Movie Night: Holiday

Doris-Nolan-Katharine-Hepburn-Cary-Grant-and-Lew-Ayres-in-Holiday-1938Contrary to what might seem obvious, many people get the blues around Christmastime not because they are listening to weak, pop-star Christmas albums instead of Ray Charles’ The Spirit of Christmas. (( As I understand it, many are discouraged because they think greed and commercialization now rule the holiday season. At least Charlie Brown sees this problem in A Charlie Brown Christmas. The worry is that a time of year dedicated to growing closer to family and friends has devolved into a mere piling up of possessions and frustration that there isn’t more stuff for me.

As an unabashed capitalist, I am less concerned with businesses turning a higher profit in December than I am with the greed that might infest our hearts at any time of year (1 Timothy 6:10). The best cure for greed is a study of what the Bible has to say about how we should view money, including the principle of thankfulness. ((See Jason Jackson, “Training Children for Financial Responsibility,” Christian Courier, (2013).))  Short of that, though, there is a great movie that will help clear the way for us to take God’s view of riches, and it brings some bonus gifts.

It’s Holiday, from 1938, special if only as an opportunity to see Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant together, but also because of a tremendous supporting cast that includes Lew Ayres and Edward Everett Horton (perhaps best known as narrator for Rocky and Bullwinkle) in big roles. The director is perhaps the best of all time: George Cukor (My Fair Lady, The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib). Grant plays Johnny Case, a young, poor-but-promising businessman who has become engaged to Julia Seaton (played by Doris Nolan) just days after meeting her. When Case visits her family, he is shocked to find that they are wealthy almost beyond imagination. He also meets Julia’s siblings, the free-spirited Linda (Hepburn) and the friendly alcoholic Ned (Ayres).

Case also finds that something is clearly wrong in the Seaton household: The family business that has made all the money now rules the family. The top of the social ladder has become an obsession for Julia’s aging father Edward and, Case fears, for Julia herself. It is prison for Linda and Ned, who would rather not spend their lives in service to the family fortune, but haven’t found a way out. Case doesn’t conform to father and Julia’s ideals, because (in addition to having a sense of humor) he only wants to make enough money to live on, and to then retire at the first possible moment. Linda and Ned, on the other hand, are more like their now-deceased mother in not caring much for business; they can identify with Case’s unusual ambition. When Case breaks it to the family that he sees business only as a means to an end—to do what he pleases rather than worry over money—it threatens to divide the family and break off the engagement.

I will say no more about the story here, and point out three lessons to take from Holiday:

Johnny Case explicitly says that he wants to be free from money. It’s not that he is opposed to wealth, but he does not desire the pressure of piling up more and more. Only an attitude like Johnny’s will allow for the principles Matthew 6:19-34 to be fully implemented in our lives.

Julia attempts to get Johnny to marry without leaving her father (and his money), but Johnny understands the principle of Genesis 2:24. Marriages get off on the wrong foot when they come with too many obligations to the families of the parents.

Linda tries to escape her problems by hiding in the past. Ned tries it by drinking. Their lives are obviously harmed by these strategies. Johnny teaches them that only a permanent holiday from the environment dictated by sin will solve their problem. One cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13). One cannot be of the light while living in the darkness (Ephesians 5:8).

Holiday is available for purchase on DVD (( and for download now, (( at a reasonable price. It may be the best movie you watch this holiday season.


- 2024

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