The 7th Dawn (1964)


The 7th Dawn is a 1964 Technicolor drama film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring William Holden, Capucine and Tetsurō Tamba. The film, set during the Malayan Emergency, is based on the 1960 novel The Durian Tree by Michael Keon and was filmed on location in Malaysia.

Also known as The Seventh Dawn (alternative spelling, US), Wherever Love Takes Me, The Third Road, and Durian Tree (working titles, US).


Three friends who fought the Japanese occupiers in Malaya during World War II find themselves on opposing sides in the communist insurgency following the war. Ferris becomes a prosperous rubber-plantation owner, while his mistress Dhana is head of a schoolteacher’s union. The third, former guerrilla Ng, goes to Moscow to obtain an education. He returns an even more committed revolutionary than he was during the war, and Dhana is torn between the two men.

Ferris, whose friendship with Ng protects him from attack, tries to avoid the conflict, but he is inexorably involved when Dhana is arrested and sentenced to death for carrying explosives for the insurgents. As an additional complication, Candace Trumpey, the daughter of a British resident whom Ferris had met at the end of the war, is infatuated with the worldly Ferris. The naïve Candace offers herself as a hostage and falls into Ng’s hands. He threatens to kill her if Dhana’s sentence is executed. Ferris offers to flush Ng out in exchange for Dhana’s life, but he is given only seven days to do so.


  • William Holden as Major Ferris.
  • Capucine as Dhana.
  • Tetsurō Tamba as Ng.
  • Susannah York as Candace Trumpey.
  • Michael Goodliffe as Trumphey.
  • Allan Cuthbertson as Colonel Cavendish.
  • Maurice Denham as Tarlton.
  • Sydney Tafler as Police Commissioner Tom.
  • Beulah Quo as Ah Ming.


The Durian Tree was published in 1960. It was written by Australian journalist Michael Keon, and the lead character Ferris was an Australian. The New York Times called it “a serious and ambitious novel” but said Keon was “a good reporter but a poor novelist.” The Los Angeles Times called it “suspenseful, provocative, ultimately illuminating.” The film rights were bought by Charles K. Feldman.

The script included a nude scene for Susannah York, who did not want to do it, but on location the filmmakers insisted. She appeared in one take and her stand-in appeared in another. Photos of York shooting the scene were later published in Playboy magazine. York explained, “Someone had a long distance camera. I’d just like to forget about it. It’s an unfortunate business.”


The film’s score was composed by Riz Ortolani following the popularity of his score for Mondo Cane that was released in the US in 1963. The theme song “The Seventh Dawn” was sung by the Lettermen on the film soundtrack. Sergio Franchi recorded the song as a 1964 single and Roland Shaw provided an instrumental cover version.


The film generated $2.3 million in revenue and ranked 89th among American films for 1964.


  • Filming was delayed when actual squatters took up residence in the Chinese squatter village set.
    • After their removal, filming resumed and the Chinese squatters stayed to watch.
    • When the village is torched, crying and wailing can be heard.
    • This was not from the Malay extras but from the real squatters who just lost their new home.
  • During a forced break in filming due to heavy rains, a Malay Bomoh, or shaman, was hired to predict when the rains would cease.
    • His prediction was spot on and filming resumed.
  • Capucine was cast as Dhana due to her romantic relationship with executive producer Charles K. Feldman.
    • Her casting was initially opposed by William Holden, producer Karl Tunberg and director Lewis Gilbert.
    • They were overruled by Feldman.
    • Later in the shoot Holden began an affair with Capucine, much to the displeasure of Feldman.
  • The character of Ferris is partially based on John Davis, a former SOE officer who worked with Chin Peng during the war.
    • In 1955 he was sent by the government to bring Chin Peng out of the jungle and escort him to Baling for a peace conference.
  • Because the UK government deemed the script to be prejudicial to British interests, it refused to cooperate.
    • Therefore, all British troops were portrayed by Australian troops who were, at the time, running operations along the Malaysian-Thai border.
  • Michael Keon, author of “The Durian Tree” on which this film is based, was a journalist working as Australian press attaché in China during the Communist revolution.
    • During that time it was rumoured that he operated as a spy for Western intelligence.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Lewis Gilbert.
  • Producer(s):
    • John Dark … associate producer.
    • Charles K. Feldman … producer (uncredited).
    • Karl Tunberg … co-producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Michael Keon … (novel).
    • Karl Tunberg … (screenplay).
  • Music:
    • Riz Ortolani.
  • Cinematography:
    • Freddie Young … (as Frederick Young) (photographed by).
  • Editor(s):
    • John Shirley.
  • Production:
    • Holdean.
  • Distributor(s):
    • United Artists (1964) (USA) (theatrical).
    • United Artists (1964) (UK) (theatrical).
    • United Artists (1964) (Sweden) (theatrical).
    • Kommunenes Filmcentral (KF) (1964) (Norway) (theatrical).
    • Nova Film (1964) (Netherlands) (theatrical).
    • CBS (1967) (USA) (TV).
    • Rank Filmes de Portugal (1978) (Portugal) (theatrical) (re-release).
    • MGM Home Entertainment (2011) (USA) (DVD) (dvdr).
    • Simply Media (2015) (UK) (DVD).
    • United Artists (1964) (West Germany) (theatrical).
    • Pidax Film (2021) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Topanga Canyon Films (2018) (Spain) (all media).
  • Release Date: 13 August 1964 (UK).
  • Rating: A.
  • Running Time: 123 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link(s)

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