22 user 13 critic

A Town Like Alice (1956)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance, War | 1 June 1956 (Ireland)
A newly wealthy English woman returns to Malaya to build a well for the villagers who helped her during war. Thinking back, she recalls the Australian man who made a great sacrifice to aid her and her fellow prisoners of war.



(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

Watch Now

From $4.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

Won 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

A Town Like Alice (TV Mini-Series 1981)
Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

Set against the brutal chaos of World War II, a love story begins that will take two lovers through a living nightmare of captivity, across three continents and two decades. From the steamy... See full summary »

Stars: Helen Morse, Bryan Brown, Gordon Jackson
Biography | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Violette Bushell is the daughter of an English father and a French mother, living in London in the early years of World War 2. She meets a handsome young French soldier in the park and ... See full summary »

Director: Lewis Gilbert
Stars: Virginia McKenna, Paul Scofield, Jack Warner
Biography | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Biopic of RAF Group Captain Douglas Bader who, after having lost both legs, flew a British fighter plane during WW2.

Director: Lewis Gilbert
Stars: Kenneth More, Muriel Pavlow, Lyndon Brook
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

True story of three British POWs and their attempt to escape from Nazi Germany.

Directors: Jack Lee, Ian Dalrymple
Stars: Leo Genn, David Tomlinson, Anthony Steel
The Way Ahead (1944)
War | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A group of conscripts are called up into the infantry during WWII. At first they appear a hopeless bunch but their sergeant and Lieutenant have faith in them and mould them into a good team... See full summary »

Director: Carol Reed
Stars: David Niven, Stanley Holloway, James Donald
Action | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

All leave is canceled so that a British submarine can be sent after a new German warship. They chase it so far that they have no fuel to get home.

Director: Anthony Asquith
Stars: John Mills, Louis Bradfield, Ronald Millar
Thriller | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

An English village is occupied by disguised German paratroopers as an advance post for a planned invasion.

Director: Alberto Cavalcanti
Stars: Leslie Banks, C.V. France, Valerie Taylor
Adventure | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

During WW2 in North Africa, a medical field unit must cross the desert in their ambulance in order to reach the British lines in Alexandria.

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: John Mills, Anthony Quayle, Sylvia Syms
Crime | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A blind American writer living in London stumbles upon a criminal conspiracy involving kidnapping and extortion.

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: Van Johnson, Vera Miles, Cecil Parker
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Allied prisoners of various nationalities pool their resources to plan numerous escapes from an "escape-proof" German POW camp housed in a Medieval castle.

Director: Guy Hamilton
Stars: John Mills, Eric Portman, Christopher Rhodes
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

The attack by British submarines on the German battleship "Tirpitz" in a Norwegian fjord during the Second World War.

Director: Ralph Thomas
Stars: John Mills, John Gregson, Donald Sinden
War | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

True story of a British attempt to trick the enemy into weakening Sicily's defenses before the 1943 attack, using a dead man with faked papers.

Director: Ronald Neame
Stars: Clifton Webb, Gloria Grahame, Robert Flemyng


Cast overview, first billed only:
Kenji Takaki ...
Japanese Sergeant (as Takagi)
Tran Van Khe ...
Miss Horsefall
Mrs. Holland
John Fabian ...
Vincent Ball ...
British Sergeant
Vu Ngoc Tuan ...
Captain Yanata
Munesato Yamada ...
Captain Takata (as Yamada)


In 1941, The advancing Japanese army captures a lot of British territory very quickly. The men are sent off to labor camps, but they have no plan on what to do with the women and children of the British. A group is sent on a forced march from place to place searching for a Women's Camp. Told from the point of view of one of the women, she meets an Australian soldier who sneaks food for them from his labor camp. After the war, she goes to Australia to see the town he was from and hopefully reunite with the soldier. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Motion Picture Like Few Others...Fulfilling Nevil Shute's Unforgettable Tribute To The Human Spirit. See more »


Drama | Romance | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 June 1956 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

