Hold Back The Dawn

1941, Movie, NR, 115 mins

Review

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A touching and memorable film, this brilliant romance offers evocative performances by Boyer and de Havilland. It opens with a typical Wilder twist: Leisen, shown on the set of I WANTED WINGS, directing a scene with Brian Donlevy and Veronica Lake, is approached by Romanian gigolo Boyer, a one-time European dancer and ladies' escort. Boyer wants to sell movie director Leisen a story for $500. He then fascinates the director with the tale that is HOLD BACK THE DAWN, played out in flashback.

Boyer, stranded in a Mexican border town, lives in a rundown hotel, the Esperanza, which houses all manner of human driftwood from Europe, refugees from Nazi oppression, not the least of whom is Francen, a Dutch professor who acts as a sort of father confessor to the disenfranchised. One pathetic emigre is Rosemary DeCamp, a pregnant refugee who slips across the border to have her child in the US. Visiting the area with her students is American schoolteacher de Havilland, who becomes Boyer's easy victim in a matrimonial-immigration scam suggested by vixen Goddard.

Unabashed soppy soaper, but Leisen's pro touch and sensitive direction keep it from ever becoming maudlin. DAWN exploits the darkly sexy side of Boyer and the mechanistic side of Goddard quite well; the screenplay by Brackett and Wilder is beautifully written, covering for any loopholes in the de Havilland role. The characters were drawn from the life of story writer Frings and her struggle to get her immigrant husband Kurt into the US via Mexico. There is much here that calls to mind ARCH OF TRIUMPH, also starring Boyer, who always felt that HOLD BACK THE DAWN was one of his best films. leave a comment

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