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Death Takes a Holiday (1934)

The Grim Reaper takes the form of a prince in an attempt to relate to humans and, along the way, also learns what it is to love.

Director:

Mitchell Leisen

Writers:

Maxwell Anderson (screenplay), Gladys Lehman (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Fredric March ... Prince Sirki / Death
Evelyn Venable ... Grazia
Guy Standing ... Duke Lambert (as Sir Guy Standing)
Katharine Alexander ... Alda
Gail Patrick ... Rhoda
Helen Westley ... Stephanie
Kathleen Howard ... Princess Maria
Kent Taylor ... Corrado
Henry Travers ... Baron Cesarea
G.P. Huntley G.P. Huntley ... Eric (as G.P. Huntley Jr.)
Otto Hoffman ... Fedele (as Otto Hoffmann)
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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 All (49) »

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:

Drama | Fantasy | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

30 March 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Strange Holiday See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. It's initial television broadcast took place in Los Angeles Tuesday 6 January 1959 on KNXT (Channel 2). In Milwaukee it first aired 14 April 1959 on WITI (Channel 6), in Detroit 19 October 1959 on WJBK (Channel 2), in Seattle 20 October 1959 on KIRO (Channel 7), in San Francisco 30 January 1960 on KPIX (Channel 5), in New York City 2 February 1960 on WCBS (Channel 2), in St. Louis 11 February 1960 on KMOX (Channel 4), in Philadelphia 11 April 1960 on WCAU (Channel 10), in Toledo 26 April 1960 on WTOL and finally by Chicago 10 October 1960 on WBBM (Channel 2). It was released on DVD 24 November 2009 as part of the Universal Vault Series and has also been granted an occasional airing on Turner Classic Movies during the intervening years. 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 , something they both would have done in real life. See more »

Quotes

Duke Lambert: I've had a glimpse of deep waters tonight, and I didn't like it.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Night Court: Death Takes a Halloween (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

String Quartet In G Minor, Op.10: III
(1894) (uncredited)
Music by Claude Debussy
See more »

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User Reviews

Very worth seeing, but frustrating
11 June 2000 | by oliverknealeSee all my reviews

First of all, the director of this film, Mitchell Leisen is one of the most underrated talents of 30's and 40's. He's acquired something of a bad reputation because of pretty vicious remarks made about him by Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder when talking about the films he directed from their scripts in the days before they were allowed to direct their *own* scripts. However, he doesn't deserve the derision. He's made some fluff films, for sure, but he's a consistently entertaining filmmaker who, more often than not, really delivers.

Anyway, Death Takes a Holiday is sort of his "art film" and it has a lot of great things in it. Fredric March's performance as Death is wonderful, the atmosphere is thick, the humor works, the scene setting is smart and romantic, and the opening titles are fun and weird, immediately presenting the film as something that's going to be a little unusual.

The problem with the film lies in Fredric March's romance with Evelyn Venable. The idea of Death falling in love with a human is great, but it's just not convincing here, mostly due to Venabale turning in a wooden performance that almost suggests she might be hypnotized. Also, the dialogue between them, particularly in the closing scene, is melodramatic and pseudo poetic beyond belief. You almost want to laugh at it.

It's a shame this most important aspect of the movie was handled so badly because just about everything else in film is great, particularly the interaction between Fredric March and just about everyone else in film who isn't Evelyn Venable. All of the good stuff just bursts with intruiging ideas.

And for that I would recommend the film to all potential viewers. The film is not without it's problems, but the good stuff is just good enough for me to say that the proverbial glass is definitely half full.


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