Death Takes a Holiday (1934)
Death Takes a Holiday (1934)

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Product Description

Decades before Brad Pitt starred in Meet Joe Black, the story of a vacationing Grim Reaper was adapted for the screen from a popular play. Frederick March, playing Death, disguises himself as a European prince and spends three days with an amenable duke at his palatial estate. Women are instantly attracted to the Lord of the Underworld, but back off when they sense his true nature--that is, all women except for the beautiful young innocent (Evelyn Venable), who is destined to marry the duke's son.

Filmed in 1934, this is more sensual than the Pitt remake, though the acting style is more mannered than some audiences may enjoy. But at only 78 minutes, the emotional content, as well as the ending, feels more real than the lengthy '90s version. --Rochelle O'Gorman

Customer Reviews:

  • A treasure
    When I first saw the movie, years ago, the message had a definite impact - When I saw the remake with Monte Markham, I realized the subject matter was timeless. The new version still delivers the same message, with a different twist....more info
  • There's bad overacting, and then there's GREAT overacting!
    I was very hesitant to see this original movie after being tortured by it's remake, MEET JOE BLACK. I finally worked up the courage to see this film, and what a film it is!!

    When I reference overacting in my review subject, I'm not referring to any of the leads. Frederic March is just wonderful as Death. Completely suave and charming, with some uncomprehension of this life and a few handfuls of macabre statements thrown in for good measure. If anyone else was saying most of the dialog March had, I would think it was over the top, and lame. But when he says it, I just sit back and sigh. Especially the ending, when he's trying to persuade Grazia to leave him before he turns back into Death. In my book, one of the most touching scenes in any romance movie.

    Now, the great overacting I reference in the subject pertains to the supporting actors. They have some fabulously screwy scenes, where their acting is over the top and wonderful. This is best illustrated when Duke Lambert has to tell his guests who Prince Sirki really is. "He is the one you fear most ... " " ... he is death." How can you not crack up at that scene? Look for Henry Travers (a.k.a. Clarence the angel) in a fun role.

    And the bad overacting in the subject? Well, that, of course, is Brad Pitt. Poor fellow can't tell the difference between being mysterious and acting like an imbecile. Oh well. At least he gave it a try. Hopefully, he, and the director of MEET JOE BLACK learned their lesson. It's a bad idea to mess with perfection....more info

