Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horton
While on holiday, Johnny Case meets and falls in love with Julia Seton. They plan prior to going home that they will marry within the month, yet this plan is met with mixed feelings by their friends and family. The only person really rooting for the two is Julia’s sister, Linda. She really takes to Johnny from the moment they first meet, but as time goes on, Linda comes to realise that her feelings for Johnny go beyond what they should, and she finds herself caught up between wanting what’s best for her sister and what she wants for herself.
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Holiday is more than your typical romantic drama. Incorporated in to it are criticisms about social class structures and individuals’ conformation to these. Johnny Case (Cary Grant) is a man of a working class background, whose attitude towards making money is to earn enough to live. His girlfriend Julia (Doris Nolan) is rather the opposite, brought up in a distinctively upper class household by her father whose main priority in life is to make vast amounts of money and maintain the family’s reputation.
When Johnny first goes to Julia’s house (or more to the point her father’s) he is at first shocked but pleasantly surprised. He meets Julia’s sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn), who he gets on well with from the minute they meet. Linda describes herself as the “black sheep” of the family and is terribly unhappy living her life constantly being told how she should act (not that she ever succumbs to this pressure) and feeling bound by the life expected from her by her father. She spends most of her time in the “playroom”; a room which has a more homely and informal feel unlike the rest of the house.
Linda and Johnny share similar outlooks on life, both believing that the primary goal is to be happy, and making lots of money not a factor of this. On the other hand, Julia shares many of the same outlooks on life with her father, making money being the most important objective, and it is therefore difficult to see how she could ever picture a future between herself and Johnny. She is constantly going on at Johnny about wearing the wrong suit, the wrong tie and moaning about him not fixing his hair right. She wants to transform him and hopes he will willingly abide.
The film is also about conformation. For Johnny and Julia to get married, he has to conform to what her and her father see fit. He has to look a particular way and act a particular way. This is at first something he agrees to, but as time goes on, and he begins to lose every essence of himself, he begins to question what is most important to him.
Living within upper-class surroundings is not made out to be something that should be desired in this film. Out of the four-piece family – Edward (Dad) and the siblings Julia, Linda and Ned, two of them are shown to be especially unhappy. Linda is desperate to leave for the sake of her own sanity, and Ned (who we assume has been encouraged to work for his father) is an alcoholic, scarcely seen sober. The two of them share a bond unlike they share with the other members of the family (built upon their shared unhappiness) and it is to Ned that Linda confesses her love for Johnny to.
Linda’s actions do contradict her thoughts though. Throughout the majority of the film, even when she realizes that she loves Johnny herself and would want nothing more than to go away with him herself, she still encourages Julia to do whatever it takes to be with him, which is a little confusing. This is the same for Johnny who begs for Julia to stay with him throughout the entirety of the film, and I would argue it is never one hundred percent clear who he would honestly rather be with, even when this film comes to a close.
Holiday, with its great partnering of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn (think also Bringing Up Baby prior to Holiday, and The Philadelphia Story after) proves to be nothing short of an all time classic. It not only manages to encompass romantic drama but also questions and criticises social classes (and the discrimination of people with regards to these) with complete honesty and fearlessness to startling effect.