Perfect Strangers (1945 film)

Perfect Strangers (United States title: Vacation from Marriage), is a 1945 British drama film made by London Films. It stars Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr as a married couple whose relationship is shaken by their service in the Second World War. The supporting cast includes Glynis Johns, Ann Todd and Roland Culver. It was produced and directed by Alexander Korda from a screenplay by Clemence Dane and Anthony Pelissier based on a story by Clemence Dane. Dane won the Academy Award for Best Story. The music score was by Clifton Parker and the cinematography by Georges Périnal.

Perfect Strangers
A poster with the film's US title: Vacation from Marriage
Directed byAlexander Korda
Produced byAlexander Korda
Screenplay byClemence Dane
Anthony Pelissier
Story byClemence Dane
StarringRobert Donat
Deborah Kerr
Music byClifton Parker
CinematographyGeorges Périnal
Edited byEdward B. Jarvis
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 15 October 1945 (1945-10-15) (London)
Running time
102 minutes (UK)
93 minutes (US)
CountryUnited Kingdom


Robert and Cathy Wilson are a timid married couple in 1940 London. He is a bookkeeper, she a bored housewife. However, their tedium-filled lives are drastically changed by the war. He enlists in the Royal Navy, while she (against his wishes) joins the Wrens. During the three years the couple are apart, they are transformed, each becoming much more self-confident.

Cathy's assertive new friend, Dizzy Clayton, helps her break out of her shell. She begins going out with Dizzy's cousin, naval architect Richard, who falls in love with her. However, she remains faithful (if unenthusiastically) to her husband.

Meanwhile, Robert toughens up on sea duty and in time becomes a petty officer. His hands are badly burned when his ship is sunk, but he stoically rows in the lifeboat for five days without complaint. He recuperates in a hospital, tended by Elena, a beautiful nurse. On the last night of his stay, he asks her out to dinner. He is attracted to her, but she informs him that she lost her beloved husband only six months earlier, kisses him, and leaves.

Robert and Cathy both receive ten-day leaves, but each dreads being reunited with the dowdy spouse each remembers and being forced back into the dreary life they shared.

Cathy cannot bring herself to return to her flat, where Robert is waiting. Instead, she phones Robert to meet her on more neutral ground. She tells him she will not be returning to him. He is relieved and readily agrees to a divorce, to her surprise. They then go to the neighbourhood pub, where each discovers the wholesale changes in the other. They find that they are "perfect strangers". Nonetheless, they are attracted to each other. Robert's friend 'Scotty', whom they meet at the pub, lets slip Robert's unflattering description of the 'old' Cathy to the new; she's insulted and it hardens her heart. They quarrel and again resolve to divorce. But later that night, the couple reconsider and reconcile.


Cast notes

  • Deborah Kerr made her MGM debut in this film. MGM had purchased half of her contract after her performance in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, in which she played three roles. MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer is supposed to have said "That girl's a star" upon seeing her performance in Perfect Strangers, and she was soon an established MGM property.[1]
  • On the other hand, Perfect Strangers was Robert Donat's last film for MGM.[1]
  • Roger Moore made his uncredited film debut in Perfect Strangers.


Perfect Strangers was the first of what was supposed to be a number of co-productions between Alexander Korda and M-G-M including a version of War and Peace directed by Orson Welles and starring Korda's wife, Merle Oberon, as well as The Hardy Family in England but no subsequent films came from the agreement, because Korda bristled at being bossed around by MGM's head of production, Louis B. Mayer.[1][2]

The film was originally scheduled to have been directed by Wesley Ruggles, but producer Korda took over the reins after disagreements with him about the film's story.[2]

The film did some location shooting in Scotland, but was primarily shot in London.[2]

Uniforms worn by the characters are one hundred percent correct. Cathy's W.R.E.N. uniform, when she joins, has the pre-1942 soft cap. Towards the end of the movie, it is updated to the correct later style cap. When working with her boat crew, she wears the correct men's bell bottoms and white top, and the lanyard with knife. Elena, the nurse, wears a correct tropical dress white uniform of Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, with white tippet (short cape) (according to IMDB).


Perfect Strangers was a commercial success in both the UK and the US, where it was re-titled Vacation from Marriage.[1] It was one of the biggest hits at the British box office in 1945.[3]

Awards and honors

Clemence Dane won an Academy Award for Best Original Motion Picture Story for Perfect Strangers.[4]




  • Vermilye, Jerry. The Great British Films, Citadel Press, 1978. pp 82–84. ISBN 0-8065-0661-X
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