The Hour Before the Dawn

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Not to be confused with The Hour Before Dawn.
The Hour Before the Dawn
The hour before the dawn.jpg
Directed by Frank Tuttle
Produced by William Dozier
Written by Michael Hogan
Lesser Samuels
Based on novel by W. Somerset Maugham
Starring Veronica Lake
Franchot Tone
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography John Seitz
Edited by Stuart Gilmore
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
May 10, 1944
(United States)
Running time
75 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Hour Before the Dawn is a 1944 drama film directed by Frank Tuttle and starring Veronica Lake and Franchot Tone. It was based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham.

Plot Summary[edit]

The year is 1923 in England and General Hetherton is instructing his grandson Jim to shoot with a rifle. Unfortunately Jim's dog runs in the way and Jim accidentally shoots and kills him. The incident affects Jim deeply and he becomes a pacifist.

Years later, when the Germans invade Poland and initiate what would become World War II, Jim is headmaster at a school and has fallen in love with a young Austrian woman, Dora Bruckman, who works for his sister-in-law, May. He is unaware that Dora really is a Nazi agent sent to infiltrate Britain. She meets regularly with her supervisors in London, Mrs. Müller and Kurt van der Breughel, posing as Austrian refugees.

Jim objects to Britain declaring war on the Germans, but his brother Roger joins the Royal Air Force. The Germans start their blitz over London, and Dora participates by signaling with the headlights of May's car to the bombers. She is discovered by May's son Tommy and explains herself by saying the lights had been forgotten on.

Jim and Dora marry to prevent her from being sent back to Austria. Kurt plans to use Jim in an effort to convince the more influential English to consider capitulation. He sends a fake letter to Jim, asking him to join an effort to educate refugee children, a task Jim gladly accepts.

Jim is freed from military service, provided he does work on a farm instead. All the farms reject him as a worker, since they deem him a coward. When visiting one farm, he stops a worker from being cruel to an animal, winning the respect of the farmer, Searle, who agrees to hire him.

Soon May hears that her husband will participate in a secret operation at a nearby airfield, and Dora passes this news on to Kurt. Dora's next mission is to signal German bombers sent to destroy the airfield, which is located near the Hetherton home.

Roger receives a list from Captain Atterley, a friend of his. The list contains the names of possible German agents who may attempt to sabotage the airfield, and Dora's name is on it.

At their next meeting, Kurt mentions to Jim that the Germans might consider negotiating terms for peace with Britain. Jim gets suspicious, and tells Dora afterwards that Kurt spoke more like a German than a Dutchman. Dora's behavior and reaction makes him slightly suspicious, but he dismisses it.

Jim talks to his influential friend, Sir Leslie Buchannan, who explains that the government is no longer prepared to negotiate with the Germans. Dora starts preparing for her mission, and pours gasoline over a hay wagon. Tommy again spots her and spoils her plan. She brings him into the house to do off with him, but then she hears the bombers arrive and rushes out to set fire to the hay.

While Roger gets confirmation that Dora is a saboteur, Tommy escapes his captivity and runs to Jim, who learns of his wife's betrayal. When Jim arrives home to his house, Dora is packed and ready to leave. She confesses to being a spy and then tries to shoot him but fails. Instead Jim kills her, just before Roger arrives.

After the experience, Jim has a change of heart and joins the Royal Air Force to participate in the fighting for his country.[1]


Production notes[edit]

The novel was published in 1942.[2] Film rights were bought by Paramount while the project was in galley form, prior to Pearl Harbour.[3] When the book was published, it became a best seller but Paramount were reluctant to make it because it was about a conscientious objector - something that was felt to be palatable to the American public while the USA was neutral, but not after. However after time passed, executives began to feel the public would be sympathetic to a movie about a genuine objector, as it was one of the freedoms the Allies were fighting for.[4]

The movie was the first film producer by William Dozier, who had worked as a story editor at Paramount for a number of years.[4] Shooting started in April 1943. Because of dim out restrictions, night scenes were shot in Phoenix Arizona.[5]

It is often rumoured that this film may have led to the downfall of Veronica Lake's career. She was at her peak at the time of production, with films such as Sullivan's Travels, This Gun for Hire, The Glass Key, I Married a Witch and So Proudly We Hail! all having been big box office successes for her and Paramount. After this film was released, her career declined and her films were less popular, with the exception of Ramrod, The Blue Dahlia and to a lesser extent Saigon, the latter two of which paired her with four-time co-star Alan Ladd.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Novels by Somerset Maugham, H.G. Wells, Oliver La Farge and Several Others: THE HOUR BEFORE THE DAWN By W. Somerset Maugham. 307 pp. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc. $2.50. PETER MONRO JACK.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 21 June 1942: BR6.
  3. ^ DRAMA: Aherne, Young to Play Whodunit Partners Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 06 Jan 1943: 11.
  4. ^ a b 'Objector' Story for Screen By Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 18 June 1943: 4.
  5. ^ SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Lucille Ball Will Play the Lead in 'Meet the People' -- Julie Bishop in Flynn Film 3 PICTURES OPEN TODAY ' Hangmen Also Die,' 'Flight for Freedom' and 'Hit Parade of 1943' Are Arrivals By Telephone to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 15 Apr 1943: 20.