'Hold Back The Dawn: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Charles Boyer, Olivia de Havilland, Paulette Goddard, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1941) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: Stopped in Mexico by U.S. Immigration, Georges Iscovescu hopes to get into the country by marrying a citizen.
Charles Boyer (Gaslight) gives an enthralling performance as Georges Iscovescu, a Romanian-born gigolo who arrives at a Mexican border town seeking entry to the US.
Faced with a waiting period of eight years, George is encouraged by his former dancing partner Anita (Pauline Goddard, Modern Times) to marry an American girl and desert her once safely across the border.
He successfully targets visiting school teacher Emmy Brown (Olivia de Havilland, Gone with the Wind), but his plan is compromised by a pursuing immigration officer, and blossoming feelings of genuine love for Emmy.
Blu-ray Verdict: It really is curious how times change. More than 60 years ago, people fleeing Europe went to Mexico to try to gain access to the United States.
Today, instead of going the legal route, they would probably hire a coyote to take them to the other side of the border! The more things change, the more they stay the same.
This film is interesting because of the screen play by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, although down the years the latter one has been the only writer associated with the film. Ergo, it is a mistake to bypass the great Billy Wilder, when we see his imprint everywhere in the movie.
The movie begins with a disheveled Charles Boyer going to the Paramount lot to talk to the director, Mitchell Leisen. Boyer's character, George Iscovescu, has met the director in the Riviera and comes to beg for a loan of $500, a tidy sum in those days. From there the story unfolds.
George quickly learns after arriving in the border town, that because being Rumanian he must wait about 8 years to enter the United States because of immigration quotas.
He quickly learns the only way to make it across the border is if he would marry an American woman, and voila!, Emmy Brown, just happens to come to spend the 4th of July holiday with her students; thus his chance to make it in a legal way.
The cast of the film is excellent. Charles Boyer, in spite of not being upfront with the naïve Emmy, doesn't make us hate him. He redeems himself at the end.
Olivia de Havilland was perfect for the immature Emmy. She falls in love with a man that is trying to use her as his ticket to the promised land. Paulette Goddard, as Anita was very good.
Funnily enough, well after the film Walter Abel was still despised as playing Inspector Hammock, the immigration officer everyone in town hates.
In conclusion, 'Hold Back The Dawn' has a clever start to the film - oh, and look out for Veronica Lake making an appearance - and has a rather lovely ending that really couldn't get any better. This is a Full Screen 35mm camera negative film (4:3) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
Love Knows No Borders, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew
The Guardian Lecture: Olivia de Havilland, A career-spanning onstage audio interview with Olivia de Havilland recorded at the National Film Theatre in 1971
Rare hour-long radio adaptation of Hold Back the Dawn from 1941 starring Charles Boyer, Paulette Goddard and Susan Haywood
Gallery of original stills and promotional images
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by writer and critic Farran Smith Nehme