Death Takes a Holiday
Video cover
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Produced by E. Lloyd Sheldon
Emanuel Cohen
Screenplay by Maxwell Anderson
Gladys Lehman
Based on Death Takes a Holiday (play) by Alberto Casella
Starring Fredric March
Evelyn Venable
Guy Standing
Kent Taylor
Helen Westley
Henry Travers
Kathleen Howard
Cinematography Charles Lang
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) March 30, 1934
Running time 79 min.
Country USA
Language English

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


After years of questioning why people fear him, Death (March) takes on human form for three days so that he can mingle among the mortals and find an answer. He finds a host in Duke Lambert (Standing) after revealing himself and his intentions to the Duke and takes up temporary residence in the Duke's villa. 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, Duke Lambert, who is also the father of Grazia's mortal lover Corrado (Taylor), begs him to give Grazia up and leave her among the living. Death must decide whether or not to seek his own happiness, or sacrifice it so that Grazia may live.


The theatrical release of the film was on March 30, 1934. The home video releases have been:

  • Death Takes a Holiday. [VHS]. Universal Studios. March 8, 1999. 
  • Death Takes a Holiday. [DVD]. Universal Studios. January 9, 2007.  as part of the Meet Joe Black Ultimate Edition
  • Death Takes a Holiday. [DVD]. Universal Studios. January 11, 2010. 


The film was an enormous critical and commercial success. Time Magazine 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 adaptationsEdit

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.)[1].

Universal Studios, which acquired the rights to the film in 1962 following a merger with then-owners MCA, 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 musical by Maury Yeston with the book by Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan. It began previews Off-Broadway on June 10, and officially opened on July 21, 2011, in a limited engagement through September 4, in the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre in a production by Roundabout Theatre Company.[2]


External linksEdit