John Wister (Ian Hunter) is a British Colonel on leave. He meets and quickly falls for Julia Ashton (Kay Francis), an American woman with a tragic past. She was previously engaged to a man who died in a plane accident.
Julia doesn’t think she’ll ever love again, but John is so in love with her that he’s willing to live with that. He proposes that they marry. He’ll get to spend his life with her, and she’ll get to help him with his work at a British outpost, which he hopes will bring her happiness. Their marriage won’t be one of mutual adoration, but one of mutual respect and benefit.
Julia agrees to the plan, but when she and Josh arrive at the outpost after their wedding, she meets John’s best friend, Denny (Errol Flynn). Denny is charming and reminds her of the love that she lost, leading to complications in her marriage
Another Dawn was directed by William Dieterle from a screenplay by Laird Doyle.
This film begins in a somewhat light-hearted manner as Julia and her soon-to-be-husband meet. Though we learn the tragic fate of Julia’s former love, the film isn’t melodramatically focused on the aftermath of that tragedy. It’s got something bigger to contend with — a love triangle!
At its heart, this is a commentary on the pain of unrequited love. John is in love with Julia, but knows she’ll never love him back. Denny is in love with Julia, but can’t be with her because she’s married to John. Julia is still in love with her deceased former fiance. Denny’s sister, Grace, is in love with John and has been for years despite the fact that her affections completely fly over his head. It’s a terrible trap to be caught in, and virtually all of the film’s characters struggle with it in one way or another.
Kay Francis reportedly didn’t care for this film, and didn’t feel like she was given much to do. Despite this, she was actually my favorite part of the film. There’s a subtle change in her behavior after meeting Denny that is a great asset to the film, providing a few moments that strike the viewer’s heartstrings. She says (in different words) that Denny reminds her of her love who passed away — and more than saying it, she shows it in the way she speaks to him and acts around him. She seems comfortable, bright, truly “herself,” whereas in earlier scenes she may have seemed perfectly content, but also clearly had a lot weighing on her mind. Those first scenes of friendship between Francis and Flynn are sweet but heartbreaking.
It’s not all loveless marriages and loving affairs in Another Dawn, for blended with all of that romance is plenty of action. While the focus of the plot is largely on Julia’s love triangle, a lot of screen time is devoted to gun play and troop movements, especially considering the film’s relatively short run time. The action scenes are quite well-staged. To offer one complaint in this realm, the deaths during Denny’s mission don’t have much impact since the victims are minor characters we know very little about. This is no tear-jerking, thought-provoking war tale, but the action-based side of the drama is good enough to detract a little bit of the shine away from Julia’s predicament.
Another Dawn wraps up in an ending that is heartbreaking, if kind of difficult to buy, and comes somewhat abruptly. TCM notes that this film was originally intended to be much longer, and it shows. I would have liked to see more tension between John and Denny — a deeper sense of the complications resulting from Julia and Denny’s love for each other. That being said, as it exists, this is still a decent watch, particularly worthwhile for Kay Francis fans. The score: 2.8/5