Toronto Film Society presented Vacation From Marriage (1945) on Sunday, November 8, 2015 in a double bill with The Mudlark as part of the Season 68 Sunday Afternoon Film Buff Series, Programme 2.
Director: Alexander Korda. Story and Screenplay: Clemence Dane and Anthony Pelissier. Produced by: Alexander Korda. Music: Clifton Parker. Cinematography: George Perinal. Film Editing: E.B. Jarvis. Art Direction: Vincent Korda.
Cast: Robert Donat (Robert Wilson), Deborah Kerr (Cathy Wilson), Glynis Johns (Dizzy Clayton), Ann Todd (Elena), Roland Culver (Richard), Elliott Mason (Mrs. Hemmings), Eliot Makeham (Mr. Staines), Brefni O’Rorke (Mr. Hargrove), Ivor Barnard (Chemist), Henry Longhurst (Petty Officer), Billy Shine (Webster), Billy Thatcher (Essex), Brian Weske (Gordon), Rosamund Taylor (Irene), Harry Ross (Bill), Edward Rigby (Charlie), Roger Moore (Soldier).
A British drama produced and directed by Alexander Korda in 1945. It stars Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr with a fine supporting cast including Glynis Johns, Ann Todd, Roland Culver and Roger Moore in his uncredited film debut. The screenplay was written by Clemence Dane and Anthony Pelissier and was based on a story by Clemence Dane. Dane won the Academy Award for Best Story.
The story has Donat and Kerr as a married couple living a normal if not perhaps boring life in London during the Second World War. Donat is a clerk and Kerr is his stay at home wife. Donat enlists in the Royal Navy and in spite of his protestations Kerr joins the Wrens (Women’s Royal Navy Service). They are separated by their military service for three years. During that time they both grow more self confident. They both meet and are attracted to other people but choose to remain faithful. They are eventually reunited but are unsure if they want to stay together however they do reconcile.
The film is similar in theme to others made about war and the effects on relationships. Films like The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Coming Home (1978), The Deer Hunter (1978) and The Hurt Locker (2008).
I think a stand-out in the cast is Glynis Johns as Dizzy Clayton, Deborah Kerr’s character’s gregarious friend. With her distinctive voice and winsome demeanour, Glynis Johns has had a career in film, television and stage spanning 54 years.
She was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1923 where her entertainer parents were on tour. Her father is actor Mervyn Johns who played Bob Cratchit in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol. Her mother is Alys Maude Johns, a pianist.
She is triple threat; she sings, dances and acts. Steven Sondheim wrote “Send in the Clowns” specifically for her in his play A Little Night Music. She won a Tony Award for her work in that play. She also worked with Rex Harrison in his last stage role before his death in 1990. In 1963 she had her own television show titled Glynis in which she played a crime solving mystery writer. Unfortunately her show ran opposite The Virginian and lasted only 13 episodes. Another foray into television was the short lived Coming of Age, a program about retirees. Her husband in the show was Alan Young of Mr. Ed fame or infamy if you will. She has also appeared as a guest in many other television shows over the years from the 1950’s to the 1990’s including voice work in children’s animated programs.
Ms. Johns was adept at comedic roles as well as dramatic roles. Her more famous film roles include her turn as a mermaid in Miranda (1948) and Mad About Men (1954), The Court Jester (1956) with Danny Kaye and as Winnifred Banks in Mary Poppins (1964). She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Sundowners (1960). Ms. Johns last role was in 1999’s Superstar, a mediocre comedy based on a Saturday Night Live character.
In her distinguished career, she has appeared with many movie and stage heavy weights including James Cagney, James Stewart, Lana Turner, Sean Connery, Gene Tierney, Jack Hawkins and David Niven to name a few.
Ms. Johns has given the cinema many years of many wonderful roles.
Notes by Bruce Whittaker