Hold Back the Dawn (1941) - Mitchell Leisen
Now I'm not sure what the explanation is for this, but in this quest through best picture nominees it seems that the best of them, happen to be the ones never released on video or DVD. Such is the case with Mitchell Leisen's Hold Back the Dawn, written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Contrary to their other screenplays of the time, including the Leisen directed Midnight, this film is not a comedy. Sure there is some of that great verbal wit, but the film is a romantic picture, and a nearly tragic one. Watching the film you are instantly warmed to Olivia de Havilland who was looking exceptionally radiant. I was always amazed at her being cast in roles relegating her to something of a plain Jane type when she was clearly one of the most beautiful actresses to ever work in Hollywood. We are instantly on her side, and instantly reluctant to root for Paulette Goddard. Goddard's type of trash is a perfect Wilder female, but this time she is hardly the center of attention, and our sympathies are clearly against her. Charles Boyer holds his tongue for much of the film, and delivers a surprisingly rich and emotional performance, all the while being completely low key. Towards the end I was completely hooked in this story, and eargerly awaiting its conclusion. Nothing short of a masterpiece, and one of the most unnecessarily forgotten Wilder screenplays. The long story short is Boyer is a European immigrant trying to get into the US, who winds up in Mexico. He convinces an American citizen (de Havilland) to marry him, but alas this marriage of convenience for him turns into something else. Some good old fashioned melodrama at parts, it is never less than wonderful.
*Hold Back the Dawn was nominated for best picture, best actress (de Havilland), best black and white art direction, best black and white cinematography, best dramatic score, and best screenplay.