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Film / Vacation from Marriage

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The awkward reunion.
Vacation from Marriage (a.k.a. Perfect Strangers) is a 1945 Romantic Comedy / Drama about two mild-mannered Londoners, Robert (Robert Donat) and Cathy (Deborah Kerr) Wilson, who are in a loveless marriage.

Impending war comes and both are changed; Robert joins the Navy and Cathy joins the Wrens (Woman’s Royal Naval Service). Both experience romantic flings and eventually dread their reunion after three years absence.

The film was directed by Alexander Korda and was successful, striking a chord with audiences of the day who were coming back from service in the war. It also won Clemence Dane an Oscar for Best Writing (Original Story) in 1947.


Vacation from Marriage displays the following tropes:

  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: At the end of the film Cathy and Robert have a go at their marriage for old time’s sake and the fact that they still feel a spark.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: It comes in spades when Cathy and Robert reunite.
  • Dance of Romance: Much to Cathy’s surprise, Robert asks her to dance with him. Before the war, he wouldn’t dance and wouldn’t allow her to dance either.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Cathy and Robert liven up after their war experiences.
  • Dead Sparks: In the beginning, Cathy and Robert are just together because they’re used to each other.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Dizzy (Glynis Johns) is tough on Cathy first, and continues to be a foil to her personality, but she and Cathy become great friends during and after the war.
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  • Gilded Cage: Cathy felt like their tiny apartment was a prison for her.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: Robert and Cathy are with each other merely out of habit and not wanting to go through the trouble of divorce. However, they find out that they’ve become different people, agreeing to get a divorce. But then, they find out that they both have actual personalities now and seem to be more willing to work things out.
  • Happy Ending: They get back together and try to work out the kinks in their marriage.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Robert tries to be one before the war, hoping it will make him look older and get the raise he wants for his job. So much so, that when he reunites with Cathy, she admits that he was becoming an old maid.
  • Look What I Can Do Now!: Robert gets excited that he no longer gets out of breath when he goes up the stairs to his apartment.
  • Married to the Job: Robert and his boring accounting job.
  • Mean Boss: At his accounting job, Robert wanted to get a raise before heading off into the navy, but he was eight weeks shy of his five years, so his boss doesn’t give him the raise on this small technicality.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Cathy when she first joins the WRENs.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Robert in the beginning. His hair is smoothed back, he has an old man moustache, and he’s quite the bore.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Cathy decides to change her look from constantly frumpy to dolled up for 1940s standards. But it is Deborah Kerr, so she looked beautiful to begin with.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: Robert vehemently refuses going back to his old accounting job.
  • The Teetotaler: Robert never touched the stuff and told Cathy to never drink either. But this changes after their experiences.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Cathy and Robert both become stronger, better people from being in the service.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Both Wilson’s have flings: Robert falls for a nurse who helps him through his injuries and Cathy almost gets engaged with Dizzy’s cousin, Richard.
  • War Is Glorious: Robert becomes a war hero who gets accustomed to the sailor life, fights, and saves a bunch of his fellow Navy men. Cathy becomes a badass in her own right by staying cool under the line of fire while sending tactic messages. War does them both good; they both grow as people and know what they want in life.


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