Thursday, June 27, 2013

Another Dawn (1937)

Director: William Dieterle                               Writer: Laird Doyle
Film Score: Erich Wolfgang Korngold             Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Starring: Errol Flynn, Kay Francis, Ian Hunter and Frieda Inescort

Something strange is going on here, an Errol Flynn movie with not enough Flynn in it as he’s barely in the first twenty minutes. But that soon rectifies itself. Another Dawn begins in the Middle East after World War I when the British are a dominant presence in the area. At one of their military outposts Flynn is a captain who has been left in command while the colonel, Ian Hunter, goes back to England on leave. Frieda Inescort, who also happens to be Flynn’s sister, is clearly in love with him, but while he’s away Hunter falls in love with the mysterious and sad American, Kay Francis, who has lost the love of her life when he was testing airplanes and can’t get over him. Nevertheless, she marries Hunter and goes with him back to his post in an attempt to try and forget the past.

Among the early Flynn films, this one has not fared so well, perhaps because the love story seems doomed from the start, not destined for consummation. The kind of tension that usually comes between Flynn and his leading lady is not typically another man. Based on a story by Somerset Maugham, it has the sort of British reserve and duty-at-all-cost sort of spirit that might play well in England, but seems a touch too quaint for American audiences. Of course, one of the best things about the film is the score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. It’s a curious score for Korngold for a couple of reasons. The love theme, from the cue called “The Kiss,” he would use later in a concert piece, but the most unusual aspect is how another melodic element in the cue called “The Cable” seems to have been copied by Max Steiner for his main theme in A Summer Place. In the end, it’s a memorable score, far more than his score for Devotion.

Warner Brothers had some good stock comedic talent in this British romance. As Hunter’s personal assistant is the great Herbert Mundin, who would appear with Flynn in most of his greatest films. Billy Bevan is also on hand as one of the soldiers. Flynn is his usual dashing self and the film is definitely recommended for fans of his. Kay Francis, however, presents a much more worldly and sophisticated love interest for him than when he plays opposite Olivia de Havalland, and it’s a revelation. She's a great actress that deserves a much wider recognition. In his later films, when they didn’t have de Havalland, Warners would use female leads who were equally as dewy-eyed. Not that I dislike de Havalland at all. She’s wonderful, too. This film, however, shows Flynn more restrained, and thus more intense and mature in his love, which is great to watch. In a lot of ways, this film is much more successful than the more popular and similarly themed Charge of the Light Brigade.

I think I like Flynn’s thirties films, plus The Sea Hawk, better than most of what came after. The film is out of print at the moment, though it appears occasionally on Turner Classic Movies. While I had read several negative reviews, I had never seen it myself. Another Dawn, however, is a very satisfying experience for all the reasons listed above, and I hope Warners makes plans to release it on DVD soon, perhaps along with some other early Flynn that has yet to make it to disc.

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