The Fifth Avenue Anti-Stuffed Shirt and Flying Trapeze Club: A Reading of George Cukor's HOLIDAY

Hugh Alexander Curtas


The aim of this paper is to situate George Cukor?s 1938 film Holiday within an ongoing conversation about the perennial American tension between Romantic longings for self-authorship and the cold pragmatics of wealth accumulation. The aesthetic interest in Holiday is fundamentally an interest in the questions that American art and philosophy (early Hollywood film and Stanley Cavell as well as Ralph Waldo Emerson, respectively) pose to America about America. This paper is specifically motivated by Cavell?s conception of the remarriage comedy genre (as detailed in his Pursuits of Happiness) and his understanding of early-American cinema as an inheritance of American transcendentalism. Herein, I argue that Holiday fulfills the requirements of Cavell?s genre study and is thoroughly saturated by Emerson?s philosophical attitudes. I argue for Holiday?s inclusion under the rubric of Cavell?s genre, and I unpack the film?s enduring thematic commentary upon an American tension that unwisely pits fiscal obligations against the pursuit of self-knowledge.


Emerson; Cavell; Cukor; Perfectionism; Acknowledgement; Transcendentalism; Self-Reliance; Wealth; Society; America

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