Thursday, August 6, 2009

Some hats

The early screening of the Hepburn-Grant Holiday (1938) was sold out yesterday at BAM. I’d never seen it before, so I’m glad I got there early. American screwball comedies, like Shakespeare’s, end in marriage, often after a re-shuffling of the partners; this one is no different, although it isn’t as screwball as some. Grant plays a self-made man who’s worked since he was ten; he wants to make one last deal and then retire early, to be, or find, himself. He discovers his fiancée is rich beyond dreams, but those dreams are a nightmare for his fiancée’s sister (Hepburn), a stifled free spirit, and brother, who has been forced to follow Daddy to the bank (and drinks like a fish to escape the boredom). Grant wants a holiday, his fiancée and future father-in-law want him to make more and more money. It felt surprisingly up-to-date, especially when rich daddy says Grant is un-American for not wanting to be even richer. It’s one of the oldest struggles in America, the Protestant work ethic versus Transcendentalism, the religion of money versus the religion of self. Well, you can guess where it goes -- and of course it's ironic since it's about people with money making decisions they can easily afford -- but it's a, as they keep saying, grand ride, and there is some wonderful gymnastic work by the ol’ vaudevillian Archie Leach, who started out in showbiz at 16 as a stiltwalker.

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