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Monday, January 28, 2013

PERFECT STRANGERS / VACATION FROM MARRIAGE (1945)

British writer Clemence Dane retains a modest claim on film-goers as the author of Kate Hepburn’s debut pic, A BILL OF DIVORCE-MENT/’32. But this forgotten wartime romance, produced & directed by Alexander Korda for his London Films outfit, is a charmer that should be better known . It runs an all but foolproof plot about a terribly conventional, grey little married couple (Robert Donat & Deborah Kerr) who are separately transformed by service in the Navy. Now, about to meet for the first time in three years, they are each separately convinced that the ‘New Me’ will be hopelessly incompatible with the ‘Old You.’ The film isn’t exactly filled with surprises, and Korda the director was rarely the equal of Korda the producer, but it’s smoothly held together by a highly ingratiating cast and it doesn’t try to oversell itself. Ann Todd & Roland Culver have a turn as respective wartime romantic roads not taken, and Glynis Johns makes for extra good company as Kerr’s officer pal. And if the story and situations come off a bit undernourished, especially in the third act when the pair need to fall for each other all over again, much of the blame goes to M-G-M who released it Stateside with that crappy new title and a ten minute trim. Alas, that’s the only version available.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: As part of the rejuvenation plot line, Kerr grows confident & even glamorous in the usual on screen fashion . . . lipstick, a well-cut jacket & a new coif. But Donat, who looks haggard & shockingly aged from MR. CHIPS a mere six years ago, really seems to lose ten years right before our eyes. The lenser was the great Georges Perinal, a Korda regular, but the magic is as much Donat as lighting.

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