Drama1941-1950Mitchell LeisenRomanceUSA

Mitchell Leisen – Hold Back the Dawn (1941)

This superior melodrama with a darkly comic tinge came out at a time when Mitchell Leisen’s career was running hot after a series of successes including films like Easy Living, Midnight, and Remember the Night. It was also the last film Billy Wilder (in partnership with Charles Brackett) was content with just writing the screenplay for. He was supposedly so annoyed by the way Leisen took liberties with his script that he resolved never to cede directorial control again.

Despite Wilder’s dissatisfaction, Leisen did a fine job with a theme that resonates just as strongly for viewers in today’s world. In a post-modern touch, the film opens with George Iscovescu (Charles Boyer) desperately trying to sell his story to a Paramount director played by Leisen himself in an effort to earn money quickly.

In the form of a long flashback, George is revealed as a gigolo originally from Romania who has fled Nazi-occupied Europe and arrived at a dusty Mexican border town aiming to enter the United States. Immigration officials there advise him that the quota for Romanians is full and he’s looking at a wait of up to eight years before he can get a visa.

After six months holed up at the border he’s broke and in despair when he bumps into Anita (Paulette Goddard), an old flame and fellow operator from Europe. She tells George how she found a loophole in the immigration system by marrying a gullible American, gaining entry to the States, and then divorcing the husband.

George resolves to try the same scheme, and after one failed attempt, finds the perfect target in Emmy Brown (Olivia de Havilland), a naive teacher in Mexico for a day trip with her class whose bus has been in a minor accident and is being repaired.

After forcing a convenient delay in the repairs by making a part go missing, George turns all his charms on Emmy, sweeps her off her feet, and within 24 hours succeeds in marrying her.

Emmy has to return to her school, and George is happy to wait at the border until his immigration is approved, at which time he plans to dump her. Anita for her part intends to team up with George again once he’s inside the U.S.

But after a few days Emmy returns unexpectedly, and when an immigration inspector on the hunt for fraudulent visa applicants also appears, George takes her off on a road trip through Mexico. In the course of their journey together, he finds himself falling in love with her. The marriage of convenience has turned into a true romance.

This development incenses the jealous Anita. She proceeds to fill Emmy in on her husband’s less-than-pristine past and his original scheme for her. But Emmy’s reaction takes everyone by surprise…

2.87GB | 1 h 55 min | 768×576 | mkv



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