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Death Takes a Holiday

Released Feb 23, 1934 1h 18m Fantasy List
88% Tomatometer 8 Reviews 78% Audience Score 500+ Ratings
Death (Fredric March) is unable to relate to humans, so he takes the form of Prince Sirki, and tries life as a person. Many women are instantly attracted to Prince Sirki, but once they really get to know him, they become frightened. It isn't until he meets the beautiful Grazia (Evelyn Venable) that Death finally learns what it is to love. But when Grazia's father (Guy Standing) learns of Prince Sirki's real identity, he tries to break up the relationship. Read More Read Less
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Critics Reviews

View All (8) Critics Reviews
Rosalie Kicks MovieJawn This Pre-Code is such a great example of the time aged phrase, “They don’t make romantic dramas like they used to.” Rated: 3./4 Jun 19, 2024 Full Review Sarah Boslaugh TheArtsStl The real visual treats in Death Takes a Holiday, however, come from the art decoration by Hans Dreier and Ernst Fegté. Rated: 6/10 Jul 23, 2019 Full Review Helen Brown Norden Vanity Fair Fredric March plays Death as if he thought he might possibly be Dracula; and he intones all his words with an awesome, old-Shakespearian-actor solemnity. Evelyn Venable is contrastingly starry-eyed and vernal as his love. May 17, 2019 Full Review Shane Burridge rec.arts.movies.reviews Death...as a house guest that can't be gotten rid of Jun 13, 2007 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews In this wearisome and predictable plot line, Death falls in love and bores us to death talking about it. Rated: C+ Dec 27, 2005 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Rated: 3/5 Jun 23, 2005 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (35) audience reviews
Steve D Really different and really interesting. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 06/03/23 Full Review Devils A I highly recommend this movie, great acting by Frederick Marsh who skillfully shows how he can play Death!!!! Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/15/23 Full Review Doug H Fredrick March. I can't tell if he was overacting or underacting. It's just too obvious that he is ACTING. (Which breaks any spell there might have been.) Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/09/23 Full Review Audience Member It's a beautiful horror love story. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/03/23 Full Review Audience Member The best romance movie ever made! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/26/23 Full Review Audience Member In this fantasy film directed by Mitchell Leisen, the grim reaper (Frederic March) gets a reprieve from his duties for three days, and he's also allowed to take human form. Over the ages he's seen life in all its smallness, and can't understand what makes living so special, or why people fear him. He comes primarily seeking knowledge, but soon finds himself enjoying new experiences and emotions. I enjoy films where Death is a character, and this one is an interesting mix of philosophy, fantasy, humor, and romance. The premise allows the film to explore the nature of life and love in fundamental ways. We see this early on as Death raises a toast and says "To this household, to life, and to all brave illusion." As we smile at his enjoyment over tasting wine and feeling its effects for the first time, we understand that from a higher, eternal perspective, all of what we do is indeed a 'brave illusion'. Now it turns out that if Death is taking a holiday, no one else receives him as a visitor, and we see news reports of people not dying during fires and other accidents. Death enjoys himself, but remarks that people seem to spend too much time indoors, and says "I have been among you two days, and what you do with yourselves still seems so very futile and empty." He also makes this devastating comment on war: "I could never make out what it was they were fighting about. It's usually a flag, isn't it? Or a barren piece of ground that neither side wants." What a fantastic line, so touching in any era, and particularly meaningful in the interval between WWI and WWII. It helps set up another observation from Death, relayed by Henry Travers (yes, Clarence from 'It's a Wonderful Life'): "Has it ever occurred to you that death may be simpler than life, and infinitely more kind?" If all this sounds gloomy or Bergmanesque, it's really not. There is one frightening scene where he reveals himself to a young woman, but overall the film is lyrical and reasonably light, and in fact it feels a bit theatrical in places. The story shows us that love is what ultimately transcends the absurdity of our brief existences. What starts out as a comedic competition with Gail Patrick and Katharine Alexander vying for Death's affections, evolves to Evelyn Venable and Death falling for one another. There is a lot behind these lines which he utters, and anyone who has fallen hopelessly in love will identify: "A moment ago I knew only that men were dust, and their end was dust. And now suddenly I know for the first time that men bear a dream within them... a dream that lifts them above their dust, and their little days. And you have brought this to me. I look at the stars in the water, Grazia, and you have given them a meaning." Essentially, the film asks the question, what if love "were only a few days or a few hours, would that be enough to justify love?" The ending, while a bit melodramatic, answers in the affirmative. True love not only what gives life its meaning, but it's also more important than life. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/13/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Death Takes a Holiday

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Cast & Crew

Cool World 4% 31% Cool World She 50% 50% She Peter Ibbetson 83% 62% Peter Ibbetson Here Comes Mr. Jordan 100% 82% Here Comes Mr. Jordan A Guy Named Joe 67% 73% A Guy Named Joe Discover more movies and TV shows. View More

Movie Info

Synopsis Death (Fredric March) is unable to relate to humans, so he takes the form of Prince Sirki, and tries life as a person. Many women are instantly attracted to Prince Sirki, but once they really get to know him, they become frightened. It isn't until he meets the beautiful Grazia (Evelyn Venable) that Death finally learns what it is to love. But when Grazia's father (Guy Standing) learns of Prince Sirki's real identity, he tries to break up the relationship.
Director
Mitch Leisen
Producer
E. Lloyd Sheldon
Screenwriter
Maxwell Anderson, Alberto Casella, Walter Ferris, Gladys Lehman
Distributor
Paramount Pictures
Production Co
Paramount Pictures
Genre
Fantasy
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Feb 23, 1934, Original
Release Date (Streaming)
Feb 12, 2014
Runtime
1h 18m
Sound Mix
Mono
Aspect Ratio
Flat (1.37:1)
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