Vacation from Marriage (AKA “Perfect Strangers”)
Directed by Alexander Korda
Written by Clemence Dane and Anthony Pelissier
London Film Productions/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios
First viewing/Amazon Instant Video
Just when I think that a year has no more treasures to offer along comes a hidden gem that makes it all worthwhile.
Robert Wilson (Robert Donat) is a mild-mannered clerk in The City of London who runs his life on a strict timetable. Wife Cathy (Deborah Kerr) has a perpetual cold and fusses over him constantly. Then, Robert is called up to the British Navy. After a few initial rough spots, he finds he likes it. The exercise and shaving off his mustache make him look years younger. He even asks a nurse out dancing.
Robert has long forbidden Cathy to work. With him gone, she decides to join the Womens Royal Naval Service (WRENS). A kindly fellow WREN (Glynis Johns) takes her under her wing and gets her to start wearing make-up, also forbidden by Robert. She starts falling for an officer. One thing and another prevents Robert and Cathy from sharing a leave for three years.
When a meeting can finally be arranged, both are filled with trepidation. Neither wants to go back to the life they had, yet expects the other to demand nothing less. Their reunion reveals a lot – not only about who they are now but who they actually were to begin with.
I thought this was pretty great. The dialogue sparkles, but in a most convincing way, and Donat and Kerr are magnificent. I don’t know how they did it but Donat’s change in appearance was amazing. This has one of the best ending lines ever, too. The whole thing is set to a background of variations on “These Foolish Things”, which only makes it more romantic. I imagine that the story resonated with a lot of couples at the end of the war. Recommended.
Vacation from Marriage won the Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story.