  • Death take a holiday
    I was only 12 when I first seen this film but I think most of us is missing the point. Death took a holiday people stopped dying and death fell in love. And instead of being separate they were related death and life and love. I loved the dialect. The words they used were English in its proper usage. The romance was in the words not the characters. I was moved by the audio of this film. I actually understood it better than the modern day Joe Black which was made for visual purposes. I love the old films they had lessons and meanings today most just sell sex. This film is how you portray a message without desire but just what if death could take a holiday and fell in love? Unselfish but selfish he wanted to take a break from his job only to learn in his job there was love. People needed to cross over so people could enter a new realm where I believe love calls for them.
    Like I said before I think some people miss the message in some movies this is a if movie.
    ...more info
  • finally, i found a copy of the classic movie that i loved so
    i remember, from distant childhood, a dark, but rather darkly humourous movie, that i dearly loved. a sad satire, if you will. i would wait, to see it repeated in our little one horse town, on the Sunday afternoon theater. i have searched for a vhs copy of this movie, for almost 20 years. i have heard that a lot of the critics do not care for the 1998 re-make, titled "Meet Joe Black". however, i have to thank whatever studio finally remade this film, for generating a renewed interest in this 1934 version. thank you,, for finally finding that much longed for copy of an old favorite movie! once again, i am indebted to you!...more info
  • Hi there
    I haven't seen the film, but it always bothers me when people spell other people's names wrong. Probrably because it always happends to me. Frederic March's name has no k at the end of his first name. Thank you....more info
    An excursion into the supernatural took Paramount to an artistic high point in its 1934 programme. DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY proved that Mitchell Leisen, wielding a strong, dramatic sense together with a delicacy of touch, was a valuable addition to the studio's directors' list, on which he would remain for 18 years. The multi-awarded playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote the screenplay with Gladys Lehman and Walter Ferris, basing it on a play by Alberto Casella about the Angel of Death assuming human form. He visits a country house as a mysterious prince, fascinating but frightening all with whom he encounters....... E. Lloyd Sheldon gave this a sumptuous production and the acting throughout - especially by Fredric March and Evelyn Venable in the leads - is immaculate....more info
  • Good old movie
    This movie is the original "Death Takes a Holiday". It has good acting and realistic sets. A great "popcorn" and date movie. Enjoyable for men and women. OK for younger viewers too - no sex or violence in this old movie....more info
  • Death lives!
    Rather archaic, and a bit difficult to sit through, this is still a fascinating film. On re-screening it recently, I found that some scenes had lingered in my memory for 43 years. Death takes human form temporarily to satisfy his curiosity about why we humans fear him so much. During his "holiday", no one dies. The idea that a moratorium on death for a few days would not become immediately obvious and would not cause screaming headlines worldwide cannot be taken seriously, nor can the entire film. (Check out the climactic announcement, "He is -- Death!!" Very melodramatic.) This is a film that requires a huge suspension of disbelief, but if you do so, you will enjoy it. Fredric March was an unusual choice to portray Death, but he does his typically fine job. Science fiction writer Fred Pohl has said that seeing this film in his early teens caused him to not fear death....more info
  • Poor. Whereas "Meet Joe Black" is long & boring,
    "Death Takes a Holiday" is merely boring. This is not a knock on Fredric March or Brad Pitt, both fine actors. It is simply creepy yet too one dimensional to be taken seriously. A play that did not transfer well. As for Death, aparently he likes to vacation with the stupid, idle, rich rather than real people. Ironically, these stiffs are already half dead. They have nothing to say yet prattle on endlessly about it. Death isn't much better. I fell asleep & had to rewind a bit. It didn't matter. Such excellent suject matter squandered twice 64 years apart. I really do like the old movie classics. This one... disappointing....more info
  • death rocks
    loved it....much better than Meet Joe Black with Brad Pitt. Andrew L Weber should make it a broadway play ala Phantom....Death Rocks ! especially on holiday !...more info
  • Romance Through a Glass Darkly
    From the moment a strange shadow seems to be following the car lovely Evelyn Venable is riding in the mood for this beautiful and darkly romantic film is set. When death itself takes on physical form to understand better why humans fear him so, the stage is set for a rich and unusual film experience.

    One of the great films of the 1930's, it is not as well-remembered as it should be. There is a strange and almost haunting atmosphere to what in the end is realy a romantic look at love itself. Fredric March gives a solid performance as that which we most fear but do not understand. He is appropriately over the top and out of place on earth. Evelyn Veneable is memorable as the girl, Grazia, who Prince Sirki (March) comes to love, experiencing for the first time what it means to be human.

    But the world becomes chaotic while Death is on his vacation and Sirki must return to his grim duties. The question is whether the lovely Grazia will still fear him or choose love, even if it means going with him to what lies beyond. It is talky but so full of its darkly romantic atmosphere that it is almost hypnotic. This is truly a masterpiece of mood, the perfect blend of subject matter and atmosphere.

    March's "Death" is the focal point but Henry Travers has some fine moments among a cast which includes Gail Patrick. It is Venable herself who carries this film, however, her beautiful eyes and face capturing with emotion and expression both fear and love. It is a true shame more films of this quality did not come her way in the 1930's.

    I have never forgotten the first time I saw this film and having seen it more than once since that time have still found beauty in its presentation of love which might live far beyond the shadow which follows us all. This is one of director Mitchell Leisen's finest films. It is a lyrical and compelling look at death and love and an experience no film buff should miss. Highly recommended....more info
  • Food for thought movie!
    I saw this movie with my brother 40 years ago on TV. We have talked about it constantly over the years. Whenever it is on TV I'd view or tape it so I could watch it later. Finally, while looking for a totally different movie I searched AMAZON and here it is. Thank you AMAZON!...more info
  • Unconditional Love for your family
    If you have not seen this movie then you can not possibly understand the true meaning of life and how little time we have on this earth. This story is an accomplished attempt at making us, the viewer, appreciate life as we have made it. If you think Brad Pitt is good in "Meet Joe Black" then you obviously have not seen true art on film. See the classic before viewing the remake....more info
  • Not a candle to be held to MJB
    Since seeing MJB, I have been anxiously waiting for AMC to play its predecessor, DTAH. Unfortunatley , this was never shown, and I so enjoyed MJB that I purchased DTAH so that I could finally see the original. I am happy to have this in my video library because of my enjoyment of old B&W films, but don't see myself viewing it very often. On the other hand, I intend to purchase MJB for my furture enjoyment. The Academy Awards missed their opportunity when they passed up the musical score of MJB. This is some of the most stupendous music I have ever heard, and matches the content of the film to a tee! We all know that Anthony Hopkins is, and will always be, an elite actor, but I think that those who dismiss Brad Pitt as a "pretty boy" are missing an acting elegance that few match. I believe that Brad Pitt will eventually be known as one of our acting greats. In MJB, his diversity of character is excellent. He can go grom a naive schoolboy act to deathly cold in just a blink of an eye, and his performance emanates truth and sincerity. I love the classics, but not in this case. MJB wins hundreds of percents over DTAH! Paula...more info
  • A different sort of Fredric March
    I watched this only because Fredric March is in it, and at the moment I am studying his life and films. I found this to be interesting, but not my favorite of his work. I thought it was a movie for "fun", not to be taken seriously. It is VERY dramatic and a bit overacted, but given the subject matter and the time the film was made, this adds to the fun of the film. It was interesting to hear Fredric speak in a foreign accent, and he was as handsome as always. I can recommend this film only if you like Fredric March and want to see him in an unusual role, or if you like "campy" sort of films from this time period, or if you just want to watch something "different" when you have nothing else to do....more info
  • Classy classic
    My father recommended this 1934 b&w when I was a kid. It's old but still has that elegant character that Meet Joe Black misses. MJB is held together by 3 actors (not Brad or any females). Watch the subtlties (and maybe excesses?) of Fredrick March.This has that old, elegant diction and an elan that was also missing in the (OTHER REMAKE) with Monte Markam as a TV movie. I saw this in Taos, New Mexico. After the movie, the man beside me, to whom I explained this version, said he couldn't wait to get the "original" since this '98 version was so bad. Enjoy!!!...more info
  • Mysterious,very interesting, magnetizing
    A very rare presentation of a story, even more rare a captivating mind boggling series of events. A story that can frighten you while holding a deep interest. Should be a movie that will be a classic for all time. Anyone interested in parapsychology, the "other Side", or even interests of and about death would surely appreciate this movie. The story presents "Death" who may spare or take. "Death" who comes for a visit to feel as a "Man", who came, to leave with an experience for himself(Death). A powerful moving story that can "educate" the viewer and possibly change their view of life and "Death". A "Must See" movie that one would remember for a long time. Possibly the movie may affect one forever , all while waiting, Yes, to meet and finally see "Death" again....more info
  • Sudden Death Is God's Mercy.
    We, as human beings, search for the meaning in bad things which happen to us, and we may find our belief systems just don't hold up anymore. Finding meaning is not the same as finding rewards. "During a lenghty illness, we have a chance to make life changes while the person is still alive -- and we may be much readier to 'move on' that those dealing with a sudden death. We have to consider the unexpectedness of an auto accident which takes the life of a young person, which brings anguish due to the circumstances. We could not say goodbye or tell the loved one how much we love them. It's an overwhelming reality which leads to extreme sadness.

    Those who are having trouble finding direction "may have hidden anger, which can masquerade as depression." One widow divulged, "I have this hangover of a depression and have been diagnosed with post-traumatic disorder...have flashbacks and nightmares." Certain areas of one's life take longer to heal than others. "A lot of time goes toward digging deep in the wound and getting out the infection." One mother admitted, "Every year for Christmas, I still get a game for my kids" even though they are past the age for such games. The main thing is to stay active and creative; see yourself as someone with something to offer the world. Staying connected with others, which those in bad relationships sometimes forfeit for the sake of peace is critical for mental health." Don't take anything for granted. We have to help ourselves to 'let go' and 'move on' to pursue our own lives. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be fulfilling. "Letting go of my desires, of believing I knew best, and just spreading my wings, was my spiritual awakening." Spirituality forged during desperate times "is uniquely meaningful." Although our culture generally sees death and bereavement in negative terms, "there is a richness to the grief process that is seldom acknowledged."

    Sometimes we grow not by learning lessons from the dead but by dealing with the aftermath of a death." The more you think about others in terms of a higher power as practiced in the principles of Al-Anon, the more peace you have. "It helped me forgive myself for not being able to help her more."

    Here is a good metaphor for the year following a loved one's death: "When you plant winter wheat, you look around, everything is bleak. You plant it, and nothing happens...but, when you least expect it, the following spring -- there it is!" Ofttimes, a sign appears to ease the pain such as a "glorious shooting star as it cross the dark, winter sky." After seeing the star, "I began to think that there was something beyond myself...the possibility that our spirits and the spirits of human beings everywhere remain connected even after death."

    Some lingering slow deaths bring a sense of relief to the person left behind: such losses can sometimes transform our lives in dramatic and positive ways. Barbara Wood, in her book GOOD GRIEF, wrote: "The realisation can not only be liberating but also prevents long-term feeling of alienation, especially in situations like the loss of a parent." My dad's death, though I was no part of it, enabled me to return to a place I loved where life was good for me, growing up with a fierce independence and determination. After some hardships, I met the right people to set me on a path to make a public service poor folks in particular need to survive a little better. God had a mission for me in my hometown, and the unsettled life prepared me for the task of speaking up for others. God does indeed work in mysterious ways. ...more info
  • Beautiful!
    Another reviewer has remarked that this film can't hold a candle to the remake, "Meet Joe Black". And that is correct.

    There is no need to "hold a candle" when this movie lights up the sky like a tremendous bonfire and diminishes "Meet Joe Black" to nothing other than the pompous, overblown, flickering, faltering travesty that it is.

    This is film-making in the grand manner. Story and mood and gentle, tender revelation are what it is about. Not blaring, mood-setting music and uninspired acting. There is room for humor and play in this movie and here it is honest, clean, and without self-conscious effort.

    The lovely actress, Evelyn Venable, in the role of the woman who makes Death wish he were human -- she is fine and wonderful. And the rest of the cast is excellent as well.

    This is the stuff of dreams, and sweet summer nights, and moonlit rambles. Nothing short of magic!...more info

  • Death Takes a Holiday on DVD
    I was lucky to come across in a store the last DVD that contain both "Meet Joe Black" and "Death Takes a Holiday" on a second disc. "Meet Joe Black" was also presented in DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. I never had seen "Death Takes a Holiday" before and so when I watch it after seeing "Meet Joe Black" I was surprise by the beauty of it. I usually don't enjoy films dating back to 1934 but this is very good.

