Holiday

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Holiday Movie Poster Image
Old-fashioned Grant/Hepburn classic still charms.
  • NR
  • 1938
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes of following one's dreams no matter where they take you, as opposed to a lifetime of working in an office and making money simply for the sake of paying bills or to attain prestige is explored. Some dated sexist attitudes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As someone who has been working since the age of 10, Johnny Case questions the pursuit of wealth and material gain simply for its own sake and wants to see the world and live a full life before retirement age. Aside from this, the wealthy depicted here are shown to be shallow, vain, arrogant, and greedy. 

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are often smoking cigarettes. Cigar smoking. One of the lead characters is always drunk; in one scene his sister asks him, "What's it like to be drunk?," and he praises the sensation. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Holiday is a classic 1938 Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn movie about a young man on the verge of marrying into a wealthy family who, much to the chagrin of nearly everyone in the family, wants to escape the workaday grind and see what life and the world has to offer. There's lots of cigarette smoking -- this is, after all, a movie from the '30s -- as well as cigar smoking. One of the characters is always drunk -- he stumbles around, slurs his speech, and cracks '30s-style quips that make intoxication and alcoholism seem almost fun. There are also some dated sexist attitudes -- Grant's character remarks on Hepburn's character's accomplishments as impressive "for a girl." While undoubtedly a classic movie, the "snappy" 1930s dialogue and the grown-up concerns of paying the bills versus experiencing life outside of working make this best for older teens and adults capable of understanding the context of the times and the larger themes presented. 

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What's the story?

After a whirlwind romance at a ski resort, Johnny Case (Cary Grant) is on his way to meet his new fiancée, Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) in HOLIDAY. When he arrives, Johnny is overwhelmed to learn that Julia is the daughter of a wealthy and distinguished family. Julia's sister, Linda (Katharine Hepburn), and brother, Ned (Lew Ayres), promise to help him win over their father, who is likely to object to the engagement because Johnny isn't rich. Julia tells him, "There's nothing more exciting than making money." But Johnny, who has just taken the first vacation of his life, only wants to make enough so that he can take a "holiday" to "find out why I've been working." Linda thinks this is a great idea. She is something of an outsider in the family, forsaking the huge formal rooms of the mansion for one cozy place upstairs, which she calls "the only home I've got." She tries to persuade Julia and their father that Johnny is right. Even though he completes the deal that gives him enough for his holiday, Johnny gives in and promises Julia he'll go to work for her father for a while. As her father presents them with a honeymoon itinerary and explains he is arranging for a house and servants for them, Johnny balks. He knows that if he accepts all of this, he will never be able to walk away from it. Julia breaks the engagement, and Linda joins Johnny on his holiday.

Is it any good?

This film may be a tough sell for modern kids, but older tweens and teens who give it a chance may find it enjoyable. Many kids will identify with the feeling of wanting to take a holiday, to step back from daily life and study the larger picture. The idea that other things are more important than making money and living according to traditional standards of success may also have some appeal. This is a good opportunity to talk with kids about what success really means and about finding the definition within yourself instead of putting too much weight on the definitions of others.

Holiday has two exceptionally appealing characters in Johnny's friends the Potters, played by Jean Dixon and Edward Everett Horton. Their kindness and wisdom contrasts with the superficial values of the Seton family. Cary Grant began in show business as an acrobat, and you can see him show off some of that prowess in this movie. The same stars, director, author, and scriptwriter worked on another classic, The Philadelphia Story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about classic movies. What makes a movie a classic? Do you think Holiday qualifies?

  • If you were going to take a holiday, where would you go? What would you hope to find?

  • If you could remake this movie for modern times, whom would you cast and how would you update the story?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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