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It Happened One Decade

September 15, 2009

What the Great Depression did to Culture
by Caleb Crain

“I want to find out why I’m working,” Cary Grant tells Katharine Hepburn in “Holiday.” Grant’s character, a grocer’s son who put himself through Harvard, wants to take time off from a promising business career, and Grant makes the proposal sound at once existential and lighthearted—as if he wants to investigate not because he’s especially troubled or especially gifted but because this is the sort of thing human beings like to know, and he happens to have the means to try to find out. “The answer can’t be just to pay bills and to pile up more money,” he says. It sounds reasonable, and, though his fiancée is appalled, Hepburn, her sister, is enchanted. An heiress, she doesn’t know what to be when she grows up, either. “I never could decide whether I wanted to be Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, or John L. Lewis,” Hepburn confesses. more

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