Hold Back the Dawn

Hold Back the Dawn ★★★★★

A romantic slow-burner, set in a Mexican border town, with Romanian gigolo Charles Boyer seducing American schoolteacher Olivia De Havilland to get in to the States, then starting to struggle with his conscience.

Written in Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett's distinctive style, and directed by Mitchell Leisen - the master of the romantic drama, now almost forgotten - it's a simply beautiful movie: one which completely sneaks up on you, with an original set-up, an unusual atmosphere, and superb performances by the leads.

There's also cracking support from Paulette Goddard - as a sparkly-eyed conwoman with no illusions - and a sardonic Walter Abel, while an extremely meta framing device gives a glimpse of Paramount Pictures, with Leisen playing a director, and Veronica Lake and Brian Donlevy playing themselves.

It isn't always an easy watch, because you know De Havilland's innocent dreamer is about to get put through the wringer, but it's a truly wonderful movie from a director who made some of the best.

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