The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)

Three Forces

My gosh: how could this fail to please. It employs all three of the major forces in pandering film: cute children, a beautiful woman ennobled by adversity and finally: unlikely ‘interracial’ love (‘.. he pressed his earthy oriental skin…’). The scriptwriter’s task is to take these three forces and merge them into a coherent whole. This is more difficult than it seems because the three are natural enemies— competitors for control over the narrative.

The writer does pull it off, only to have the result trashed by dated dramatics. What’s interesting is that the story itself is about the nexis of three colonial influences: that of the ‘christian’ Europe, the communist government of the south (a wholly different people) and the invading Japanese.

Each of these harbours its own evils. 1958 was too early to fault christian propagandists (so sweet, you see), and was soon enough after the war that the merest suggestion of evil was enough for the Japanese. What’s interesting is that what harmonises the mix of three is casting the communist government as the good guys.

This scriptwriter’s trick would attract the attention of the infamous House UnAmerican Activities Committee, a fourth brand of evil empire.

Usually in real life, someone does win. Which of these four do you think does? Holding this question makes this postcard watchable after the plucky Jeannie Lawson is killed off.

Posted in 2004

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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