Ever noticed how many old films were set in Paris? The Last Time I saw Paris, Gigi, An American in Paris and countless others celebrated the French capital’s reputation as one of the world’s most romantic cities. Interestingly, too, a lot of films that weren’t primarily romances were also set in Paris. Ninotchka, A Shot in the Dark, Charade – and this one, like Charade, an Audrey Hepburn starrer that’s a fantastic cocktail of comedy, romance, and most importantly, very clever crime.
A few preliminaries before I launch into a synopsis of this little-known but lovely little film.
This is the third film of Charles Boyer’s that I’ve reviewed on this blog (the other two are Gaslight and Love Affair). As in Gaslight, in Hold Back the Dawn too Boyer plays a less-than-scrupulous man who marries not for love but for less savoury reasons—after having convinced the woman in question that he’s deeply in love with her.
Now for the coincidence. This is also the third film of Olivia de Havilland’s that I’ve reviewed on this blog (the other two are The Charge of the Light Brigade and Not as a Stranger). As in Not as a Stranger, in Hold Back the Dawn too de Havilland plays a gullible woman duped into marrying a man she’s convinced loves her—though his motives for the marriage are very mercenary.
When I watched Gaslight a few months back, I ended up hating Charles Boyer (which goes to prove what a fine actor he was). He was just so supremely evil in a suave sort of way that I mentally vowed to slot him among those whose films I wouldn’t be actively searching for. Thankfully for me, bollyviewer came along with a suggestion that would help me like Charles Boyer a little better. This was it.
Love Affair is an oft-repeated tale, popular both in Hollywood and Bollywood. It’s spawned nearly half a dozen remakes and ‘inspirations’ that I have seen, and who knows how many others. An Affair to Remember (1957), with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, is a very faithful copy of this one. Bollywood came up with Bheegi Raat (1965), more inspired by Love Affair than an exact copy, as well as Mann (1999), which was a copy, down to the setting in which the protagonists first meet.
It’s a coincidence that memsaab reviewed Woh Kaun Thi? just after I’d seen Gaslight and decided to review it. The films are worlds apart (and yes, Raj Khosla fan though I am, I must acknowledge that George Cukor is better at this!) There is, however, an interesting similarity: a central character who seems to be steadily going insane.
That said, this is a great film, very watchable and with the beautiful Ingrid Bergman in a superb, Oscar-winning performance.