Death Takes a Holiday
Death Takes a Holiday is a 1934 American pre-Code romantic drama starring Fredric March, Evelyn Venable and Guy Standing. It is based on the 1924 Italian play La Morte in Vacanza by Alberto Casella (1891–1957), as adapted in English for Broadway in 1929 by Walter Ferris.
|Death Takes a Holiday|
|Directed by||Mitchell Leisen|
|Produced by||E. Lloyd Sheldon|
|Screenplay by||Maxwell Anderson|
|Based on||Death Takes a Holiday (play) by Walter Ferris, adapted from La Morte in Vacanza by Alberto Casella|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|February 23, 1934|
After years of questioning why people fear him, Death takes on human form as Prince Sirki (Fredric March) for three days so that he can mingle among mortals and find an answer. He finds a host in Duke Lambert (Guy Standing) after revealing himself and his intentions to the Duke, and takes up temporary residence in the Duke's villa. However, events soon spiral out of control as Death falls in love with the beautiful young Grazia (Evelyn Venable). As he does so, Duke Lambert, the father of Grazia's mortal lover Corrado (Kent Taylor), begs him to give Grazia up and leave her among the living. Death must decide whether to seek his own happiness, or sacrifice it so that Grazia may live.
Grazia and Death have sex. He then decides to let Grazia live and returns to his true self, a black shadow. But Grazia goes with him anyway, saying she loves him and knew all along who he really was. Death then says love is greater than illusion and something as strong as death.
Death takes Grazia in his arms and they both disappear in a flash of light.
- Death Takes a Holiday (VHS). Universal Studios. March 8, 1999.
- Death Takes a Holiday (DVD). Universal Studios. January 9, 2007. (as part of the Meet Joe Black Ultimate Edition)
- Death Takes a Holiday (DVD). Universal Studios. January 11, 2010.
- Death Takes a Holiday (Blu-Ray). Kino Lorber. July 23, 2019.
The film was an enormous critical success. Time called it "thoughtful and delicately morbid", while Mordaunt Hall for The New York Times wrote that "it is an impressive picture, each scene of which calls for close attention".
Richard Watts, Jr, for the New York Herald Tribune, described it as "An interesting, frequently striking and occasionally beautiful dramatic fantasy", while the Chicago Daily Tribune said that March was "completely submerged in probably the greatest role he has ever played." Variety called it "the kind of story and picture that beckons the thinker, and for this reason is likely to have greater appeal among the intelligensia." It praised March's performance as "skillful". John Mosher of The New Yorker wrote that the film was "nicely done", although he suggested it was "a little obnoxious with all its talk of being in love with death."
The film was a box-office disappointment for Paramount.
Remakes and adaptationsEdit
- A one-hour radio adaptation of the film aired on Cecil B. DeMille's Lux Radio Theatre on March 22, 1937, starring Fredric March reprising his role as Death and his wife, actress Florence Eldridge, as Grazia.
- Universal Studios, which acquired the rights to the film in 1962 following a merger with then-owners MCA, made a 1971 television production featuring Yvette Mimieux, Monte Markham, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas and Bert Convy. Loy related in her biography that the production was marred by a decline in filming production standards; she described a frustrated Douglas storming off the set and returning to his home in New York when a tour guide interrupted the filming of one of his dramatic scenes to point out Rock Hudson's dressing room.
- The film was remade by Universal again in 1998 as Meet Joe Black starring Brad Pitt, Claire Forlani and Anthony Hopkins.
- It was adapted into a musical by Maury Yeston with the book by Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan. It began previews Off-Broadway on June 10, and officially opened on July 21, 2011, in a limited engagement through September 4, 2011, at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre in a production by Roundabout Theatre Company.
- A May 2006 episode of the television drama Medium also builds on the concept of death portrayed as a man. The season 2 episode is similarly titled, being called "Death Takes a Policy".
- "Death Takes a Holiday (1934)". Toronto Film Society. October 21, 2014. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
- "Kino: Two Mitchell Leisen Films Detailed for Blu-ray". Blu-Ray.com. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
- Churchill, Douglas W. (December 30, 1934). "The Year in Hollywood: 1934 May Be Remembered as the Beginning of the Sweetness-and-Light Era (gate locked)];". New York Times. p. X5. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
- Striner, Richard (2011). Supernatural Romance in Film: Tales of Love, Death and the Afterlife. McFarland and Company. pp. 21–22. ISBN 9780786484874.
- "Death Takes a Holiday". Variety. February 27, 1934.
- Mosher, John C. (March 3, 1934). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 66.
- D. W. (Nov 25, 1934). "TAKING A LOOK AT THE RECORD". New York Times. ProQuest 101193306.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-18.
- "Death's Holiday". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1937-03-22. p. 19. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
- Jones, Kenneth. Julian Ovenden's Reaper Has a Song in His Heart in Death Takes a Holiday, Premiering in NYC" Archived 2011-06-22 at the Wayback Machine. Playbill.com, June 10, 2011.