This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

18Aug/12

AMERICAN GAGSTERS — GREAT COMEDY TEAMS: HOLIDAY

Cary Grant gets caught in the middle of two sisters in HOLIDAY

HOLIDAY (George Cukor, 1938)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Sunday, August 19, 2:00 & 6:50
Series runs through September 17
212-415-5500
www.bam.org

Although the screwball romantic comedies are perhaps best loved for their madcap antics and fast-paced dialogue, there was also a fascinating underlying motif to many of them — as America came out of the Great Depression and WWII beckoned, the films tackled the theme of the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. George Cukor’s 1938 classic, Holiday, however, looks at the world from a slightly different perspective, pitting the rich vs. the super-rich. Based on the Broadway play by Philip Barry, which was turned into a 1930 film featuring Ann Harding, Mary Astor, Edward Everett Horton, Hedda Hopper, Robert Ames, and William Holden, Cukor’s version stars Cary Grant as Johnny Case, a self-made humble financial wizard who dreams of making just enough money to be able to afford to leave the business and go find himself. Following a whirlwind ten-day courtship with Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) while on vacation in Lake Placid, Johnny is shocked to find out that his fiancée is a member of the Seton clan, one of the richest families in America. Julia’s father, Edward (Henry Kolker), is not about to let his beloved daughter marry just anyone, so he puts Johnny through the ringer. Meanwhile, Johnny bonds with Julia’s sister, the black sheep Linda (Katharine Hepburn, who was the understudy for Linda on Broadway), who is desperate to live her own life but seems trapped in a fantasy, receiving only marginal support from their brother, Ned (Lew Ayres), who is never without a drink and a cynical word about the family, washing away his failure in cocktail after cocktail. “Walk, don’t run, to the nearest exit,” he advises Johnny. Honest, dependable, and a surprisingly good gymnast, Johnny finds solace from the crazy Setons in his longtime friends, Nick (Horton, reprising his role from the earlier film) and Susan (Jean Dixon), simpler folk with a fine sense of humor and little time for high society. As midnight on New Year’s Eve approaches, the main characters’ lives come together and fall apart in hysterical yet serious ways. Holiday is not your average screwball comedy, instead seeking to take on more personal, psychologically intimate issues and succeeding wildly, continually defying expectations and turning clichés inside out. Grant is as cool as ever, but he adds a seldom-seen vulnerability that adds to his charm. Holiday is screening August 19 in the BAMcinématek series “American Gagsters: Great Comedy Teams,” which runs through September 17 and consists of fifty films (all but one in 35mm), including such other memorable Grant movies as Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday on Saturday and The Philadelphia Story also on Sunday.

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