Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Doris Nolan
Linda: Well, well, let’s ring bells! Let’s send up skyrockets! …well…let’s turn on all the lights in the house.
While on holiday at Lake Placid, Johnny Case (Grant) meets Julia (Nolan) and they fall immediately in love. Upon returning to the city, Johnny learns that Julia is part of a very wealthy family. As working-class Johnny breathes a breath of fresh air into the stuck-up household, he also finds that he must avoid the trap of falling into a life all about making money. Julia’s sister, Linda (Hepburn), adores Johnny and wants him to rescue Julia from this dream-crushing environment, but that may not be what Julia really wants. And it may be Linda that really wants to be rescued.
This movie was just a joy to watch. It’s both hilariously funny and insightful about class differences and about how easily people can lose their dreams. It’s interesting to see the subtle ways these differences and perceptions are brought to light. Upon walking into Julia’s family’s opulent house for the first time, Johnny says, “Judas!” The butler says, “what,” and Johnny replies, “I said Judas. It didn’t mean anything.” But, seeing as how Judas chose money over his loyalty to Jesus, one could read a lot into Johnny’s choice of words. Similarly, Julia’s father keeps mistakenly calling Johnny “Mr. Chase”, instead of Case, indicative of his worries that Johnny is just a middle class man chasing his daughter, hoping to marry into the family’s money.
Linda, however, sees Johnny for what he truly is. A dreamer that won’t compromise, even for large sums of money. She’s a loving sister who, despite her growing attraction to Johnny, wants to convince her sister that this rich, money-chasing life is something she needs to escape from, and Johnny is her ticket out.
There’s a room upstairs that Linda spends much of her time in. It’s like a museum of the past lives that she, Julia, and their brother Ned once lived. Artwork never finished, musical instruments no longer played, and favorite toys no longer played with. All these pursuits fell by the wayside as the pursuit of money took over. Ned, being the only son, has been particularly damaged by this pursuit. The pressure of living up to his father’s expectations has resulted in his alcoholism. He, too, would like to see his sisters freed from this lifestyle, but he sees Julia as she really is: much more like her father than Linda is.
I did say this was a comedy, and it definitely is. The serious stuff is interlaced with the comedy in a perfect blend. Grant and Hepburn play very well off of each other, and Ned is always good for a funny comment when things get too serious.
I’ll add two final things. 1) It took me a while to figure it out, but one character, Nick (Edward Everett Horton), had a very recognizable voice. Eventually I figured out that he did the narration for the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. That added another layer of enjoyment to the whole thing. 2) The more older movies I watch, the more I understand it when people say, “They just don’t make movies like they used to.” I tend to agree.
Retiring at 30, when you’re young and energetic, then working at a desk job again later in life when you’re old…that seems like a pretty good idea.
10 – 1 for one character making a bit too severe of a personality change + .2 for the Grant/Hepburn chemistry = 9.2