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Death Takes a Holiday

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Death Takes a Holiday
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMitchell Leisen
Screenplay byMaxwell Anderson
Gladys Lehman
Based onDeath Takes a Holiday (play) by Walter Ferris, adapted from La Morte in Vacanza by Alberto Casella
Produced byE. Lloyd Sheldon
Emanuel Cohen
CinematographyCharles Lang
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
February 23, 1934[1]
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States

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.


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 he takes up temporary residence in the Duke's villa. However, 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 is torn between seeking his own happiness or sacrificing it so that Grazia may live. After listening to the pleas from the Duke and his houseguests, Death finally decides to let Grazia live and returns to his true self, a black shadow. As he prepares to depart, Grazia chooses to go with him, telling him that she knew all along who he really was. Death then proclaims that love is greater than illusion and is as strong as death. He puts his arm around Grazia, and they both disappear in a flash of light.



The theatrical premiere of the film was on February 23, 1934 at the Paramount Theatre in New York City.[1] The home video releases have been:

  • 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.[2]


The film was an enormous critical success.[3] 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."[4] 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".[5] 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."[6]

The film was a box-office disappointment for Paramount.[7]

The American Film Institute recognized the film with a nomination in its 2002 list, AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions.[8]

Remakes and adaptations


  1. ^ a b "Death Takes a Holiday (1934)". Toronto Film Society. October 21, 2014. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  2. ^ "Kino: Two Mitchell Leisen Films Detailed for Blu-ray". Retrieved October 14, 2021.
  3. ^ 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);". The New York Times. p. X5.
  4. ^ Striner, Richard (2011). Supernatural Romance in Film: Tales of Love, Death and the Afterlife. McFarland and Company. pp. 21–22. ISBN 9780786484874.
  5. ^ "Death Takes a Holiday". Variety. February 27, 1934.
  6. ^ Mosher, John C. (March 3, 1934). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. p. 66.
  7. ^ D. W. (Nov 25, 1934). "Taking a Look at the Record". The New York Times. ProQuest 101193306.
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 18, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  9. ^ "Death's Holiday". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 22, 1937. p. 19 – via Google News.
  10. ^ Jones, Kenneth (June 10, 2011). "Julian Ovenden's Reaper Has a Song in His Heart in Death Takes a Holiday, Premiering in NYC". Playbill.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 20 February 2022, at 23:45
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