Rape of Malaya  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to the book 'The Golden Gong - Fifty years of the Rank Organisation, its films and its stars' by Quentin Falk, "While at premiere of a Disney film, 'Robin Hood' [See: The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)], he [Earl St. John] was particularly impressed by the young man who played the Sheriff of Nottingham. The name on the programme was that of Peter Finch. St John bumped into Finch on the stairs of the theatre and invited him to come and talk business at Pinewood. Next day he gave Finch what would be a pivotal role in his burgeoning career: the Australian soldier, Joe, in 'A Town Like Alice'." See more »


The Japanese Soldiers are armed with British SMLE (Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield) No. 1 MK III rifles not Arisaka Rifles Type 38 or 99 which is what they would have been issued. See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: The characters in this story are fictitious. The story itself however is based upon true fact. See more »


Referenced in Paradise Road (1997) See more »


There's a Friend for Little Children
set to the tune "In Memoriam"
Music by John Stainer
Words by Albert Midlane
Arranged by Matyas Seiber
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Masterful film and deeply moving wartime love story
6 August 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"A Town Like Alice" is a great movie. It's one of a very few films about World War II in the "rest" of the Pacific – outside the scope of the battle and combat areas that are most known and portrayed in films. Yet it takes place in an area of the Orient that also was greatly scourged by the Japanese. And it covers the plight of foreign civilians – in this case, English, who were caught, imprisoned or who otherwise suffered under the Japanese. It also has Australian, British and other prisoners of war in Malaysia. For all of these reasons, this film has historical value as well.

Others have commented on the plot, so I won't elaborate except to note the subtle love story that is intricately woven into the movie. It is a rare and beautiful part of the whole film. It's nothing like the usual romances one sees in war movies – though there's nothing wrong with most of those. But, in "A Town Like Alice," it is such a subtle relationship that most viewers won't recognize that there is a budding love story in the first or second encounter of the two stars. Of course, neither do the two people that Peter Finch and Virginia McKenna play. And that adds to the warmth, the beauty and reality of it. But once realized, it's seen as a story of true love, deeply felt, and held in the very souls of the stars.

This film came out just 11 years after the end of the war, and it was apparently considered too controversial by some. The film was pulled from the Cannes Film Festival that year, because it might offend the Japanese. I wonder if that didn't also affect the voting for the Academy Awards in the U.S. It received no nominations for an Oscar. Admittedly, the competition was very tough, with a number of very good films that year. Ironically, another film that had a lot about Japanese Imperialism took the largest number of Oscars in 1957 — "The Bridge on the River Kwai" won seven Oscars. It was most deserving, as were the individual Oscars, including Alec Guinness as best actor.

"A Town Like Alice" did get due recognition in 1957, however, when it won two of five nominations for BAFTA awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts). And those were for best actor and actress to Finch and McKenna.

As for the Cannes Film Festival? They blew it. Hollywood and the other venues of film entertainment often take pride on being open, honest and daring in showing true art and history. Often times, it may be controversial with one group or another. So, they show their weakness and faults, when they cower from showing some films that are based on truths because of the risk of possible criticism or opposition. Thankfully, we still have writers and producers and other film promoters who are willing to risk the offense of some, for the sake of showing and telling the truth. They would rather not offend those who endured the sufferings portrayed.

My online research found an interesting article about the Cannes debacle. It appeared in the May 23, 1956, edition of Australia Women's Weekly. Remember – Finch was a London-born Aussie. Here are some of the details reported in that article: "The British film, 'A Town Like Alice,' withdrawn from the festival because it might have offended the Japanese, was warmly applauded by the Japanese after it had been shown privately during the festival. Japanese stars who met Peter Finch at a cocktail party told him how they wept during the screening of 'A Town Like Alice.' Although it was withdrawn from the festival, the Rank Organization arranged a private showing at a theatre for a specially invited audience."

The next day, the Japanese Ambassador invited Finch to the Japanese reception at their hotel. "There, a line of Japanese producers and actors bowed, all smiles to see him. Relations have never been more cordial. Both Peter Finch and director Jack Lee are now claiming that the Japanese never registered a protest against the film being shown. They believe the festival committee decided this itself rather than risk trouble."

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: