What is the best of the four romantic comedies Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn made together, starting with 1935’s “Sylvia Scarlett”? Most might go with the nonstop delirium of “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) or the sterling pleasures of “The Philadelphia Story” (1940). For me, they’re both eclipsed by the exquisite “Holiday” (1938), which, like “The Philadelphia Story,” is a George Cukor-directed adaptation of a Philip Barry play. But for sparkling wit and ineffable melancholy, “Holiday,” now available in a new Criterion Collection edition, is simply nonpareil.
In her excellent accompanying essay, Slate critic Dana Stevens writes of “the way Grant and Hepburn occupy the space they share, moving with an informality and freedom that set them apart from the rest of the cast.” For this tale of a wealthy family and a freewheeling suitor is ultimately one of the great Hollywood movies about choosing not to conform, about realizing and seizing hold of your dreams in the face of conventional wisdom. It’s also — with its dazzling, piercing New Year’s Eve party centerpiece — one of the best movies with which to belatedly ring in this still-young year.