Vacation From Marriage aka Perfect Strangers is a 1945 Academy Award Winner directed by Alexander Korda. The movie is based on a story by Clemence Dane, the British author born Winifred Ashton who took her pseudonym from the London church St. Clement Danes. Her popular works include Regiment of Women and A Bill of Divorcement. She was part of the Noel Coward set and a member of the Detection Club. She adapted her story Perfect Strangers for the screen with actor/writer Anthony Pelissier. Pelissier was director and writer of The Rocking Horse Winner, The History of Mr. Polly and Meet Me Tonight. The Oscar for the movie was awarded to Clemence Dane for Best Writing, Original Story. The other nominees that season were The Dark Mirror, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The Stranger and To Each His Own.
Robert Donat, Deborah Kerr
Catherine and Robert at home
Vacation from Marriage is the story of Robert and Catherine Wilson played by Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr (it rhymes with "star"). When we first meet the couple it is Spring, 1940 and a single barrage balloon blots the skyline. It is both a typical and a not-so-typical morning in the Wilson's dreary flat. Robert, a nondescript bookkeeper in the city, is going about his routine in automaton type fashion. Catherine, nursing a perpetual cold, fusses over the eggs and her mate. The not-so-typical aspect to the day is that it is Robert's last as a civilian. He has heeded the call of King and country to join the Navy.
Shorn of the moustache grown for the sake of dignity forced to acclimatize himself to life on the waves, Robert comes into his own. Robert's heroic actions in battle land him in a hospital where he shares a mutual attraction with an attractive nurse played by Ann Todd. Catherine would not recognize the man she married.
Robert is more than a little nonplussed to receive word that his mousy little wife has joined the Women's Royal Naval Service. Cathy is a Wren. In the Wrens, Cathy is befriended by the bright and outgoing Dizzy Clayton played by Glynis Johns. Cathy, for the first time, tries lipstick - and likes it. Cathy wears her uniform cap at a daring angle. Cathy spends too much time with and thinking of her pal Dizzy's exciting cousin played by Roland Culver. Robert would not recognize the woman he married.
Deborah Kerr, Robert Donat
Who are these people?
Three long years of separation are about to come to an end as, finally, their leaves coincide. Robert and Cathy are returning to a home base that is no longer home. They are returning to a decimated neighbourhood with dozens of barrage balloons in the sky. They are returning, they think, to the old life, the old spouse and neither is very happy about it.
Vacation from Marriage is funny and true and features exemplary performances. It is a love story with the lovers kept apart. It is a war story where the war just may be the best thing that ever happened to our protagonists. It is a winner in every way.
TCM is airing Vacation from Marriage aka Perfect Strangers on Monday, August 16 at 6:00 a.m. as part of a day long tribute to Deborah Kerr (it still rhymes with "star") during their annual "Summer Under the Stars".