Stolen Holiday - 1937
Stolen Holiday - Released Feb 6, 1937. Directed by Michael Curtiz
Nicole Picot (Kay Francis) and Stefan Orloff (Claude Rains) meet at a perfect moment to begin a friendship: he is a "penniless adventurer" who has concocted a business meeting with powerful financial men, and he needs a beautiful and cultured woman to help him play the part of a successful businessman so that he can complete a lucrative deal that is essentially a gamble based on his own personality and ambition. Nicole is a "mannequin" at a fashion salon in Paris and has been struggling to find a path to a better future, fully aware that the career of a "clothes-horse" isn't long. What she wants is her own fashion house utilizing her own designs. She backs Stefan's gamble with her presence and her own money, since Stefan is now actually broke, having spent all he had on leasing the location for the business meeting and on a small wardrobe for Nicole to wear. When Stefan's deal brings him sudden wealth, he bankrolls Nicole's fashion business which also becomes an immediate success.
In a typical Hollywood movie of 1937, we'd be flowing straight toward the marriage altar, but these two characters are not exactly in a passionate love affair, and while there is an intensely warm friendship, Stefan seems more likely to spend his time with his assistant Anatole (played by Alexander D'Arcy) while cooking up his next financial plan, and Nicole, who is lauded at the beginning of the film for her "mannish" coiffure, exhibits a lackadaisical attitude toward romance in general.
But then two events explode this cosy arrangement: when Stefan and "Nikki" go on a European holiday together, Stefan's financial empire begins to fall apart in his absence, and Nicole meets Ian Hunter (as Anthony Wayne) and an actual emotional longing begins to develop between the two, taking Nicole by surprise. Suddenly, though, Stefan is in dire financial straights and calls on Nicole for help. She might not be in love with Stefan, but she is iron-willed loyal*, and she sets aside Ian Hunter to run to Stefan's rescue...
Kay Francis gets to work on screen in a large variety of outfits, has a lot of luggage as she moves from various locations, and director Curtiz keeps the story bouncing between the palatial confines of Stefan's enormous offices, Nicole's enormous salon, and enormous restaurants in Paris. We finally downsize to a more human world when Nicole and Stefan fly to Switzerland, which is fitting since that's when the true nature of our characters finally appears, shedding the glamour of financial success and ruminating on basic ethics (financial and otherwise).
* Actress Joan Blondell called these kind of personalities "I'll-stick-by-you-broads" in her novel Center Door Fancy.
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