Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Hold Back the Dawn
Stuck in a Mexican hotel full of fellow immigrants, Georges waits impatiently for the paperwork needed to get into the United States legally. He learns from his former dancing partner Anita Dixon (Paulette Goddard) that she found a quicker solution; she simply married and quickly divorced an American to citizenship. Inspired by this, he finds a potential mark in visiting schoolteacher Emmy Brown (Olivia de Havilland). Will he succeed?
This being a work penned by Brackett and Wilder, there is cynicism all over the place in Hold Back the Dawn. (Certainly a stark contrast to some of Leisen's previous films.) Like their later works The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard, the only reason their embittered protagonist is still existing is that of an idealistic woman in their life.
And much like what she would later do for Leisen with To Each His Own, de Havilland enters into an atmosphere that would test her usual bright-eyed image. Having her in a project that makes her character fully aware the world she's a part of isn't made for someone like her shows audiences that there's more to de Havilland than being swept up by Errol Flynn's roguish charm. (Thankfully the years to come would continue to bolster this.)
Hold Back the Dawn is one of the overlooked titles from the 1940s, which says a lot since the decade is chock full of noted films. The trio of leads are solid (has Goddard done similar roles?), and Leisen is one of the more underappreciated directors of Hollywood's Golden Age. (Only a matter of time before he gets his due.)
My Rating: ****1/2