    I hope someday that Universal will re-release these two movies together again on DVD. I recommend at this time to buy the VHS version of "Death Takes a Holiday" so you can enjoy the movie.
    ...more info
  • Chick flick extraordinaire
    Old movies are an acquired taste, especially the ones with actors who came up during the silent era. Ignore the hamminess! This is one of the most incredibly romantic movies ever made; a matinee idol for a leading man (back when they existed), lavish sets, dresses & jewels that most women would kill for, and a plot about timeless, deathless love.

    Do NOT attempt to make a man watch it unless you really want to torment him....more info
  • Sweet but thin.
    Death Takes a Holiday only hints at the depth of emotion that Meet Joe Black investigates. Still, it's a sweet way of looking at life from a 1930s viewpoint. The location is one-note, insulating you (and Death?) from seeing life and love from the worldly viewpoint shown in MJB. The family relationships and friendships are fairly one-dimensional, another place that MJB beats DTAH hands-down. Frederick March carries himself with a stiff formality that I expected from Death, and his performance didn't disappoint. On the other hand, I found Brad Pitt's performance superior, thanks to his ability to combine that kind of formality with a naive wonder of what life--and love--really meant. All in all, it's worth seeing because the basic idea is so intriguing. See Meet Joe Black and make your own comparison....more info
  • Saw orginal, and both remakes,Original Best
    I was a young lady when I saw Fredic March in Death Takes A Holiday, I was a young mother when I saw the remake with Monte Markham and now as a grandmother I saw Meet Joe Black. Which one is the best in my mind? Mr. Pitt and Mr. Markham Can't hold a candle to the style of Mr. March.The ending is still as touching and chilling as it was the first time I saw it. I have seen it many times since and it still has the same effect on me. It's a wonderful movie, a bit dark but consider the era in which it was made just adds to the effect the movie wants to parlay to it's audience.It's a timeless treasure, not to be missed. You've seen the rest now see the best!!!!!...more info
    I won't talk about the remakes, because it's needless, and because they're based upon the same play, but objectively they're not properly "remakes" of this film in itself. The acting, especially by March, who carries the film all the excellent. Venable as Grazia is ethereal and beautiful, and the rest of the cast is equally perfect...Guy Standing, Gail Patrick, Henry Travers...I agree with one reviewer that if it weren't for Amazon I wouldn't had been able to watch and enjoy this masterpiece, at all. I really hope that Universal, who owns the Paramount movie catalog, most notably the 1930's films, will release and issue in VHS/DVD formats, other masterpieces which aren't available yet, like 1932's delightful "Trouble in Paradise", 1933's "Design for Living" and 1935's "Peter Ibbetson"....more info
  • Meet Prince Sirki
    Sixty-four years before we met death disguised as "Joe Black"(Meet Joe BlackBrad Pitt - see my review for film details of this one), Prince Sirki amused himself among the living for a three day holiday. Although not quite the lavish production of it's remake "Meet Joe Black", "Death Takes a Holiday" is a wonderful romantic fantasy from 1934, and is shot beautifully in black and white cinematogrpahy.

    A wealthy and aristocratic family, and their houseguests, are visited by the 'grim reaper'...'the old man'...DEATH! Only the head of the household knows who Prince Sirki really is, and why he is there. They strike a deal, and the Prince has 3 days to learn why he is so feared by the human race. For those three days, he lives among them, experiencing and taking in all he can of human ways, and what's more..NO ONE dies while Death is on holiday. Weapons of war malfunction, accident victims walk away without a scratch, people can't even commit suicide when they try! But here's the catch..Sirki falls for the beautiful and deeply pensive Grazia. Will he take her with him to that other world when his time has expired? Does the power of love win out in the end?

    The great Fredric March gives an exquiste performance as "Death" trying to adjust to life.It is so beautifully filmed and the performances were so brillant at bringing the marvelous characters to life, that it was like watching a play. Although a serious subject, there are many moments that will make you smile, and in the end, you may view the subject of death a little differently.

