Monday, September 16, 2013

Connie Gets Married

Sin Takes a Holiday (1930), stars Constance Bennett as Sylvia, secretary to the wealthy Gaylord Stanton (Kenneth MacKenna).  Stanton has been seeing a married woman. He is perfectly satisfied with the situation, since he has no intention to marry, and Grace's (Rita La Roy) husband is not interested in a divorce.  But, to his surprise, Grace decides she is ready for husband #3, and intends to divorce her husband, with Stanton as corespondent.  To circumvent this (and continue his affair), Stanton convinces the shy Sylvia (who loves him) to marry him.  It will be a one-year (we assume he thinks he will be done with Grace by that time), marriage in name only, with Sylvia safely ensconced in Europe, and Stanton sewing his wild oats in New York.  However, complications ensue when Sylvia, while in Europe, meets Stanton's friend Durant (Basil Rathbone), who is quite impressed with the young woman, and determines to marry her himself.

In many respects, Sin Takes a Holiday is reminiscent of  Lady with a Past.  As in that film, Constance Bennett is considered plain and dull (hard to believe), and while abroad, develops the confidence to take control of her appearance and her life.  Of course, in this film, her "marriage" has given the bankroll to assist in the metamorphosis.  The major difference here is the motivating factor for the change.  While Venice in Lady with a Past decides to make a complete change in her image, Sylvia's emergence as a fascinating beauty occurs because of the attentions of Durant, the first man who has ever seen her as an attractive woman.

For those of us used to seeing Basil Rathbone playing a cad, Durant is a revelation.  When we first meet him at Stanton's house, he seems, to all intents and purposes, to be that bounder that Rathbone plays so well.  But Durant is actually a good man.  He loves Sylvia deeply; he is charming and kind.  And, unlike Stanton, he can see below the surface to the inner Sylvia.  Stanton never does, and we ended up rooting for Sylvia and Durant to end up as a couple.

We also enjoyed ZaSu Pitts as Syvia's roommate, Anna.  Having seen a bit of the silent film,  Greed a few days earlier, it is interesting to see change in her career in talkies.  She continued to work, even appearing in television shows (like The Gale Storm Show) until her death in 1963, usually (as she does in this film) as the best friend of the lead actress.   EliZa Susan Pitts also wrote a candy cookbook: Candy Hits by ZaSu Pitts - it seems she collected candy recipes!

We were less impressed with Kenneth MacKenna.  It didn't help that Stanton is such an unlikeable character, but MacKenna does not (in this film) have the dynamic screen personality of his foil, Rathbone.   MacKenna's career was relatively short, though he did return to films briefly in the early 1960s, playing one of the judges in Judgement at Nuremberg. In the early 1930s, he even played Bullldog Drummond (a role that would later be played by Ronald Colman and John Howard) in 1930's Temple Tower.  MacKenna died in 1962.

We really enjoyed this film.  The characters are well developed, the scenery and settings are lovely, and, as always, we have Bennett wearing some wonderful clothing.  In an article on the TCM website we find the following quote from Constance Bennett: "I'm a lot more sartorial than thespian. They come to see me and go out humming the costumes."  We disagree; while we love the costumes, we really left this film humming Constance Bennett.

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