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Released in 1938, Another Dawn was up-and-coming leading man Errol Flynn's eighth film for Warner Bros. Even though Flynn had made a swashbuckling smash out of Captain Blood in 1935 and created similar magic in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), he was not immune to less-inspired assignments. Another Dawn was undoubtedly a soap opera, albeit with a contemporary Sahara Desert setting. Veteran Warner leading lady Kay Francis, ten years Flynn's senior, was cast as his leading lady in this story of a veddy British love triangle consisting of an army captain, his commanding officer, and the commander's wife, the woman they both love. Although filled with action scenes similar to The Charge of the Light Brigade, Another Dawn was essentially a woman's picture, made to bolster Kay Francis' faltering career; she was one of a number of stars labeled as "box office poison" by The Hollywood Reporter that year.
In fact, the very title of the movie reflected its conflicted artistic stature. The name Another Dawn had been previously used for other Warner movies as a film-in-production title when they needed to show a movie poster or marquee for pre-release publicity purposes. When executives plucked it out to serve as the title for their new Kay Francis-Errol Flynn movie, it was considered an inside joke, a generic title for a generic historical romance. Only this Another Dawn happened to star one of the most handsome and appealing young leading men in Hollywood.
Despite his relative newcomer status, Flynn was quite confident of his own abilities and potential and not-so-secretly resented being cast in the movie. He also didn't care for director William Dieterle, a brilliant German migr and Max Reinhardt protge, a physically huge former actor whose overpowering physical presence intimidated and annoyed Flynn. Adding to the tension on the set were Flynn's ongoing contract negotiations with the studio. His agent Myron Selznick had been working on a new deal with Warner Bros. which would guarantee Flynn's weekly salary as well as three months of vacation time per year, but written confirmation of the promised deal was slow in coming. Following the instructions of his agent Selznick who had told him not to budge until the deal was sealed in writing, Errol refused to come out of his dressing room one afternoon to shoot a pivotal scene with Kay Francis. Studio head Jack Warner was forced to call agent Selznick and have a telegram with the requested contract points delivered, and shortly afterwards Flynn appeared on the set ready to shoot the scene.
Even before this showdown, Errol Flynn hadn't been on his best behavior. His dislike for Dieterle manifested itself in chronic tardiness and a disinterested insolence which prompted Flynn to inquire "What do I say here?" before every new scene. He also claimed to not understand Dieterle's directorial requests unless every action was explicitly laid out. Add to that a discontented Flynn's continuous complaints about everything and his evident unhappiness, and you have a movie with little chance of meeting or surprising anyone's expectations. In addition to Flynn's distress, director William Dieterle later expressed his own dislike for the movie.
Despite the problems behind the scenes, Another Dawn was produced with Warner Bros.'s customary care and professionalism. The action sequences were shot both in Yuma, Arizona and the area known as Lasky Mesa, in Calabasas, California. Flynn's equestrian skills were again put to the test - after getting a workout in The Charge of the Light Brigade in the scenes where the British forces are attacked by Arab combatants, and he reportedly took a few tumbles off his horse.
One of the most interesting aspects of Another Dawn was its score by acclaimed composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Reportedly, Korngold, only recently arrived in Hollywood from Germany, was not yet completely proficient in English and was composing the score to Flynn's film without totally understanding the dialogue. What he sensed from the movie was great drama and mighty passions which were more indicative of an epic and not a period soap opera. At the time Korngold was composing the score, Another Dawn was longer but was cut before release, another sign of its problematic birth. Korngold was disappointed and shocked to see much of his music discarded or muted, but would later resurrect the movie's love theme in his famous Violin Concerto in D Major from 1945. Fortunately for fans of film music, Korngold's complete original score for Another Dawn, including all lost sequences, was located, restored and re-recorded in 1995.
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. Even in a movie that doesn't come close to optimizing his onscreen charisma, he's still a delight to behold and hear, an almost impossibly beautiful actor who, in the sad way these stories often end, would barely live to see his 50th birthday.
Producer: Harry Joe Brown, Hal B. Wallis, Jack L. Warner
Director: William Dieterle
Screenplay: Laird Doyle, W. Somerset Maugham (story)
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Film Editing: Ralph Dawson
Art Direction: Robert Haas
Music: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cast: Kay Francis (Julia Ashton Wister), Errol Flynn (Captain Denny Roark), Ian Hunter (Colonel John Wister), Frieda Inescort (Grace Roark), Herbert Mundin (Wilkins), G.P. Huntley (Lord Alden).
by Lisa Mateas