a mind to Grant playing him in any future films…

Grant never played a villain. In this film he is a young man who falls head over heels in love with a girl he’s only just met. Of course, having asked her to marry him (after just ten days!) now he has to meet the family… and he’s in for a surprise.

Julia Seaton’s father is traditional, a banker and expects her future husband to follow him in the business. Her siblings are a little different however… oddball Katherine Hepburn is eccentric sister Linda- on a quest to find her place in the world- and poor brother Ned… has his own problems;

Did you note the beautiful scenery on display? Well, it makes poor Johnny awfully nervous as he really had no idea what he’s intending to marry into! Kind hearted Linda welcomes Johnny into the family and supports his dream to spend his early years on ‘holiday’, finding himself and discovering the world before he settles down to work. (No one took a Gap Year before university in those days!)

The eponymous ‘Holiday’ of Johnny’s dreams is the key plot point, dividing the characters in opinion.

Katharine Hepburn understudied the role of Linda Seaton in the original play on Broadway in the late 20s. She performed a scene from ‘Holiday’ for her first screen test and then became a star… who appeared in the film adaptation! Linda Seaton was loosely based on a former debutante who left high society to hunt wild animals in Africa! Katharine Hepburn is the perfect actress to portray her. She loved to defy convention; wearing men’s clothes because they were far more comfortable and practical. When the studio’s costume department hid her trousers in the early 1930s she walked around in her underwear instead! The third of four films pairing Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. They both were known for doing a lot of their own stunts Hepburn because she didn’t believe her double had correct deportment.

The film is a classic ‘screwball comedy’- that beautiful, wry humour teamed with farce that we now associate with French comedies. Johnny and Linda are delightfully whimsical. I suppose I like them so much because we share a similar world view- that life in inherently amusing.

Unfortunately Julia doesn’t have quite the same sensibility… So what should Johnny do? Follow his dreams or settle down for the girl he loves?


  1. That’s a tough question to answer. I’d say: follow your dreams first and hope that the girl you love is still single and ready to mingle afterwards? Hope for the best? I guess I’ll find out what he actually decided to do when I watch the film. This is another classic movie I haven’t heard of before. You educate me all the time 🙂

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