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In the 1937 drama Stolen Holiday Claude Rains plays Stefan Orloff, a dashing Russian swindler who persuades beautiful French model Nicole Picot (Kay Francis) to help him with a business scheme. In return, Orloff helps establish Nicole as one of the most successful fashion designers in Paris. Nicole resists marrying Orloff, finding true love instead with British diplomat Anthony Wayne (Ian Hunter). However, when Orloff's shady dealings begin to catch up with him, Nicole's loyalty to Orloff is put to the test.
Warner Bros. made a point to put a disclaimer at the beginning of the film saying that the characters and events in Stolen Holiday were fictitious. However, the story was clearly based on a real-life French financial scandal known as the Stavisky Affair in the early 1930s. Serge Stavisky was a Russian con artist living in France who sold worthless bonds and operated throughout the highest levels of French society and government. Stavisky was married to the beautiful former Chanel model Arlette Simon, who was the basis for the Kay Francis character in Stolen Holiday. In 1934 Stavisky went on the run when his scam was discovered, and the ensuing scandal had major political ramifications and resulted in several deaths.
Stolen Holiday was mainly a star vehicle for actress Kay Francis, who was at the height of her popularity at Warner Bros. when the film was made. Francis's statuesque figure and striking dark beauty perfectly suited her to the role of the elegant Nicole Picot. Playing a model and designer also gave Francis the opportunity to show off many exquisite fashions designed for her by Orry-Kelly. Stolen Holiday was Francis's fourth and final film under the direction of Michael Curtiz. The film was also one of several in which she co-starred with actor Ian Hunter, but it marked the only time she co-starred with Claude Rains.
Stolen Holiday is also notable because it was the first time that Claude Rains and Michael Curtiz ever worked together. It was the beginning of a long and successful series of collaborations between the two that ultimately produced eleven films in total including the 1942 classic Casablanca.
Part drama, part romance and part haute couture fashion show, Stolen Holiday has something to please everyone. "It is the production values, the unusually good dialog and the superiority of the cast," said the Variety review, "which combine to raise the picture to where it is more than ordinarily entertaining...The star and (Ian) Hunter are opposite each other for the third time. A good combination. Rains gives the swindler-romancer a high polish. Comedy is derived largely from Alison Skipworth, who is excellent as Miss Francis' friend and advisor." The New York Times said, "If the picture is at all distinguished, it is because Claude Rains does a superb job with the character whom the film's producers would have you believe is not patterned after the late M. Serge Alexandre Stavinsky; and...Kay Francis parades the most striking wardrobe that Hollywood's couturiers can conceive in the Paris manner."
Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenplay: Casey Robinson
Cinematography: Sid Hickox
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Music: Werner R. Heymann (stock music, uncredited)
Film Editing: Terry Morse
Cast: Kay Francis (Nicole 'Nicky' Picot), Claude Rains (Stefan Orloff), Ian Hunter (Anthony 'Tony' Wayne), Alison Skipworth (Suzanne, Nicole's Assistant and Friend), Alexander D'Arcy (Leon Anatole, Orloff's Assistant), Betty Lawford (Helen Tuttle), Walter Kingsford (Francis Chalon, Publisher).
BW-80m. Closed Captioning.
by Andrea Passafiume