A curiously affecting serio-fantasy, Death Takes a Holiday has lost some of its impact over the years (due to increasing familiarity with its basic premise), but it remains an intriguing and charming experience. Maxwell Anderson's screenplay (co-written with Walter Ferris and Gladys Lehman) suffers from some of the author's patented overblown dialogue, but less so than in other films, perhaps because the fantasy trappings are a better setting for Anderson's style. Mitchell Leisen directs in a heavier style than would become his custom in following years; occasionally that light touch is missed here, but for the most part his work is solid. Death's biggest asset is its title player. Fredric March, looking every inch the matinee idol, makes a visually inviting Death; more importantly, his performance is soulful yet restrained, dashing yet somewhat menacing, and he provides the film with an invaluable anchor. March's leading lady, Evelyn Venable, is not quite his equal, but she is undeniably attractive, and her acting is adequate if uninspired. Death also benefits from marvelous camerawork by Charles Lang (especially an upside-down sequence involving reflections in a pond) and lovely costumes from Edith Head and Travis Banton.
by Craig Butler review