The Hour Before the Dawn

y:In England in 1923, little Jim Hetherton's grandfather, General Hetherton, teaches him how to shoot. When Jim's collie chases a squirrel, he runs in the path of the target and Jim accidentally shoots him. From that day forward, Jim becomes a pacifist, and disdains hunting and any form of killing. By September 1939, German forces, led by Adolf Hitler, are poised to invade Poland, and the British speculate on the possibility of war. Jim, a school headmaster, has fallen in love with his sister-in-law May's Austrian secretary, Dora Bruckmann, who claims to have fled Austria after her father died in a concentration camp. Unknown to the Hethertons, Dora is actually a Nazi spy, and her frequent trips to visit Austrian refugees in London are, in fact, a cover for her meetings with her cohorts, Mrs. Muller and Kurt van der Breughel. After German forces invade Poland, England declares war on Germany, and although Jim's brother Roger enlists as a wing commander with the British Air Force, Jim becomes a conscientious objector. Late one night, Dora slips outside to signal the approaching Luftwaffe by blinking the headlights of May's car. When the bombing begins, May's young son Tommy searches for Dora and finds her by the car. Dora pretends that May had left the headlights on, and that she was turning them off for safety, and they then take refuge in the cellar. Jim and Dora secretly marry the next morning, and this secures Dora's citizenship so that she will not be put in an internment camp. At Dora's next meeting with her cohorts, Kurt reprimands her for botching the signalling, and gives her a new assignment. Kurt, meanwhile, plans to talk Jim into using his influential friends to convince England to surrender. When Jim gets a phony letter from Kurt, who is posing as a Dutchman, inviting him to join a committee for educating refugee children, he responds enthusiastically. Jim's application to be a conscientious objector is heard in court, and he is granted an exemption from military service with the provision that he work on a local farm. Jim is rejected by every farmer he applies to because they think he is a coward. When Jim encounters a farmhand brutally whipping a horse, and beats him in a brief fistfight, however, the farmhand quits, and Farmer Searle hires Jim in his place. May, a former actress, leaves her family to help with the war effort. Later, May writes to her family that Roger is involved with a secret military operation, and Dora brings the information to Kurt, who determines that there is a secret airfield near the Hethertons' home. Dora's new assignment is to signal Luftwaffe planes so they can find the airfield by night and bomb it. Roger, meanwhile, receives a visit from his friend, Capt. Atterley, at the secret airfield, and Atterley gives him a list of suspected saboteurs, which includes Dora's name. Jim meets again with Kurt, who implies that Germany might be willing to negotiate peace if Jim arranged a meeting with his influential family friend, Sir Leslie Buchannan. When Jim sees Sir Leslie that night, he does not mention the meeting, but learns that England will no longer consider negotiating for peace, but will only accept final and irrevocable victory. Jim later confides in Dora that "van der Breughel" spoke more like a German agent than a Dutchman. Dora's response at first makes Jim suspicious, but he continues to believe in her innate goodness. The next day, Jim sends a note to Sir Leslie outlining his suspicions, and Dora hastens her plans for that night. When Tommy brings a note from Sir Leslie to Jim's house, Jim is not there, and Tommy sees Dora spilling gasoline on the hay wagon. Dora captures Tommy and locks him in a room. She is about to kill him when she hears German planes overhead and rushes outside to ignite the hay as a signal fire. Roger, meanwhile, receives confirmation that Dora is a Nazi spy, and that Kurt and Muller have been arrested. Tommy frees himself from the house and races to Farmer Searle's as an air raid begins. Jim rescues the boy and learns about Dora's subterfuge. Rushing home, Jim finds Dora packed to leave, and the haywagon burning a bright beacon. Dora tries to shoot Jim after he wrings the truth from her, but Jim, unafraid, overwhelms her and kills her. Roger arrives as Jim emerges from the house a changed man. Later, Jim joins the Royal Air Force to fight for his country by his brother's side. 

Note:Portions of radio speeches made by King George VI of England, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and German Führer Adolf Hitler, are heard in the film. Although Aminta Dyne's character is listed as "Hertha Parkins" in early scripts and the CBCS, she is called "Mrs. Muller" in the film. According to the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library, writer Lesser Samuels contributed an early treatment in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood, but Isherwood's contribution to the final film has not been determined. HR news items reported the following about the production: Ray Milland and Vera Zorina were initially scheduled to star in the film, and Paramount considered borrowing John Loder for a role. Richard Aldington was slated to write a treatment of the story, and Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis were slated to write the screenplay, but their contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. HR news items also report that Paramount was filming a prologue with W. Somerset Maugham, but it has not been determined if this scene was actually shot and released with the film. English farmland scenes were shot on location in Mesa, AZ. According to aHR news item, for one day of shooting, director Frank Tuttle acted as John Sutton's stand-in. 
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Hour Before the Dawn
The hour before the dawn.jpg
Directed byFrank Tuttle
Produced byWilliam Dozier
Written byW. Somerset Maugham(novel)
Michael Hogan
Lesser Samuels
StarringVeronica Lake
Franchot Tone
Music byMiklós Rózsa
CinematographyJohn Seitz
Edited byStuart Gilmore
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
May 10, 1944
(United States)
Running time
75 minutes
CountryUnited States
The Hour Before the Dawn is a 1944 drama film directed byFrank Tuttle and starringVeronica 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]

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 TravelsThis Gun for HireThe Glass KeyI 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 RamrodThe Blue Dahlia and to a lesser extent Saigon, the latter two of which paired her with four-time co-star Alan Ladd.

External links[edit]


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      Based on the novel The Hour Before the Dawn by W. Somerset Maugham (New York, 1942).


      Minor Subjects
      Conscientious objectorsDuplicityEngland
      NazisPacifism and pacifistsSpies
      Actors and actressesAustriansBombing, Aerial
      ChildrenCitizenshipFamily relationships
      FarmersGreat Britain. Air ForceNobility


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      Brief Synopsis

      Edith Han was an outspoken young woman studying law in Vienna when the Gestapo forced Edith and her mother into a Jewish ghetto. Edith was taken away to a labor camp, and when she returned home months later, she found her mother had been deported. Knowing she would become a hunted woman, Edith went underground, scavenging for food and searching each night for a safe place to sleep. Her boyfriend, Pepi, proved too terrified to help her, but a Christian friend was not. Using the woman's identity papers, Edith fled to Munich. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party member who fell in love with her. Despite her protests and even her eventual confession that she was Jewish, he married her and kept her identity a secret.The Nazi Officer's wife
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