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Monday, August 4, 2008

HOLIDAY (1938)

Just before fleeing to B’way for a quick career rejuvenation via Philip Barry’s THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, Katherine Hepburn freelanced @ Columbia in this earlier (and even better) Barry play. Unlike PHILY (also helmed by George Cukor), which is all about taming Kate the Great to make her safe for the hoi polloi, HOLIDAY sticks to its meritocratic P.O.V. right to the end, and still feels completely modern & uncompromised. Cary Grant, unmatchable in his final turn as a tousled youth, plays a rising ‘comer’ in financial circles who wants to get off the fast track. (He’s something of a precursor to Somerset Maugham’s Larry Darrell in THE RAZOR’S EDGE, so we get a chance to savor what Grant and helmer George Cukor might have made of that.) Surprisingly, the rest of the cast (Kate included) get a run for their money from the 1930 version of HOLIDAY. As early talkies go, director Edward Griffith keeps it pretty fluid, Ann Harding matches up quite nicely in the Hepburn role of an unconventional girl in a Rockefeller-rich family, and Mary Astor makes a far more formidable rival as her just engaged kid sister. Edward Everett Horton is delightful as a bohemian Professor in both versions while Lew Ayers (only in the ‘38 film) is infinitely touching & sad as the alcoholic kid brother who lacks the spirit to stand up for himself. The '38 version, which is beautifully shot by Franz Planer, also benefits from not having PHILY’s suffocating M-G-M polish and holds an unexpected emotional charge, particularly with college age audiences.

DOUBLE-BILL: In addition to the earlier version of HOLIDAY?'30. another fine Barry work, THE ANIMAL KINGDOM/'32, is something of a follow-up/’what if’ take on HOLIDAY. It imagines what might have happened if someone rather like the Cary Grant character had married the ‘wrong’ girl after all. Ann Harding & director Edward Griffith, of the earlier HOLIDAY film, join Myrna Loy & Leslie Howard on this one.

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