Death Takes A Holiday
Here’s the premise: death is sentient. The Grim Reaper is death itself. What death doesn’t understand is why everyone is so afraid of him – people cower when he comes near, and they fight to elude his grasp. His morbid curiosity leads him to take human form for three days and find out what it is about life that makes folks shy away from death.
That’s the plot of the Italian stage play called Death Takes A Holiday that was turned into a 1934 film by Paramount pictures. It was remade in 1998 as Meet Joe Black.
This is a thoughtful screenplay with a dramatic performance by Fredric March as death. The script explores the opportunities afforded it by the premise, but centers mainly on death’s attempt to understand the human concept of love. A bit stagy but well-conceived and well-acted, this is a quietly beautiful film with some surprisingly hopeful and accurate approaches to the subject of death.
Viewing this one is a bit demanding on the attention and intellect, but it’s worth the effort. A three-day holiday for death makes for good drama.
It Happened One Night
This Capra film is the granddaddy of the Romantic-Comedy genre. Not the first rom-com, but the predecessor of dozens of similar films: boy meets girl. Boy and girl strongly dislike one another, but are thrust together in wild situation. A romance blossoms. A misunderstanding splits the two, but they come together for a happy ending by the final scene.
Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert play out this plot, setting the tone and conventions for many romantic comedies to follow. Colbert is a rich girl, rebelling in the name of independence; Gable is a cynical newspaper reporter looking for a scoop. Colbert’s father is not pleased when she seeks marriage with what he considers the wrong man, so she runs off, and makes headline news with her disappearance. Gable discovers her on the run, and they make a deal: Gable will see her safely home to her husband, and Colbert will allow Gable to collect the reward for returning her safely. But of course, along the way, Gable softens to Colbert’s charm, and she begins to feel for him what she never felt for her fiance.
It’s not bad viewing, but it’s nothing special, either. As Zach pointed out, though, the failure of this film in our eyes might be its own success: this is the forerunner to innumerable rom-coms with similar plots, characters and situations. Maybe the reason we’re jaded on It Happened One Night is that we’re too familiar with this type of film?
Or maybe it’s that 5/6s of the SVU are guys.