MOVIEmeter
SEE RANK
Down 3,749 this week

Death Takes a Holiday (1934)

7.1
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.1/10 from 1,065 users  
Reviews: 33 user | 10 critic

Death decides to take a holiday from his usual business to see what it is like to be a mortal. Posing as Prince Sirki, he spends 3 days with Duke Lambert and his guests at his dukal estate.... See full summary »

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
0Check in
0Share...

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Instant Video

Editors' Spotlight

IMDb: What to Watch - The One I Love

Interview with Charlie McDowell and Mark Duplass


User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 45 titles
created 26 Sep 2011
 
a list of 854 titles
created 05 Jul 2012
 
a list of 30 titles
created 23 Aug 2012
 
a list of 547 titles
created 7 months ago
 
a list of 45 titles
created 6 months ago
 

Related Items


Connect with IMDb


Share this Rating

Title: Death Takes a Holiday (1934)

Death Takes a Holiday (1934) on IMDb 7.1/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of Death Takes a Holiday.
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Certificate: Passed Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Young Pud is orphaned and left in the care of his aged grandparents. The boy and his cantankerous old grandfather become inseparable friends. But Gramps is concerned for his grandson's ... See full summary »

Director: Harold S. Bucquet
Stars: Lionel Barrymore, Cedric Hardwicke, Beulah Bondi
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Stopped in Mexico by U.S. Immigration, Georges Iscovescu hopes to get into the country by marrying a citizen.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Charles Boyer, Olivia de Havilland, Paulette Goddard
Drama | Fantasy | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A media mogul acts as a guide to Death, who takes the form of a young man to learn about life on Earth and in the process, fall in love with his guide's daughter.

Director: Martin Brest
Stars: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Claire Forlani
Midnight (1939)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A chorus girl, stranded in Paris, is "set up" by a millionaire to break up his wife's affair with another man.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Bold, eccentric Broadway performer Lisa Madden befuddles her handlers by coming home with a baby she picked up on the street. She wants to keep the baby but has to find a husband to make ... See full summary »

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Marlene Dietrich, Fred MacMurray, Aline MacMahon
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

An unwed mother, forced to give up her child to avoid scandal, follows her son's life from afar even as she prospers in business.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Olivia de Havilland, John Lund, Mary Anderson
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A loafer and a manicurist, both planning to marry money, meet and form an uneasy alliance.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Ralph Bellamy
Drama | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Ginger Rogers, "Allure" magazines editor-in-chief, suffers from headaches and continuos daydreams and undergoes psychoanalysis to determine why.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Warner Baxter
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Just before Christmas, Lee Leander is caught shoplifting. It is her third offense. She is prosecuted by John Sargent. He postpones the trial because it is hard to get a conviction at ... See full summary »

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Upper-class female reporter is (despite herself) attracted to hulking laborer digging a tunnel under the Hudson river.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray, Ilka Chase
Musical | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A homicide detective with an eye for the ladies investigating a murder in Earl Carroll's Vanities allows the music review to continue during the investigation.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Carl Brisson, Victor McLaglen, Jack Oakie
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A dashing pilot and a vivacious reporter have romantic and dramatic adventures in Europe as World War II begins.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Claudette Colbert, Ray Milland, Dennis O'Keefe
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Prince Sirki / Death
Evelyn Venable ...
Grazia
Guy Standing ...
Duke Lambert (as Sir Guy Standing)
Katharine Alexander ...
Alda
Gail Patrick ...
Rhoda
Helen Westley ...
Kathleen Howard ...
Princess Maria
Kent Taylor ...
Corrado
...
G.P. Huntley ...
Eric (as G.P. Huntley Jr.)
Otto Hoffman ...
Fedele (as Otto Hoffmann)
Edit

Storyline

Death decides to take a holiday from his usual business to see what it is like to be a mortal. Posing as Prince Sirki, he spends 3 days with Duke Lambert and his guests at his dukal estate. Several of the women are attracted to the mysterious prince, but shy away from him when they sense his true nature. But Grazia, the beautiful young woman whom the Duke thought was to marry his son, loves him even when she knows who he is. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

prince | guest | love | holiday | death | See more »

Taglines:

No woman ever had such a lover...the whole world paused...waited breathlessly while he wooed with the ardor of a man tasting love for the first time. See more »

Genres:

Romance | Fantasy

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

30 March 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Strange Holiday  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 22, 1937 with Fredric March reprising his film role. See more »

Goofs

In one of the opening scenes, Grazia is praying in a Catholic Church. She makes the Sign of the Cross and is meditating when Corrado joins her. When leaving, she fails to genuflect and make another Sign of the Cross, something they both would have done in real life. See more »

