Death Takes a Holiday (1934)

78 mins | Fantasy, Drama | 30 March 1934

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Strange Holiday . Actor Otto Hoffman's surname is misspelled as "Hoffmann" in the onscreen credits. According to a 1930 FD news item, plans were underway to produce this film with William Powell in a lead role. In 1948, Myra Page Wiren filed a plagiarism suit against Paramount, claiming that her story "Most" was used for the film. A lower court dismissed the case, and when Wiren contested this decision, the appeal continued until 1954, when the Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision against Wiren. A modern source credits Travis Banton and Edith Head with costumes. Another adaptation of the story was made in 1998, under the title Meet Joe Black . That film, a Universal release directed by Martin Brest and starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, updated the story to present day New ... More Less

The working title of this film was Strange Holiday . Actor Otto Hoffman's surname is misspelled as "Hoffmann" in the onscreen credits. According to a 1930 FD news item, plans were underway to produce this film with William Powell in a lead role. In 1948, Myra Page Wiren filed a plagiarism suit against Paramount, claiming that her story "Most" was used for the film. A lower court dismissed the case, and when Wiren contested this decision, the appeal continued until 1954, when the Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision against Wiren. A modern source credits Travis Banton and Edith Head with costumes. Another adaptation of the story was made in 1998, under the title Meet Joe Black . That film, a Universal release directed by Martin Brest and starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, updated the story to present day New York. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
12 Jan 1934.
---
Film Daily
2 Nov 30
p. 2.
Film Daily
23 Feb 34
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1934.
---
Motion Picture Herald
20 Jan 34
p. 58, 60.
New York Times
24 Feb 34
p. 18.
New York Times
12 Aug 34
p. 2.
Variety
27 Feb 34
p. 17.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Strange Holiday
Release Date:
30 March 1934
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 March 1934
Copyright Number:
LP4582
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
78
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

On their way home from a carnival, Duke Lambert and his family and guests narrowly escape death in an auto accident caused by a mysterious shadow. At Lambert's Villa Felicitá, Lambert and his son Corrado, who is in love with Grazia, the daughter of Princess Maria, urge Grazia to marry Corrado soon. Grazia, however, is reluctant to marry because she has not yet experienced the kind of happiness for which she longs. While alone in the garden, Grazia screams and faints when she senses a mysterious and malevolent presence, but sees no one. The garden is searched for an intruder, but when no one is found, everyone but Lambert retires early. The presence reveals himself as Death to Lambert and demands that Lambert accept him as a guest while he takes a three-day holiday in mortal form to discover why men cling to life. Death insists that Lambert reveal to no one his true identity when he appears in the form of Prince Sirki, a friend whom Lambert was expecting and who, unknown to him, recently died. As Death leaves the house, Corrado shoots from an upstairs window at what he belives to be the intruder, but to no effect. The sound of the gunshot awakens the household, and Lambert attempts to prepare them for the strangeness of their new guest, Prince Sirki, who arrives shortly thereafter. The newness of his mortal form delights Death, and he behaves like a gentleman. Death and Grazia are immediately smitten with each other; however, she goes home with her mother, and Death is entertained by Lambert's guests, Stephanie and Rhoda Fenton, who are hungry for ... +


On their way home from a carnival, Duke Lambert and his family and guests narrowly escape death in an auto accident caused by a mysterious shadow. At Lambert's Villa Felicitá, Lambert and his son Corrado, who is in love with Grazia, the daughter of Princess Maria, urge Grazia to marry Corrado soon. Grazia, however, is reluctant to marry because she has not yet experienced the kind of happiness for which she longs. While alone in the garden, Grazia screams and faints when she senses a mysterious and malevolent presence, but sees no one. The garden is searched for an intruder, but when no one is found, everyone but Lambert retires early. The presence reveals himself as Death to Lambert and demands that Lambert accept him as a guest while he takes a three-day holiday in mortal form to discover why men cling to life. Death insists that Lambert reveal to no one his true identity when he appears in the form of Prince Sirki, a friend whom Lambert was expecting and who, unknown to him, recently died. As Death leaves the house, Corrado shoots from an upstairs window at what he belives to be the intruder, but to no effect. The sound of the gunshot awakens the household, and Lambert attempts to prepare them for the strangeness of their new guest, Prince Sirki, who arrives shortly thereafter. The newness of his mortal form delights Death, and he behaves like a gentleman. Death and Grazia are immediately smitten with each other; however, she goes home with her mother, and Death is entertained by Lambert's guests, Stephanie and Rhoda Fenton, who are hungry for husbands. In the meantime, accidents occur all over the world, but to everyone's amazement no one dies. Gradually, Death realizes that love is the most important human emotion, but remains free from its pull, as all the women he encounters sense Death's strangeness and are frightened of him. Grazia returns to the villa on the eve of Death's last night in human form and remains willing and unafraid as Death makes love to her. Now anguished at having to leave his newfound humanity behind, Death consents to the pleas of Lambert and the others that he leave Grazia behind, but Grazia, it transpires, already knows the true identity of the man she has taken as her lover, and she and Death depart joyfully together. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.