Hold Back the Dawn (1941)

114-116 mins | Romance | 26 September 1941

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HISTORY

The film opens with the following written prologue: "Perhaps the best way to begin this story is to tell you how it came to us. One day last August into the Paramount Studios in Hollywood walked a man...." The working titles of this film were Ensenada , The Golden Door and Memo to a Movie Producer . According to information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, Paramount purchased a story by Ketti Frings titled "Memo to a Movie Producer" for $5,000. Her novel, Hold Back the Dawn , based on this story, was published before this film was released.
       When this production was first announced in the trade papers, Harry J. Anslinger, the United States Commissioner of Narcotics in the Treasury Department took an interest in the matter. Letters in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal that Anslinger advised the MPPA that Ketti Frings's husband, Kurt Frings, on whose experiences her novel was based, was a "notorious international character" whose residency in the United States was then under consideration by the Congress. Anslinger stated that "in all probability, Kurt Frings related a story in which imagination played a greater part than fact..." and suggested that a film based on the novel would cause friction between the United States and Mexico. PCA Director Joseph I. Breen consulted with Paramount and noted in his response letter that "the studio...is rather startled by the quite patent inference set forth" in Anslinger's letter and would contact him for further discussion. The final outcome of this exchange was not included in any documentation in these files. However, modern ... More Less

The film opens with the following written prologue: "Perhaps the best way to begin this story is to tell you how it came to us. One day last August into the Paramount Studios in Hollywood walked a man...." The working titles of this film were Ensenada , The Golden Door and Memo to a Movie Producer . According to information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, Paramount purchased a story by Ketti Frings titled "Memo to a Movie Producer" for $5,000. Her novel, Hold Back the Dawn , based on this story, was published before this film was released.
       When this production was first announced in the trade papers, Harry J. Anslinger, the United States Commissioner of Narcotics in the Treasury Department took an interest in the matter. Letters in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal that Anslinger advised the MPPA that Ketti Frings's husband, Kurt Frings, on whose experiences her novel was based, was a "notorious international character" whose residency in the United States was then under consideration by the Congress. Anslinger stated that "in all probability, Kurt Frings related a story in which imagination played a greater part than fact..." and suggested that a film based on the novel would cause friction between the United States and Mexico. PCA Director Joseph I. Breen consulted with Paramount and noted in his response letter that "the studio...is rather startled by the quite patent inference set forth" in Anslinger's letter and would contact him for further discussion. The final outcome of this exchange was not included in any documentation in these files. However, modern sources report that Kurt Frings, a German championship boxer whom Ketti Frings met in Mexico while he was emigrating to the United States, threatened a lawsuit against Paramount after reading the screenplay based on his wife's story because the character of "Iscovescu" had become disreputable, and he feared that this might reflect on him and his wife. Producer Arthur Hornblow, however, accused Frings with theft of the script and threatened to have him deported and the lawsuit was not pursued.
       Paramount proceeded to consult with the MPPA on the script for Hold Back the Dawn . The MPPA's overall estimation by Jan 1941 was that "the present version contains certain elements which seem to be unacceptable by reason of sex suggestiveness.... [I]t will not be acceptable to characterize your sympathetic lead as an immoral man, or to definitely indicate a sex affair between him and Tamara [the character who became "Anita" in the film]." In another letter, Breen told Paramount that "there must, of course, be no suggestion of a connecting door between their [Anita and George's] hotel rooms, as this would inevitably give the unacceptable flavor." Paramount got around this by carefully playing the scenes in the hotel room in a manner that Breen found acceptable.
       According to contemporary and modern sources, the Mexican government was dissatisfied with the representation of their country and people in the screenplay and, through the State Department, requested various improvements. For example, as a result of their suggestions, Paramount recast the part of "Lupita," a comedy role, which was originally to be played by Jill Dennett, with Eva Puig, the widow of a former Mexican Secretary of State, so that an American was not parodying a Mexican.
       Modern sources indicate that further trouble occurred when actor Charles Boyer refused to perform a scene in which his character, dejected by being trapped in Mexico with no prospects of immigration, holds a one-way conversation with a cockroach in his hotel room. The scene was thrown out and because of further troubles with the screenplay, Brackett and Wilder diminished Boyer's role and strengthened de Havilland's, and chose to alter their screen credits from "Screenplay by" to "Written by" because they felt the screenplay was incomplete. Modern sources state that because of this incident, Wilder resolved to direct the films he wrote.
       A news item and Paramount publicity information reveals that director Mitchell Leisen joined the Screen Actors Guild so that he could play the part of the director of I Wanted Wings in the sequence which was reshot specifically for inclusion in the Paramount lot sequence of Hold Back the Dawn . Leisen, who did direct I Wanted Wings (see below), donated his bit player wages to charity. According to a HR news item, Leisen had initially intended to reshoot a scene with William Holden and Veronica Lake, both stars of I Wanted Wings ; however, the scene was instead filmed with Lake, Brian Donlevy and Richard Webb.
       Information in the Paramount Collection indicates that the Latin American release of the film included credits on the screen for assistant director Francisco Alonso and technical advisors Ernesto Romero (a former Mexican diplomatic attaché) and Padre Canseco. Olivia de Havilland was loaned by Warner Bros. for this film. According to a HR news item and information in the Paramount Collection, French actress Germaine Aussey tested for the role that Paulette Goddard ultimately played. This film marks the American film debuts of French actors Victor Francen, Micheline Cheirel and Madeleine LeBeau.
       The following information is from Paramount Production Information at the AMPAS Library: The beach scene was filmed on location at Hueneme Beach in Oxnard, and the chase scene was filmed on a highway outside of San Clemente, CA. The band playing "La Marseillaise" was comprised of Hollywood American Legion musicians.
       This picture was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Picture; Actress (Olivia de Havilland); Best Writing (Screenplay), Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder; Cinematography (Black and White), Leo Tover; Music (Scoring of a Dramatic Picture), Victor Young; and Art Direction/Interior Decoration (Black and White), Hans Dreier and Robert Usher; Sam Comer. De Havilland's sister, actress Joan Fontaine, won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Suspicion (see below). Charles Boyer and Paulette Goddard reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 10 Nov 1941. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
2 Aug 1941.
---
Daily Variety
31 Jul 1941.
---
Film Daily
31 Jul 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 41
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 41
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jun 1940.
---
Motion Picture Herald
2 Aug 1941.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Sep 41
p. 251.
New York Times
20 Apr 1941.
---
New York Times
2 Oct 41
p. 29.
Variety
30 Jul 41
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Jimmy Dundee
Katharine Booth
John Mari
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Loc dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Wrt by
Story
Contr to scr const
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d cam
Asst to 2d cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Int dec
Set dresser
Props
Props
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Makeup
Supv hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to prod
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Dial coach
Loc mgr
Secy to prod
Secy to prod
Secy to dir
Scr clerk
Unit bus mgr
Child welfare worker
STAND INS
Stunts
SOURCES
SONGS
"My Boy, My Boy," music by Fritz Spielman, lyrics by Jimmy Berg, Fred Jacobson and Frank Loesser.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Ensenada
Memo to a Movie Producer
The Golden Door
Release Date:
26 September 1941
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 11 September 1941
Production Date:
18 February--5 May 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 September 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10737
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
114-116
Length(in feet):
11,269
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
7139
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Roumanian immigrant George Iscovescu sneaks onto the Paramount studio lot in Hollywood to sell a story idea to director Saxon. Desperate for $500, George convinces Saxon to listen to the true story of George's life for the past year: At the outbreak of World War II, George flees from Europe to Mexico, from where he hopes to gain easy entry into the U.S. Due to the quota system, he is told that he must wait five to eight years to immigrate. Discouraged by this news, George checks into the dollar-a-day Esperanza Hotel in a border town. He meets his old flame and former dance partner, Anita Dixon, who tells him that she got citizenship by marrying an American and leaving him shortly thereafter. George, a gigolo and con man, immediately embarks on the same scheme, as many Americans have flooded into town for the Independence Day bullfight and celebration. George's victim is Emmy Brown, a naïve schoolteacher from Azusa, California, who is on a field trip. After George secretly sabotages the repair of the school bus, Emmy is forced to spend the night in the lobby of the Esperanza with her students. At first resistant to George's charm, Emmy soon falls for his artful words of love and they marry the next morning. Although Emmy has to return to Azusa with her students, George must wait four weeks before he will be allowed into the States. He immediately resumes his affair with Anita, and together they plan to go to New York after he leaves Emmy. To their surprise, Emmy reappears a week later, having been given leave by her school principal ... +


