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Film / Sin Takes a Holiday

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A Pre-Code Romantic Comedy from 1930 starring Constance Bennett, Kenneth MacKenna, and a pre-Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone. It was directed by Paul L. Stein.

The sin in question is a marriage of convenience, not one for love. Attorney at law, Gaylord Stanton (MacKenna), offers this proposition to his homely secretary, Sylvia Brenner (Bennett), because he’s in a jam; his main squeeze, Grace Lawrence (Rita La Roy), is divorcing her current husband and will stop at nothing to marry the available Stanton, who adamantly refuses to be held down. Since Sylvia’s always had a big crush on him, and seeing that marrying him would improve her financial situation, she accepts.

The terms of their agreement are as follows: it will only last a year, Sylvia can travel to Paris and any other exotic places and use his money however she likes, she must avoid blemishing Stanton’s reputation with amorous affairs, and most importantly for Sylvia, it’s a marriage in name only. Stanton’s friend, certified cad Reggie Durant (Rathbone), also finds himself in Paris during Sylvia’s stay and tries to romance her—almost succeeding—until she decides to go back to NYC and settle some loose ends with Stanton.

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Sin Takes a Holiday includes the following tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Grace to the petrified Stanton.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: One of the main terms to Sylvia and Stanton’s agreement is that they won’t consummate their marriage.
  • The Casanova: The debonair Reggie, helped by the fact that it’s debonair Basil Rathbone playing him.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Grace acts like she owns poor Stanton and is highly jealous of Sylvia when she meets her.
  • Girl Friday: While Stanton is out partying, Sylvia is the loyal secretary who will wait up for him to do work and help him with his divorce cases.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The unfortunately named Gaylord Stanton.
  • Idle Rich: Stanton mostly plays around and does minimal work as do his friends and girlfriends. Eventually, Sylvia becomes idle when she marries Stanton and doesn’t have to work anymore.
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  • Ignored Enamored Underling: She doesn’t show it, but Sylvia is totally in love with Stanton.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Serial dating and wooing is Stanton’s MO, and he’s fairly content with his ways, until he marries and falls for Sylvia.
  • Love Epiphany: Stanton realizes his love for Sylvia when he sees her in a magazine wearing pretty clothes and with Reggie by her side.
  • Match Cut: A champagne bottle being agitated, a figure-skating couple, and a roulette table — all these are used in a series of consecutive scenes and match up nicely.
  • Nice Hat: What are men and women without their hats in the early twentieth century? Sylvia specifically wears cloche hats, popular during the 1920s.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Dresses. Sylvia gets a wardrobe makeover to die for.
  • The Pre-Code Era
  • Pretty in Mink: Sylvia wears a gorgeous jacket with ermine on the collar and lapels.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Sylvia wears the 1930s kind.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Played Straight with Grace as she’s currently cheating on her husband with Stanton, but Averted with Sylvia. She’s constantly seen with Reggie, but it never goes any further than simple wooing.
  • Zany Scheme: Instead of actually talking to Grace and telling her he doesn’t really like her much, Stanton decides to have a quick marriage of convenience. Then he tells Grace off-hand that he’s married to keep her at arm’s length.
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