Sunday, March 25, 2012

March-in-March Blogathon: Death Takes a Holiday (1934)


Fredric March: Who knew Death was so
handsome?
Photo Courtesy of http://www.filmaffinity.com
TCMDb: Death goes on vacation to learn about mortal life -- and love.

     Death: I am--how shall I pursue it--a sort of vagabond of space. I am the point of contact between time and eternity.

     Before I say anything, I've got to get this off my chest: Brad Pitt ain't got nuttin' on Fredric March!
     There, I feel a lot better. First off, this is my contribution to Sittin' on a Backyard Fence's blogathon. Now, to get me started I just want to say that I saw the remake of this film, Meet Joe Black, years ago--long before I ever got into classic films, and so it wasn't until I decided to do this blogathon and I went in search of a film of Fredric's that I could do a review on when I came across this one. Until then, I had no idea that Meet Joe Black was a remake of an original (I should've guessed it though), and so I'm not going to lie to you and say that I didn't like it, because I did. Now that I've seen the original, however, I can most gladly tell you that I LOVE the original, and Brad Pitt seriously has NOTHING on Fredric March, though he shouldn't feel too bad about it because so few actors really do have anything on him.
     The whole premise of the film is that Death wants to know what makes us as humans the way we are. He wants to expereince life, experience what we feel, and wants to know why that everybody fears him--Death. So, he tells Duke Lambert, played by Guy Standing, that he is going to take the form of Prince Sirki, a friend of the Duke's who would have been arriving soon to visit him, and test his experiment for three days. However, the Duke must not tell anyone who he really is, and they all must treat him as though he were a real person. If he is unsatisfied--well, he'd just do his job and someone would be seeing him in his true form. Like anyone would, the Duke agrees to the terms.
Death as Prince Sirki.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.pickurselfup.tumblr.com
     Despite it's age--seventy-eight-years-old--this film is still so very much enjoyable today as it was when it was first viewed back in 1934. It's dry humor and wit is still just as lyrical to the ears--especially mine since that's the kind of humor I personally enjoy the most.
     Fredric March makes this whole film for me. I doubt that if it had been anybody else, I'd like it just as much. March portrayed with just the right amount of seriousness, curiousness, and cynicism to make the character of Death feel real. I believe that if Death was real in the fact that it was a single person, and that it wondered about how we as people choose to live our lives, what makes us happy and what makes us mad and still further yet what makes us sad, Death would be very much like the character of Death that Fredric March plays him as.
Death never looked so good.
Photo Courtesy of
 http://www.nighthawknews.wordpress.com
      Also, with March as Death, I cannot help but feel sad for him, too. When Grazia gives him a flower, and he discovers that as a human he cannot make it wither and die as he does when he is in the form of Death, he cannot help but look at it, and touch it. He is amazed, and the look on his face when he realizes that the flower is not wilting and dying just makes my want to give him a big hug. It's a subtle expression, but it's a powerful one.
     While I really like this film, I will admit that at some parts it tends to get a little overly dramatic. The woman that plays Grazia, Evelyn Venable, tended to lean toward the dramatics--a lot. Her voice was low and had that far-off dreamy quality which didn't work for me in the majority of the film (though she's not in it for the most part), but then by the end it didn't bother me as much. Then near the end when Duke Lambert finally tells his family and friends who March is, not really Prince Sirki, but Death, the thing that all men fear, they go way over on the dramatics for my taste, but thankfully it's only for a couple of minutes. Really those were the only things that bothered me about the film, and they hardly rank high enough to ruin a good movie, which is exactly what this was.
     Having seen Meet Joe Black, I had thought that this film would end in just the same way, but quite to my shock and amazement, it didn't at all. It did a complete roundabout on me, and I liked that. To have a film end like that was a pleasant surprise.
     I can see how this picture might turn out to be a big bore for some, so I suggest this only to Fredric March fans. I, being a Fredric March fan, liked it a lot so I'm going to give this picture a 3.5/4 stars.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Well, I made it over to your blog for comments. And I pretty much agree with everything you said! March really does make this movie and there isn't another actor in 1934 that I would have chosen to play the part. I think I liked Venable more than you did (that whole "off-with-the-fairies" attitude seemed to suit the character) but I know if I were Death, I would have gone for Gail Patrick, she seemed the most fun of the three women. And plus, Gail Patrick is just great. Nice to read your thoughts.