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Death Takes a Holiday

(1934 b 80')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Based on a play by Alberto Casella, Death enjoys life for three days and falls in love.

Grazia (Evelyn Venable) prays in church. Two cars drive fast and see a shadow; but in an accident no one is hurt. Grazia feels the miraculous. Corrado (Kent Taylor) and his father urge her to marry Corrado; but she says she is not ready. Grazia screams and collapses, saying she felt something cold and terrible, a shadow. A shadowy figure comes to Duke Lambert (Guy Standing), saying he is Death on a three-day holiday. He wants to know why people fear him, and the Duke accepts him as his expected guest, Prince Sirki. Corrado shoots at him; but the Duke says a messenger came to say the Prince is coming. Prince Sirki (Fredric March) arrives, and the Duke introduces him to Alda (Katharine Alexander), Rhoda (Gail Patrick), Baron Cesarea (Henry Travers), Eric, and Corrado. The Prince drinks wine to life and meets Grazia and her mother before he retires.

Flowers bloom, and Grazia gives the Prince a flower; he notes it does not fade as usual. The Baron feels young, and Grazia says good-bye to the Prince. News reports no deaths despite several accidents. On his last night the Prince wins gambling and gives money away. He tells the Baron their games are futile. The Baron says the best game is love. The Prince likes the youthful vigor of Rhoda, who says she doesn't care he is not a marrying man. They kiss; but when he analyzes his feeling, she walks away. Alda is fascinated by the Prince. He says he is not one of them and is asking for love but knows she will lose courage. He wills Alda to know who he is; looking into his eyes, she is frightened.

The Prince dances with Grazia. Corrado asks her to stay close to him, because he is afraid. Grazia knows but is not afraid, feeling far away. Cold, she asks Corrado for a cloak. The Prince takes her in the garden, while the Duke tells everyone the Prince is Death on a holiday and warns them to stay away. The Prince tells Grazia he knows men's dreams now; but he is alone, because they are apart. Grazia sees mystery in him; he needs her but must go back. Grazia asks him to take her; he asks for one hour.

The Baron says Death may be kind. Grazia's mother, Corrado, and the Duke ask for Grazia, and the Prince says they call her back. Grazia will go with him, because he is kind. The Prince says it was a jest and tells her to stay or she will never see them again. Grazia says the Prince is her love. At 12 Death as a shadow leaves, saying they will see him as their friend, as Grazia has. Death concludes, "Love is greater than illusion and as strong as death."

Grazia (meaning gratitude) is mystically inclined and understands what Death is, having cast out the fear the others feel. The elderly Baron also realizes Death is kind. In the allegory the impersonal Death learns something of human life and love.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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