WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) -
Brief Classic Movie Blog – Vacation from Marriage (1945)
This intimate, yet sparkling little gem is a British Production produced near the end of World War II. The original American title was Perfect Strangers. It stars Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr as a young married couple living in London in 1940 that face a challenging separation as both of them embark on service for their country. Donat plays Robert a clerk with a tedious dull job at an accounting firm. He is just a cog and hasn’t even been there long enough (five years) to receive restitution pay (the difference between Navy pay and his salary) from the company, which of course cannot break rules or make exceptions. Kerr plays his doting, devoted, dull wife, Cathy.
When Robert deploys aboard a Navy war vessel, Cathy faced with a gaping sense of purposelessness, joins the WRNS. The WRNS (pronounced wrens) was the woman’s unit of the Royal Navy. Here she meets the incredibly charming Dizzy Clayton, played superbly by the great Glynis Johns. On his adventure Robert meets a new Confidante and BFF himself, Scotty played by Caven Watson. Both Scotty and Dizzy serve as dramatic foils, friends, sounding boards and even a new set of eyes when they see their friends’ spouses for the first time. During their long three year separation Cathy and Robert both indulge in war time dalliances, Robert with a nurse that cares for him while he is injured-Elana played by the gorgeous Ann Todd. Cathy is swept off her feet by a successful, charming sophisticate-Richard played by Roland Culver.
Written by Clemence Dane and Anthony Pelisser from a story from Dane (who won an Oscar) and directed by renowned Brit director Alexanda Korda, this film is delightful and moving. The use of parallel storytelling and perspective are two techniques used very well here. When the couple reunite for a leave, instead of excitement they both feel dread. Each of them has changed and they have no desire to go back to their staid marriage and dull spouse. One of the best scenes is near the end of the film when the four friends; Robert and Scotty and Cathy and Dizzy are outside late at night at a deserted London intersection debating who goes back to the “flat” and who is going to a hotel, because the marrieds don’t want to be alone together. It is very well staged and Korda uses the wide lens and theater spacing to demonstrate the “distance.” The film’s ending is understated and unsentimental with a nice metaphor about clear vision.
Kerr was very young when the film was made-twenty-four. Donat was much older, about 40. Kerr became a respected, major movie star in America, nominated for six Oscars. Donat was a huge star in the UK but never quite reached the same status in America, even after his upset Oscar win in 1939 (beating both Clark Gable for Gone With the Wind and Laurence Olivier for Wuthering Heights), his untimely death didn’t help. Glynis Johns, who is still alive-at 97-maybe best remembered for her rendition of “Send in the Clowns” from her Tony winning performance in A Little Night Music.
Available for rental on Amazon Prime Video