6 user 2 critic

The Hour Before the Dawn (1944)

Approved | | Drama, War | 22 September 1944 (Portugal)
A beautiful Austrian refugee in England--who is also a Nazi agent--marries a scholarly English pacifist. He lives near a secret military base she needs to get information about so she can help in Hitler's planned invasion of England.


Frank Tuttle


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Cast overview:
Franchot Tone ... Jim Hetherton
Veronica Lake ... Dora Bruckmann
John Sutton ... Roger Hetherton
Binnie Barnes ... May Heatherton
Henry Stephenson ... Gen. Hetherton
Philip Merivale ... Sir Leslie Buchanon
Nils Asther ... Kurt van der Breughel
Edmund Breon ... Freddy Merritt
David Leland David Leland ... Tommy Hetherton
Aminta Dyne Aminta Dyne ... Hertha Parkins


A beautiful Austrian refugee in England--who is also a Nazi agent--marries a scholarly English pacifist. He lives near a secret military base she needs to get information about so she can help in Hitler's planned invasion of England.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

espionage | based on novel | See All (2) »


W. Somerset Maugham's most savage portrait of a dangerous woman!


Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »





English | German

Release Date:

22 September 1944 (Portugal) See more »

Also Known As:

A Hora Antes do Amanhecer See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. Its initial television presentation took place in Omaha Tuesday 6 January 1959 on KETV (Channel 7), followed by Chicago Friday 16 January 1959 on WBBM (Channel 2); in Asheville it first aired 6 June 1959 on WLOS (Channel 13), in Grand Rapids aired 7 August 1959 on WOOD (Channel 8), in Seattle 2 September 1959 on KIRO (Channel 7), in Detroit 24 September 1959 on WJBK (Channel 2), in Milwaukee 2 October 1959 on WITI (Channel 6), in Phoenix 7 November 1959 on KVAR (Channel 12), in Johnstown 11 November 1959 on WJAC (Channel 6), in Philadelphia 4 December 1959 on WCAU (Channel 10), in Pittsburgh 5 December on KDKA (Channel 2), in New York City 29 April 1960 on WCBS (Channel 2), and in Los Angeles 14 September 1960 on KNXT (Channel 2). See more »


Jim Hetherton: Those who want to fight can. I won't.
Gen. Hetherton: You're not serious.
Jim Hetherton: Of course I'm serious. You all know how I feel. It's nothing new. I hate war and I can have no part in it.
Sir Leslie Buchanon: We all hate war, Jim. It's just there are some things we hate even more. Things we can't go on living with.
[Looks at the radio]
Sir Leslie Buchanon: Things like, well, you heard just now.
Jim Hetherton: You all despise me, don't you?
Roger Hetherton: Don't talk rough. We don't despise you. We're just... just trying to understand, that's all.
Jim Hetherton: Of course, I'm sorry. you've always been ...
See more »


Referenced in Still Life 2 (2009) See more »


There'll Always Be an England
Written by Ross Parker and Hugh Charles
Arranged by Miklós Rózsa
[finale music]
See more »

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User Reviews

Villainess Veronica
21 July 2014 | by jjnxn-1See all my reviews

Surely not the greatest antiwar picture ever made but hardly as bad as its reputation suggests.

Veronica is a Nazi agent pretending to be an exile from her country who has managed to wheedle her way into wealthy Binnie Barnes good graces. As Binnie's personal maid she manages to also ingratiate herself with the prestigious and politically connected family Binnie has married into. Their pacifist son, Franchot Tone, falls for her which she again uses to her advantage when the cell she's involved in call on her to strike.

Not a top notch Maugham adaptation but it tells its wartime story efficiently, if with a minimum of action. Veronica's career took a big hit when this failed at the box office with the critics and studio assigning most of the blame to her. Hard to see why though.

She's not as assured as in her best films but she doesn't embarrass herself. Her accent is variable but you'll have definitely heard worse in other films and the lack of her signature hairstyle can be laid at the feet of the government's request for her to change it. It was during the filming of this picture that she tripped over a cable causing a miscarriage and her absence from the screen for a period of time. With the failure of this film and no immediate one to follow it up and regain ground the studio apparently lost faith in her and started casting her in fluffy junk that quickly lead to her career default. It surely didn't help that she had a reputation for being difficult, stemming from an untreated bi-polar disorder, and was unpopular at Paramount. A shame though since even miscast as she is here she still has a powerful screen presence and holds the viewers eye whenever she's in a scene.

As for the rest of the film, Tone and the always welcome Binnie Barnes make the most of their parts but the direction lacks focus which even with the short running time allows the film to become slack at times.

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