The true story of Agnes Newton Keith's imprisonment in several Japanese prisoner-of-war camps from 1941 to the end of WWII. Separated from her husband and with a young son to care for she ... See full summary »
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Robert Z. Leonard
The true story of Agnes Newton Keith's imprisonment in several Japanese prisoner-of-war camps from 1941 to the end of WWII. Separated from her husband and with a young son to care for she has many difficulties to face. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Kim Spalding and Kermit Whitfield were announced as being in this movie in the film trade press but apparently their short scene together was cut before the film was released. They had portrayed US Navy officers who encourage Harry and Agnes Newton Keith to desert Sandakan. Apparently though, Whitfield still appears in the film uncredited as Commander Pritchard. See more »
The Ford Prefect shown in one of the opening scenes is a postwar model. See more »
Agnes Newton Keith:
Six-degrees north of the Equator, in the heart of the East Indies, lies Sandakan, the tiny capital of British North Borneo. In Sandakan in 1941, there were 15 thousand Asiatics, 79 Europeans, and 1 American. I was the American. My name is Agnes Keith. I was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. My husband is Harry Keith, a colonial official of British North Borneo. Borneo became my home when Harry and I were married. And it was in ...
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This is the fourth and last of the heart-wrenching Claudette Colbert World War II films, the previous being SO PROUDLY WE HAIL! (1943), SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) and TOMORROW IS FOREVER (1946) in which she played, respectively a brave Army nurse, a struggling home-front wife and mother and a WW I widow who passionately tries to keep her only son from participating in WW II.
In THREE CAME HOME she plays Agnes Keith, an American author married to a British colonial officer (Patrick Knowles) living in Borneo. When the Japanese invade the island they imprison the American and British residents. The Keiths are interned in separate jungle camps one for women and children and another for men for three and a half grueling years. It is true that at times Colbert doesn't quite look like a prison camp starveling but in those days movies did not offer the sort of hyperrealism we've grown accustomed to since the 60's, but she certainly does not look like she stepped out of a beauty salon. In fact I can think of no other film in which she appeared more plain and unvarnished. Few if any actresses of her stature in that era would have taken on the physical demands of this role. Unfortunately it was also her final socko performance on film. None of her 50's work came close to her substantial work here and she was all but wasted in PARRISH (1961). But here both she and Sessue Hayakawa as the prison camp commander deliver true and memorable performances as mortal enemies whose mutual interest in literature and shared experience of parenthood create a tenuous bond that augments the suspense and dramatic impact of the story.
Based on a memoir by the real-life Mrs. Keith (who was quite a character in her own right, and not remotely like Colbert), there is a vein of intelligence running through the proceedings, lifting them out of the mainstream of the often jingoistic wartime prison film genre. The Japanese are depicted in a dignified and fair manner without being whitewashed; in fact, in an early scene Hayakawa praises Mrs. Keith for the balanced views in her book about the Orient which he had read before the war. It is precisely his respect for her broadminded attitude that probably saved her life. Nunnally Johnson's script is tight and focused, as is the whole enterprise. The emphasis is on human relationships, so that by the end we are swept up in the emotional life of the characters. A bright note is the casting of a winning boy actor named Mark Keuning who has to be one of the best and most believable child actors ever. He appeared in only two movies, both in 1950, before retreating permanently from films.
This is a film worth seeing again and again. It has lost none of its essential power over the decades. Other films are grittier, with more blood and pus and exaggerated savagery, more breathtaking location shooting and exotic cultural immersion, but few can pack the kind of punch this one does. The ending is one of the most moving you will ever see.
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