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A Town Like Alice (1956)

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.

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(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Won 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Kenji Takaki ...
Japanese Sergeant (as Takagi)
Tran Van Khe ...
...
Miss Horsefall
Marie Lohr ...
Mrs. Dudley Frost (as Marie Löhr)
Maureen Swanson ...
Ellen
...
Nora Nicholson ...
Eileen Moore ...
Mrs. Holland
John Fabian ...
Vincent Ball ...
Ben
...
British Sergeant
Vu Ngoc Tuan ...
Captain Yanata
Munesato Yamada ...
Captain Takata (as Yamada)
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Storyline

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

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 June 1956 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

Rape of Malaya  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

Harry Corbett bought his Sooty puppet from a regular store - he didn't design or create it as such. It's possible therefore that Freddie might have had the same puppet before Harry Corbett gave it national fame. 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 »

Connections

Referenced in Chicken Run (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Joget
(uncredited)
Traditional Malay dance
Arranged by Matyas Seiber
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User Reviews

 
Japanese Chivalry
11 June 2011 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

The Rank Organisation went whole hog in producing A Town Like Alice with location shooting in Malaya, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The results were well worth the effort and the film was a big boost to the careers of Peter Finch and Virginia McKenna. In fact as Finch was becoming more and more an international star he would get fewer roles like this one, playing a native Australian.

I was expecting when deciding to view this film that it would be similar in nature to the American film Three Came Home that starred Claudette Colbert as a woman prisoner of the Japanese in World War II. The woman prisoners were segregated, but quickly housed and fended for themselves as best they could, but in a static setting.

When the male prisoners are separated from the females after the fall of Malaya, these woman are put under guard and just sent around like vagabonds with their children if they had them. Why they were selected for this rather special brand of torture we can speculate on end, but whatever the Japanese idea of chivalry was to the women, they couldn't just outright kill them. In fact none are during this film.

The film is seen through McKenna's eyes, she's working as a secretary in Kuala Lampur when the Japanese takeover. She takes over too as guardian of her boss's kids after their mother dies early on in the strange odyssey. Peter Finch plays an Australian soldier who with his mates they constantly run into and who offers them help when he can sneak food and medicine from the Japanese. He pays a heavy price for doing this when he's caught.

When he was killed by Irish Terrorists in 1979, it was learned that Lord Mountbatten had specifically requested that at his funeral no representation from the Japanese was to be permitted. As Supreme Commander of that theater Mountbatten remembered all the horror stories he heard from people survived Japanese internment, even the strange internment where apparently the whole country was their jail.

How McKenna and those that remained survived is quite a story, let's say it involved breaking a lot of cultural barriers to do it. One of the women who did it her own way was Maureen Swanson who after McKenna refuses his proposition, she takes up with a Japanese captain. Swanson is another you'll remember from A Town Like Alice.

Alice refers to Alice Springs in Northern Territory where Finch reminisces he'd like to return. It sounds like heaven, looks pretty good too after the years in Malaya. The film is a really good war film from the not often heard from point of view of woman prisoners.


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