By Dawn's Early Light
|By Dawn's Early Light|
Tagline: "Four People. Three Minutes. Two Choices. One Chance For Survival."
|Directed by||Jack Sholder|
|Produced by||Thomas M Hammel|
|Written by||William Prochnau (novel)
Bruce Gilbert (teleplay)
Rebecca De Mornay
James Earl Jones
|Music by||Trevor Jones Music
|Editing by||Tony Lombardo|
|Studio||Jack Sholder Productions Production Company
Paravision International Group Production Company
|Release date(s)||May 19, 1990 (airdate)|
|Running time||100 minutes|
By Dawn’s Early Light (AKA The Grand Tour) is an HBO Original Movie, aired in 1990 and set in 1991. It is based on the 1983 novel Trinity's Child, written by William Prochnau. The film is one of the last films to depict the events of a fictional World War III before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
As the Soviet Union begins to undergo radical political change, a group of renegade Soviet military officers steal a nuclear missile, launching it at the Soviet city of Donetsk from Turkey. Soviet defense systems detect the destruction of Donetsk and, believing that a NATO attack is in progress, order an immediate launch of ICBMs and SLBMs at the United States. Moments after the Soviet attack is launched, the President of the United States receives a teleprinter message from the Soviet premier, informing him of their response as well as their discovery that the first missile was launched by renegades. The premier says that the Soviet Union is willing absorb a proportionate U.S. counterstrike that would kill six and nine million people (though the Soviets will retaliate to any larger counterattack, potentially risking an all-out nuclear exchange). To further add to the turmoil, China launches its own strike against the Soviets in accordance with a treaty with the United States.
The President argues over the phone with General Renning at Strategic Air Command headquarters over whether the teleprinter message is true or a bluff intended to trick the U.S. into not responding to a deliberate attack. The President orders an initial counterstrike shortly after a nuclear missile strikes Washington, D.C. (having detonated over Walter Reed Army Medical Center after overshooting its target, Andrews Field). Renning then informs the President that the Soviets have launched a second attack, seemingly confirming that the Soviet Union was being untruthful, and the President reluctantly orders another counterstrike. As Marine One prepares to evacuate the President from the White House, the Emergency War Order officer receives a teleprinter message informing him that the second nuclear strike was directed at the Chinese, not the United States. However, while en route to Dover Air Force Base, a second nuclear weapon detonates over Andrews and causes the helicopter to crash.
Assuming the President is dead, the United States Army and the FBI locate the Secretary of the Interior in Baton Rouge and, in accordance with the order of succession, install him as President of the United States (with the Secret Service codename "Condor"). Though Condor at first appears receptive to Harpoon's suggestion of reducing hostilities, he quickly decides to follow the advice of the hawkish Colonel Fargo, who sees the total destruction of the Soviet Union as the only acceptable resolution to the conflict. On board the Boeing E-4 airborne command post, Condor orders a decapitating strike on the Soviet Union, concentrating on the destruction of leadership bunkers by land-based bombers and the launch of all U.S. submarine-based nuclear missiles. Condor holds fast to his decision to attack the Soviet Union, even after learning that the President is still alive (though wounded and blinded from the nuclear blast), believing the communication to be a trick by the Soviet Union.
From a Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency shelter in Olney, Maryland, the President uses a shortwave radio to contact the Soviet premier and the Looking Glass command aircraft, which recognizes that the President is still alive. The President orders the Looking Glass aircraft battle staff to stand down the bombers and land-based missiles. However, to prevent Condor from ordering a full-scale launch of the submarine-based missiles from the TACAMO communications aircraft in the next few minutes, the Looking Glass resorts to ramming the E-4B (with the unspoken cooperation of its own flight crew during the last few moments, including a brief salute between each aircraft). The President subsequently reasserts control and orders a stand-down of all U.S. nuclear and military forces, with the Soviet Union responding in kind (the outcome between the Soviet Union and China left unanswered).
Throughout the entire film, a subplot focuses on a single Boeing B-52 Stratofortress crew from the time of its emergency take-off from Fairchild Air Force Base to receiving orders to enter the Soviet Union and begin destroying cities. The B-52 pilot and female co-pilot, who are shown carrying on a clandestine romance prior to the emergency, eventually decide to disobey orders, at which time one of the airmen on board mutinies and attempts to kill the pilot. After a violent struggle, the airman is ejected from the bomber, with the other crew members blown out to their deaths. The end of the film shows the B-52, crewed only by the pilot and co-pilot, flying into the sunrise as the President orders the stand-down.
- Powers Boothe as Maj. Cassidy
- Rebecca De Mornay as Capt. Moreau
- James Earl Jones as Looking Glass General - "Alice"
- Martin Landau as President of the United States
- Darren McGavin as Secretary of the Interior - "Condor"
- Rip Torn as Col. Fargo
- Jeffrey DeMunn as Admiral Harpoon
- Peter MacNicol as Sedgwick - Emergency War Orders officer
- Nicolas Coster as Gen. Renning - "Icarus"
Principal photography took place from August 7 to late September 1989.The use of military hardware such as the B-52 bomber and Boeing E-4 enabled a realistic account of the Strategic Air Command in action.
Differences from the source material 
There are two major differences between the plot of the novel and the movie, the first being that the crisis in the novel is started by a deliberate Soviet attack to counter the U.S. military buildup they are unable to compete with. The other major difference is in the romantic subplot between Captain Moreau and Major Cassidy, which is not only absent from the book, but the characters themselves actually mock the idea of such a relationship between them.
Contemporary reviews of By Dawn's Early Light centered on the confrontation by nuclear powers and gave it accolades. "There never has been a made-for-cable movie as sleek and efficient as By Dawn's Early Light. Fast-moving, complex, and only occasionally a bit hokey, it's by far the best original movie project HBO has overseen.""Boasting high production values, okay special effects, and a surprisingly top-notch cast ... a thrilling drama that is your better-than-average made-for-TV movie." More recent reviews were similar, "Probably the end of the line for Cold War confrontation on this scale, but compelling drama nonetheless."
Awards and honors 
In 1990, James Earl Jones was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special and Matte World Digital won for Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects.
See also 
- Fail-Safe, a 1962 book and film with a similar theme
- "By Dawn's Early Light." Matte World Digital official site. Retrieved: May 10, 2012.
- Freitas 2011, p. 91.
- "Notes: By Dawn's Early Light (1990)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: May 10, 2012.
- Prochnau 1983, p. 31, 46, 296.
- Prochnau 1983, pp. 16, 64, 245.
- Tucker, Ken. "Review: By Dawn's Early Light." Entertainment Weekly, June 8, 1990. Retrieved: May 10, 2012.
- Leong, Anthony. "Review: By Dawn's Early Light Movie." MediaCircus, 1997. Retrieved: May 10, 2012.
- "Primetime Awards." Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved: May 10, 2012.
- DVD Review by George Chabot
- By Dawn's Early Light at the Internet Movie Database
- By Dawn's Early Light at the TCM Movie Database
- By Dawn's Early Light at AllRovi