I’ve been writing this blog for the last eight years now, and in all that time, while I’ve reviewed some really obscure films, I’ve steered clear of reviewing many of the great classics—mostly because of a fear that I won’t have anything new to say. So much has been written (by people infinitely more qualified than I can ever hope to be) about films like Pyaasa, Citizen Kane, etc that there’s really no reason why anybody would want to read my musings.
But. A couple of weeks back, after years of putting it off, I finally finished reading Gone with the Wind. I’d seen the film when I was in my early teens, and remembered little of it besides the basic story. I decided therefore that it was high time I rewatched the film. Since the book was so fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but compare it to the film. And since the film is so beautiful (literally; every other frame looks like a painting), I ended up with a folder full of screenshots.
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 Gaslightand 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.
I have no compunctions about admitting that when it comes to cinema, frivolity is right up my street. Comedy (even slapstick), romance, war, noir, Western, musical, sword and sandals: all is grist to my mill. Happy endings, the vanquished villain, the long fadeout on the kiss between the beautiful heroine and her handsome hero, and I’m happy too.
Which is why I was surprised at my own reaction to Not as a Stranger. It isn’t frivolous, not by a long shot; the heroine and the hero are ill matched; and the hero (maybe protagonist would be a better word) isn’t even a particularly nice character. Despite all of that, I still liked it—a lot.
Guts. Glory. Revenge. Honour. Two brothers in love with the same girl. A tale based on Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s classic poem of the Battle of Balaklava, The Charge of the Light Brigade. Errol Flynn. What more could one ask for?
Well, much better scripting, for one. More believable settings for another, and less melodrama. Flynn, master swashbuckler, delivers as always in this film, but other than that, there wasn’t enough to make it a memorable one for me. Into the trashcan ride these six hundred.