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Death Takes a Holiday is a 1934 romantic drama starring Fredric March, Evelyn Venable and Guy Standing, based on a play by Alberto Casella.


After years of questioning why people fear him, Death (March) takes on human form so he can mingle among the mortals and find an answer. However, events soon spiral out of control as he falls in love with the beautiful young Grazia (Venable), the only woman unafraid of him. As he falls in love with her, her father, Duke Lambert (Standing), sees him for what he is and begs him to return to his duties. Death must decide whether or not to seek his own happiness, or sacrifice it so that Grazia may live.


The film was an enormous critical and commercial success. Time called it "thoughtful and delicately morbid", while Mordaunt Hall for the New York Times wrote that "it is an impressive picture, each scene of which calls for close attention". Richard Watts, Jr for the New York Herald Tribune described March's performance as one of the film's "chief virtues".

Remakes and adaptations

It aired as the drama of the week on Cecil B. DeMille's Lux Radio Theatre on March 22, 1937 and starred Fredric March as Death and his wife, actress Florence Eldridge, as Grazia. (Listen to it online here.).

Universal Studios acquired the rights to the film and made a 1971 television production featuring Yvette Mimieux, Monte Markham, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas and Bert Convy. Loy related in her biography that the production was marred by a decline in filming production standards; she described a frustrated Douglas storming off the set and returning to his home in New York when a tour guide interrupted the filming of one of his dramatic scenes to point out Rock Hudson's dressing room.

The film was remade by Universal again in 1998 as Meet Joe Black starring Brad Pitt, Claire Forlani and Anthony Hopkins.

It was adapted into a Broadwaymarker musical by Maury Yeston.


  • Loy, Myrna and Kotsilibis-Davies, James - Being and Becoming, Alfred A. Kopf, Inc. 1987, ISBN 1-55611-101-0
  • Quirk, Lawrence J. - The Films of Fredric March, The Citadel Press, 1971, ISBN 0-8065-0413-7

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