Roumanian immigrant George Iscovescu sneaks onto the Paramount studio lot in Hollywood to sell a story idea to director Saxon. Desperate for $500, George convinces Saxon to listen to the true story of George's life for the past year: At the outbreak of World War II, George flees from Europe to Mexico, from where he hopes to gain easy entry into the U.S. Due to the quota system, he is told that he must wait five to eight years to immigrate. Discouraged by this news, George checks into the dollar-a-day Esperanza Hotel in a border town. He meets his old flame and former dance partner, Anita Dixon, who tells him that she got citizenship by marrying an American and leaving him shortly thereafter. George, a gigolo and con man, immediately embarks on the same scheme, as many Americans have flooded into town for the Independence Day bullfight and celebration. George's victim is Emmy Brown, a naïve schoolteacher from Azusa, California, who is on a field trip. After George secretly sabotages the repair of the school bus, Emmy is forced to spend the night in the lobby of the Esperanza with her students. At first resistant to George's charm, Emmy soon falls for his artful words of love and they marry the next morning. Although Emmy has to return to Azusa with her students, George must wait four weeks before he will be allowed into the States. He immediately resumes his affair with Anita, and together they plan to go to New York after he leaves Emmy. To their surprise, Emmy reappears a week later, having been given leave by her school principal and been loaned the school bus with which to take her honeymoon. George is disconcerted by her presence and because immigration inspector Hammock is investigating suspicious marriages, he takes Emmy out of town immediately. After a long drive they end up in another small town that is celebrating multiple weddings. The high spirits of the place affect George and he falls in love with Emmy despite himself. Out of consideration for her, however, he pretends to have injured his shoulder on their honeymoon night so that she retains her innocence. After a week they return to the Esperanza where a jealous Anita discovers that George now intends to let Emmy down slowly. Anita reveals George's sordid past and his motives to Emmy, who is shocked, but nonetheless protects George when Hammock interrogates her about their "quickie" marriage. Emmy blames herself for being duped and leaves for Azusa, but crashes her car along the way. News of her accident reaches George and he illegally drives across the border. George successfully evades the police and arrives at the hospital in time to restore Emmy's will to live. Knowing that she will recover, he escapes the police again and slips into the Paramount studios to tell Saxon his story, intending to repay Emmy's savings that she had given him with the money he earns from the studio. Hammock catches up with George at the studio and forcibly returns him to Mexico. One day, Hammock finds a dispirited George, who has broken off all relations with Anita, and informs him that he did not record his previous arrest and that he is free to enter the U.S. Hammock then leads George across the border, where Emmy waits to rejoin her true love. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.