Cast & Crew
As prisoner John Stevenson, cut, bruised and dazed, is about to collapse from exhaustion, he recalls images of his family life: John lovingly snaps a photo of his three youngest children--John, Jr., Woodrow, Jr. and Peggy Lee--in front of their Christmas tree. Later, Woodrow, Jr., class valedictorian, recites a poem at his high school graduation as John and his wife Jean look on with pride. John then admits to Jean, a devoted housewife, that he is a very contented, lucky man. Back in the present, the embattled John mutters, "How did this happen? Where did it begin?" and remembers the events leading up to his current state: Anxious to retreat from the chaos of life in wartime America, John vacations in the remote North Woods with his friend and co-worker, Sam Morgan. Although Sam, bored after three weeks of isolation, is ready to return home, John insists on staying, until Sam happens to mention the date--Friday the 13th. John then demands that they leave at once, as he has remembered that it is his wedding anniversary. As they are nearing home, however, their prop plane falters and they are forced to make an emergency landing in a field. The men approach a farmer for help, but he turns them away, frightened. John manages to buy a ride to town from a wary truck driver, and Sam stays behind with the plane. On the way, the truck driver refuses to talk to John, and once in town, John notices that the streets are deserted and the shops closed. No one will explain to John what is happening, and everyone acts surprised that he is so unaware of "how things are." At his office at the National Manufacturing Company, John runs into Regan, the building manager, but he, too, insists that he cannot talk about what has happened. Suddenly panicked, John rushes home and discovers that Jean and the children are gone. Just then, two men accost John and knock him out. Later, in jail, John is roused by his black cellmate, and when John complains that his rights have been violated, the black man cryptically informs him that "they" have thrown out "that part" of the Constitution. Now desperate, John attacks his cellmate and screams to be released. Instead, John is interrogated and tortured by a German-accented "examiner," who refuses to believe he was on vacation. After the examiner allows John a brief reunion with a tearful Jean, he resumes his torture. Later, the examiner explains to John that, because its citizens were complacent, America was easily taken over by a "New Order" dictator, and that discipline is the key to success in the "New State." Although John repeats that he was on vacation and is not part of a resistance conspiracy, the examiner beats him until he is near death. Back in his cell, John finally realizes that he was guilty of complacency and, after recalling his family once again, vows he will go on fighting for "precious freedom," even if it means his death. John then wakes up from the dream he was having at his campsite and announces to Sam that they are going home.
Walter White Jr.
Frank R. Donovan
Fred Feitshans Jr.
A. W. Hackel
Mike J. Levenson
W. H. Wilmarth
The working titles of this film were This Precious Freedom and Terror on Main Street. Arch Oboler's onscreen credit reads: "Written and directed by Arch Oboler." His credit was the only non-cast credit in the viewed print. Actress Barbara Bates's surname is misspelled "Bate" in the onscreen credits. The film ends with the following statement, spoken by an offscreen narrator: "This is a story that never happened. It will never happen as long as we remember that freedom is never a gift, but a victory which each of us must guard with heart and mind." Reviews attribute the quotation to Franklin D. Roosevelt and mistakenly credit him as the narrator. Although Priscilla Lyons' character name is listed as "Betty" in the onscreen credits, she is called "Mary" in the picture.
In 1942, writer-director Oboler turned his 1940 prize-winning radio program into a short film, also titled This Precious Freedom. According to a November 1942 International Photographer article, the short, which featured all of the above-listed actors, was produced by Sound Masters, Inc., a New York-based company that specialized in non-theatrical films. General Motors financed the short and screened it for "thousands of General Motors war workers and their families," according to International Photographer. General Motors vice-president Paul Garrett oversaw the production. The short was later acquired by M-G-M, but was never distributed by them. The length of the short has not been determined; one contemporary source refers to it as a "two reeler," while another lists it as four reels.
In February 1944, Hollywood Reporter announced that This Precious Freedom was being "revamped" into a feature by A. W. Hackel, Edward Finney and Max King, who along with Oboler, were the co-owners of Elite Pictures Corp. June Carlson was announced as a cast member in July 1944, but her appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. New scenes were shot to reflect "recent events," according to Hollywood Reporter, and in March 1945, Daily Variety announced that a major distributor was being sought for the feature. In October 1945, the film was released in New York by Mike J. Levenson and Elite. The running time of the 1945 release was listed as 61 minutes. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, in October 1946, Producers Releasing Corp., "still in search of product to fill in for the lapse in production plans brought on by the organization of Eagle-Lion," agreed to distribute Strange Holiday nationally. The picture was reviewed again in October 1946, when it was listed as both 55 and 58 minutes long. According to a August 5, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, the rereleased version of the film was also known under the title Day After Tomorrow.
Although reviews for Strange Holiday refer to the story as post-war, the time frame of the narrative is not clearly established. In some scenes, the characters mention the war as though it were still being fought, while in other scenes, they imply that the war is over. The descrepancy is probably due to the fact that the picture was shot in both 1942 and 1944.