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Film / Death Takes a Holiday

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When Death is this sexy, you can't say no.

Death Takes a Holiday is a 1934 American romantic fantasy-drama film based on a 1929 play of the same name, itself adapted from the 1924 Italian play La Morte in Vacanza ("Death on Vacation"). The film was directed by Mitchell Leisen, as his second directorial effort for Paramount.

Death (Fredric March) has decided to take a three-day holiday to visit the mortal world and discover just why humans fear him so. He forces Duke Lambert (Guy Standing) to put him up at his Italian estate. Taking the form of a recently-deceased nobleman, Prince Sirki, Death enjoys the various pleasures of the Idle Rich such as horse racing, boating, gambling, and being courted by lovely women.

A side effect of this little holiday is that no one in the world has been able to die, even if they, by all odds, should have.

Everyone in the Lambert party is very taken by this handsome and odd fellow: Rhoda (Gail Patrick) and Alda (Katherine Alexander) vie for his love, Baron Cesarea (Henry Travers) is interested by his musings about life and love, and another pleasure arrives in the form of Grazia (Evelyn Venable), who Death falls for, and she for him.

In the span of a few hours, Death feels The Power of Love, but when Alda finds out his identity and reveals his secret, he knows that he must leave Grazia behind— or so he thinks.

Remade in 1971 as a Made-for-TV Movie, and again in 1998 as Meet Joe Black. A musical adaptation (by the creative team behind Phantom) premiered in 2011. As of 2023 it hasn't been performed on Broadway, but it is being staged by the Takarazuka Revue.


  • All Love Is Unrequited: Alda and Rhoda fight for Prince Sirki (they don’t know he’s Death himself), but he’s madly in love with Grazia.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Grim Reaper wears a black cape and turns into a Prince.
  • Black Cloak: Death sports one, and so does Grazia once she leaves with him.
  • The Comically Serious: Death trying to analyze everything even when he’s being romanced.
  • Curiosity Causes Conversion: His three-day affair with the human world has made Death love every angry/sad/happy feeling he has felt up to now.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: What Death has to remind everyone in his party once they find out his true identity.
  • Death and the Maiden: Death and Grazia.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: Trope Namer.
  • Died Happily Ever After: A rather strange case because Grazia is more than happy to die in order to be with Death himself.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Death constantly reminds everyone that he is not to be feared; they should consider him a friend, and once they die, he’ll be an old friend they always knew.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Corrando basically invites Death with his crazy driving that should’ve killed him and his party.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Grazia makes the decision to leave with Death; she doesn’t fear it at all and wants to be with him.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: Death only gives himself three days to find out how it is to be human and enjoy their pleasures.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Averted with Alda, once she finds out Prince Sirki’s true nature, but Played Straight with Grazia, as she doesn’t fear him.
  • Fake Aristocrat: Prince Sirki is a little strange…
  • Fish out of Water: Death is a definite weirdo to everyone who meets him.
  • First Time Feeling: Death feels the power of all these emotions all at once and is quite excited by them.
  • Foreshadowing: The shadow that follows our characters when they’re driving in a rather suicidal way.
  • The Grim Reaper: He isn't that grim. Just misunderstood!
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The tagline for this film: “No one can die - while he makes love!”
  • High-Class Glass: Death sports one as Prince Sirki.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: Even Death isn’t immune to our ways.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: When Grazia goes out in the garden alone, Death brushes past her, and she has this very sensation which causes her to faint dead away.
  • Love Hurts: Like all mortals, Death finds out the facts about love.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Death’s main beef with the human race, as he thinks that he’s like an old friend that comes for you when the time is needed.
  • The Problem with Fighting Death: When the Lambert party isn’t sure if Death is taking Grazia away without her consent, Corrando wants to fight Death, but Lambert wisely stops him, because that would be incredibly stupid.
  • The Reveal: She’s always seen him that way. She being Grazia; she has always seen Death in his natural form.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Most of these aristocrats can’t really figure out what makes Prince Sirki so strange until it’s directly told to them.
  • Shadow of Impending Doom: As mentioned above, Corrando drives so dangerously that death follows them. Lampshaded, as they all notice this shadow and feel that it’s dangerous.
  • Someone Has to Do It: It’s pretty tedious, but those souls aren’t going to collect themselves.
  • Together in Death: Almost quite literally. Grazia decides to leave with Death and has no problem with it at all. She loves him that much.
  • We All Die Some Day: At the end of the film, Death reminds everyone this, and tells them not to be afraid, to treat him like an old friend.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Love can’t be understood until Death experiences it himself.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever? At the beginning of the film, Death complains that living for all eternity, and especially with his line of work, is very lonely and depressing for him.