Friday, August 14, 2009

Holiday, by George Cukor (1938)

If it's Hepburn and Grant and high society, you have to be thinking screwball comedy. Yet this film is far stranger, and I think deliberately so, than a screwball comedy; watching it, I felt continuously wrong-footed, as if Cukor, the director had a regular screwball script, and then changed everything on the set, zigging at every zag.

Here's the Wikipedia description:  "Holiday is a 1938 film directed by George Cukor, a remake of the 1930 film of the same name — a romantic comedy which tells the story of a man who has risen from humble beginnings only to be torn between his free-thinking lifestyle and the tradition of his wealthy fiancée's family." That doesn't quite cover it.

Parts of the film are like an O'Neill play, maybe Strange Interlude without the strange interludic soliloquies. But at any rate, it is just as intense: powerfully driven by the character's ideas of themselves and who they want to be, and punctuated with extremely blunt moments of anti-capitalist anger (at one point, a number of the characters give two shallow capitalists a Sieg Heil salute to mock them—wasn't expecting that from a studio film).

Parts of the film are indeed like a screwball comedy… if it were written by the young Henry James. In fact, I would submit that the film owes a certain something to Washington Square, but wouldn't want to push that too far.

I liked the film a great deal; my surprise at the kind of film it actually was (and not the film I presumed it to be) didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the terrific acting, occasionally very good dialogue, and luscious sets.

But… what's with the hats above? Did the film share costume designers with The Wizard of Oz or something?

1 comment:

Kal said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I will have to see this one. If you haven't seen 'The Lady Eve,' with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, Dir. Preston Sturges I believe, that one goes beyond screwball too. Few contemporary films match its wit.