Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kay Loves the Desert (and Errol)

In 1936, the Chicago Daily Tribune quoted Kay Francis as saying "I don't do much in it,  Things just happen about me. I am just a wife who has been unfortunate in love, as usual."  She was speaking about Another Dawn (1937) in which she plays Julia Ashton, a woman who has turned her back on love after the death of her aviator fiance.  But, when Colonel John Wister (Ian Hunter), who she likes and admires, proposes marriage, she agrees.  His deep love for her convinces her that they can be happy together, and she is ready for an adventure - his post is in the Sahara.  The presence, however of Captain Denny Roark (Errol Flynn), creates a problem, as Julia and Denny fall deeply in love, with neither of them willing to hurt John.

The fairly conventional ending is probably the weakest part of the film.  Nevertheless, the movie is worth watching for the interplay between Kay Francis and Errol Flynn.  As the wife who is unwilling to betray her husband, Ms. Francis is beautifully stoic.  And Flynn, as the loyal officer is - well, just beautiful.   This article from TCM sums it up nicely:  "Even if Another Dawn doesn't reach the heights of some other Errol Flynn vehicles, it is still a treat to see this iridescent specimen of masculinity at his peak in his mid-twenties, handsome and dashing in a British Army uniform."  And while this is no Adventures of Robin Hood, Flynn is very good as the conflicted officer.  Flynn can act, and act well - the fact that this film holds up at all is really due to him - he makes you believe that Denny cannot be dishonorable.
Frieda Inescort has a relatively small role as Grace Roark, Denny's sister.  We've seen Ms. Inescort before in a very different role - as the rather bitchy older sister in The King Steps Out.  But in Always in My Heart. she not only appeared with Kay Francis, she also was in the similar role as the "other woman;" for Grace claims to be in love with John.  One strange thing about the way Ms. Inescort plays the role occurs early in the film.  As John is about to leave for his holiday, he asks Grace if he can kiss her.  She looks rather uncomfortable, and as he leans over to lightly kiss her on the lips, she turns her head so the kiss lands on her cheek.  It's rather a shock when she later confesses her deep love to her brother (close as they are, he doesn't know either).   Is Grace so deeply in love that she fears his touch will unlock her reserve, or is it something else? It's hard to know, but Ms. Inescort makes Grace a more interesting character.

Also in the cast is Herbert Mundin as Wilkins, John's aide-de-camp - a soldier who has been accused of cowardice by his comrades.  Naturally, part of the plot of the movie has to demonstrated that he is not, in fact, a coward.  We've seen Mundin before in The Adventures of Robin Hood, as Much.  He was also in David Copperfield as Barkis.  After a stint in the Navy during World War I, Mundin appeared on the London Stage and on Broadway, then landed a contract with Twentieth Century Fox in 1931.  After a successful career, in which he played a variety of character roles, Mundin died in a car crash, aged 40, in 1938.

The film took awhile to be released, and was not really the first choice for either of our lead actors.  Kay Francis, due to her schedule, became exhausted, so there was a filming delay while she recuperated.  Errol Flynn found the script uninteresting; his dislike of director William Dieterle compounded his disregard for the film.  And other actors also were unimpressed with the script.  First considered for the role of Julia was Bette Davis, but she accepted a suspension rather than take the part.  Tallulah Bankhead was also considered as Julia, but that idea was discarded.
One of the impressive aspects of the film is the music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  The militaristic air hits at the men's love for the military and their lives.  He'd only scored a few films, and his English was not strong, so Korngold was surprised and distressed that the whole of his score for the film wasn't used. But, he used the music (the love theme) for his Violin Concerto in D Major, and in 1995, the full score was reassembled and recorded by Naxos.

And we can't have a Kay Francis film from this period without magnificent costuming, here by Orry-Kelly.  A nice job is also done with the special effects.  One does feel the desert in the film.

All in all, this is a good film about good - and very British - people.  Colonel Wister especially has a very progressive view of world politics - he is hoping that he can help the process of seeing the native population of the Sahara region ready for self government within a few years. 

We leave you with the trailer for Another Dawn, which features Korngold's glorious score.

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