Maureen Dowd fired up her patented pop-culture-meets-political-sideshow engine again yesterday to explore the resonances between The Holiday, the 2006 Cameron Diaz movie that Dowd thinks Mark Sanford recommended via e-mail to his Argentinian paramour, and Sanford's life. Wrong Holiday, MoDo.

We don't know for sure what movie Sanford was talking about when he wrote this to María Belén Chapur in July 2008:

was just going to find the movie the Holiday as we had spoken of it last Thursday. Its music was pleasant and made me think of you - its mood and the notion of a holiday (wrapped up in our case over two days) certainly fit as well....

Dowd assumes it's The Holiday, which isn't really about a holiday so much as a house-swap between Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, wherein they start fucking each others' boyfriends or somesuch. But Dowd finds parallels:

He wanted to get his girlfriend a DVD of the movie "The Holiday," presumably the Cameron Diaz-Kate Winslet chick flick about two women, one from L.A. and one from England, who trade homes and lives. He was fantasizing about catapulting himself into an exotic life where stimulus had nothing to do with budgets.

But there is another Holiday, a 1938 golden-era-of-Hollywood comedy starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, that is basically a filmed enactment of Mark Sanford's fantasy life. We'd like to think that it was this older Holiday—which we haven't seen, but which Gawker managing editor Gabriel Snyder calls "Cary and Kate at their finest"—to which Sanford was referring. And if Dowd wasn't losing her pop-culture edge—she probably didn't want anyone to think she's old enough to have seen it in theaters—she could have had a lot of fun doing her patented movie-mirrors-real-life schtick with this one. So we'll do it for her!

Holiday stars Grant as restless young man who has worked too hard for too long, and doesn't want to spend his life at a desk. He longs to travel the world to figure out his true purpose in life. He gets engaged to a stuffy heiress who wants to pin him down to a life of routine in her daddy's bank, but falls in love with her free-thinking sister; they run off together for a life of adventure, leaving the stuffy fiancee behind.

This sounds familiar, doesn't it? Here are the parallels:

  • Grant meets his stuffy bank-heiress-fiancee at a resort.
  • Sanford met his wife Jenny, whose great-grandfather founded the Skil Corporation, the manufacturer of the first portable electric saw, in the Hamptons.
  • Grant becomes "despondent" after agreeing to work in his future father-in-law's bank in order to save his engagement.
  • Sanford hates his job, running off to his farm to dig holes, one of his "favorite ways of escaping the norms, constant phone calls and formalities that go with the office."
  • Grant doesn't know what he wants to do with his life: "Because he has worked hard ever since he was a child, he now feels that he should take a long-term holiday and discover the true meaning of life."
  • Sanford clearly hates his life, and loves adventures: "I told her about my love of the Appalachian Trail.... And I told her of adventure trips both in college.... I'd fly different places around the world; get myself a job; carry a hundred dollars emergency money, and either find a job there with the locals...or come on home.... I have found in this job is that one desperately needs a break from the bubble wherein every word, every moment is recorded — just to completely break."
  • Grant's fiancee is a traditionalist, and her sister—his true love—is a wise-cracking free-thinker.
  • Jenny Sanford was a driven investment banker who was happy "serving as a first lady who would choose one of her son's class plays over a presidential dinner anytime, but who was also perfectly comfortable discussing intricacies of the state's finances"; the exotic Belén Chapur did things like sunbathe on "lhabela, a beautiful island near Sao Paulo."

In other words, Holiday is the movie of how Mark Sanford wished his life had gone. It's gobsmackingly obvious that his dalliance was about chafing at the confines of the success he'd worked so hard for—escaping the security detail, the phone calls, the wife for an unencumbered life of Latin American torpor.

The only other clue as to which film he was talking about is that Sanford though "Its music was pleasant" and made him think of Chapur. The soundtrack to the 2006 film is by Hans Zimmer, a composer famous "integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements," according to Wikipedia, which doesn't seem to fit with what we imagine Sanford's tastes to be. (It does also feature songs by a Brazilian musician, however, which would, we suppose, make him think of his Argentinian lover.) The soundtrack to the 1938 film includes songs by Stephen Foster and Johann Strauss.

Whichever movie Sanford was really talking about, the older version is clearly a roadmap to the man's middle-aged psyche, whether he knows it or not. We're disappointed in Dowd for missing a chance to riff on it.