    If you love the classic films of the thirties, this is a must see. It is also nice to have as a companion to "Meet Joe Black". If you are looking for this on DVD, it is included in the 2 disc "Ultimate Edition" of Joe Black. That way you can have "death" come to you in the form of Fredric March OR Brad Pitt!...What a way to go!...Enjoy....Laurie

    more cinematic treats from the 30's:
    Alfred Hitchcock: 4 Tales of the Macabre - Secret Agent / The Lady Vanishes / The Man Who Knew Too Much / Sabotage

    La Mujer del Puerto

    My Man Godfrey...more info
  • A Little Dance With Death
    Based on an Italian play that performed on Broadway in 1929, the 1934 DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY would be the inspiration for the 1998 Brad Pitt film MEET JOE BLACK--but whereas MEET JOE BLACK proved a highly literal interpretation of the theme, DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY is unexpectedly lyric in tone.

    The story is a fantasy. Death has grown weary of the fear he inspires in human beings, and in an effort to understand the tenacity to which they cling to life he decides to take a three day "holiday." He accordingly presents himself at the house of an Italian nobleman as "Prince Sirki," and soon discovers that human beings pass their lives in games, none of them of any great importance or interest. But there is one "game" he has yet to play: love.

    Like many films of the early 1930s, the script is a bit talky and the cinematography a bit static; with the exception of Evelyn Venable (as Grazia) and Henry Travers (as Baron Cesarea) the cast, including the usually subtle Frederic March, tend to play in a somewhat theatrical manner. Even so, the overall tone of the film is unexpectedly touching, lyrical, and strangely lovely. It is also, on occasion, gently humorous. And before Death resumes his true identity and returns to the business of mortality, we receive unexpected food for thought.

    The film is not widely available on either DVD or VHS, nor is it frequently televised. That is unfortunate, for fans of 1930s cinema will find it darkly charming. Worth seeking out!

    GFT, Amazon Reviewer ...more info
  • "I will you to know who I am!"
    I watched this for the second time today and picked up a lot of details that I missed the first time.

    For one thing, notice that the flowers that Grazia and Company are scattering about - they're white chrysanthemums. In Italy those are funeral flowers, just like the white roses they used to put in the folded hands of dead people. Another thing I noticed was the clock. Not just the face of the clock but the scythe and the snake carved into the top of it. The snake, I do not know if it has any particular meaning, but the scythe should be obvious enough.

    I also found much subtle humour in the dialogue... making it worthy of laughs without distracting from the sombre theme of the film. Of course there are all the melodramatic love-speeches, but those are fun to listen to. And there are the two women at war for the attentions of the very attractive and mysterious Sirki. With a name like Sirki and from a country called Talba-Alexandri (or whatever it was), who could resist? Anyway, they are quite funny to watch, fighting over the Prince. And, by the way, Prince Sirki's snazzy outfits were some of best (I think) of Fredric March's career.

    Overall I enjoyed the movie so very much the second time - it's definitely one of my favourite Fredric March films. I recommend it highly....more info

  • Death Take a Holiday . . . .
    When I first saw the 1934 "Death Takes a Holiday" several years ago,I was younger, more impressionable, and totally drawn into this film. Yes, it was a little creepy, but that was part of its charm. So I already had an image in my mind for many years when I saw "Meet Joe Black." For all its lavishness, and while I admired Anthony Hopkins' performance, "Joe Black" was too long, and the payoff wasn't there. In "Death" the ending was the climax; in "Joe Black" it was the disappointment.

    ...more info
  • This film is one of my faves of all time.
    I saw this movie a couple of years ago. I instantly fell for Frederich March and the whole movie itself. I loved it. It made me feel, even cry, which is something that doesn't happen much with the movies of today. Meet Joe Black I was hoping would at least try to be nearly as good. But alas Bradd Pitt was more like a chunk of wood with blonde hair compared to March's darkly brooding mysterious Death. The original is still the best. Before you see Meet Joe Black please try the this telling of the tale. Nothing quite compares to it....more info


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