Quotes

Death: I bound myself to life, and with it, to the little rules by which it is lived. And now I must bow to it. What a monstrous comedy!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Remington Steele: Bonds of Steele (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

Etude in E Op.10 No.3
(1829-32) (uncredited)
Music by Frédéric Chopin
Played offscreen on piano
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Getting philosophical about death
26 April 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Adapted by Walter Ferris, Maxwell Anderson and Gladys Lehman from Alberto Cassella's 1929 play La Morte in Vacanze, Death Takes a Holiday features Fredric March as the titular Grim Reaper. Death becomes curious about why he is so feared. He wants to understand humankind better. So through some unspecified means he becomes corporeal for a three-day period, beginning and ending at midnight. He chooses to take the form of a Prince Sirki, recently deceased, and takes his holiday at the palatial Italian villa of Duke Lambert (Guy Standing). Will he discover what makes humans tick in only three days? This is a highly successful, unusual film. It has strong touches of horror, even though it's more of an art-house drama cum romance flick. It's also frequently philosophical, and director Mitchell Leisen easily sustains dramatic tension for close to 90-minutes despite the fact that this was only his second feature, and a very "talky" one at that, which takes place primarily in a single setting (the play only had one set, but the film adds a couple other scenes).

Of course March's performance is crucial to making the film work. He has the difficult task of playing both a personification of a menacing supernatural force and a chimerical human trying to "act natural" and slightly failing. That March plays the role so impeccably is made all the more fascinating in light of the fact that he was filming All of Me (1934) at the same time. He borrowed a woman's bicycle (his wife Florence Elridge's) to enable him to quickly travel from one set to the other on the Paramount studio lot. March has said that Death/Prince Sirki was one of his favorite roles, and he willingly reprised it both on radio for Lux Radio Theater in March of 1937 and on stage, in a production by Baltimore City College in May of 1938.

As impressive as March is, he is initially upstaged by the fantastic special effects. We first see Death as simply a shadow. Later, March appears in more traditional Grim Reaper garb, which is eerily transparent and surprisingly modern in design. Leisen demanded that the transparency effect be achieved in-camera rather than a later manipulation during the film processing stage. So Gordon Jennings employed the same technique that made The Invisible Man (1933) invisible. Parts of the set were recreated in black velvet. These were reflected in a partially transparent mirror, which was then superimposed over March (you can see a related effect "live" in the ballroom scene of Walt Disney World's The Haunted Mansion ride). March's elaborate cloaks were composed of layers of chiffon in dark hues from gray to black. Jennings also installed tiny lights under March's "hood" to light up his skull make-up.

The rest of the cast is excellent, too, if maybe a bit too sprawling for the film's length. But there needs to be a larger number of characters, as a hinge of the film is that three different women fall in love with Prince Sirki during his brief visit, one of them eventually being discouraged by his bizarre behavior, the other by being able to see his "true self". Sirki ends up falling in love with Grazia (Evelyn Venable, in her second role after 1933's Cradle Song), who is supposedly the fiancée of Corrado (Kent Taylor), but with him, she is oddly aloof. Despite the romance between Death/Sirki and Grazia, March and Venable never kiss in the film, as Venable's father had a clause written into her contract forbidding it.

Leisen creates a thick, almost creepy atmosphere for much of the film (although it's strongest when Duke Lambert first encounters Death), which gives it much of its horror overtones. For me, the romance aspect has a slight (appropriate) morbidity because of this, and it's questionable whether the film should even be considered a romance. The set design is also fantastic--the villa is breathtaking; it's too bad Leisen couldn't show it off more.

The constant tension invoked by Death/Sirki always being on the brink of "blowing his cover" keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat more often than one might expect. But Death Takes a Holiday is most fascinating when it waxes philosophical. Because death is on holiday, numerous accidents occur that people just walk away from (this was an intriguing and logical aspect that was absent from the 1998 remake, Meet Joe Black). This makes the newspapers, and Death finds it particularly ironic that humans seem to almost lament that war is not working correctly. He promises to the unwitting that humankind will soon again be able to blow each other up. Baron Cesarea (Henry Travers, who also played Dr. Cranley in The Invisible Man) offers that there are three "games" in life--money, war and love, and Death/Sirki ends up agreeing. Love finally gives him the answer of why humankind fears him so, and finally shows why life is not futile or simply a frittering away of time while people wait for him to arrive in his natural guise. The ending of the film was quite controversial, and suggests that love can even surmount death; it almost seems to say that possessing love, death might not be such a bad thing after all.


29 of 30 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
On DVD? vintagekeo
Was this movie based on a book or play? bgelean-1
'I am a great power, and yet I am humble before you.' wbailey906
Discuss Death Takes a Holiday (1934) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?