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All her life Englishwoman Gladys Aylward knew that China was the place where she belonged. Not qualified to be sent there as a missionary, Gladys works as a domestic to earn the money to send herself to a poor, remote village. There she eventually lives a full and happy life: running the inn, acting as "foot inspector", advising the local Mandarin and even winning the heart of mixed race Captain Lin Nan. But Gladys discovers her real destiny when the country is invaded by Japan and the Chinese children need her to save their lives. Based on a true story. Written by
The real Gladys Aylward (1902 - 1970), born in London, was a former domestic turned missionary in China, best known for her work with children. She became a Chinese citizen in 1936. Four years later, despite being in ill health herself, she shepherded over 100 children over the mountains to safety at the height of the Sino-Japanese war. In 1958, the year this film was released, she founded a children's home in Taiwan, which she continued to run until her death. Known in China as "Ai-weh-deh", or "Virtous One", she continues to be regarded as a national heroine. See more »
Eagle eyed viewers will see many plants in this film which are not commonly found growing wild in China. The location was partly chosen, because Portmeirion had certain Chinese plants growing near it, such as rhododendrons. See more »
My name is Gladys Aylward. I've written to the head of the missionary society. His reply stated that he'd see me if I ever came to London. If he's busy, I can wait.
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The opening title card reads: "This story is based upon the life of Gladys Aylward, a woman of our time, who was, and is dedicated to the simple, joyful and rare belief that we are all responsible for each other." See more »
In spite of the rejection of her application for missionary work because of her lack of formal education, Gladys Aylwarda strong London domestic in the service of a retired explorerdecides to join an English missionary who has set up a hostelry in the mountains of North China... Here, Sara Lanson (Athene Seyler) takes in muleteers, provides them with food and lodging, and tries by ingenious means to convert them to Christianity...
Gladys saves enough money to travel to China via the Trans-Siberian Railway... Eventually she reaches the inn and Miss Lanson, and becomes her aide...
Gradually, Gladys wins over the people of the area, with her good works and humble, friendly approach... Soon she is known as "Jan-Ai" (The One Who Loves People).
After Miss Lanson's death, Gladys goes to work as a foot inspector (to enforce a government edict against binding of females' foot) at the request of a tired and cynical mandarin (Robert Donat), who is irritated by her meddling and sends her on foot-inspection trips to get rid of her... But upon her return from an arduous journey, he finds himself respectful of her dedication and courage and becomes her friend...
Captain Lin Nan (Curt Jurgens), a Chinese Army officer, comes into the district to enforce discipline in the face of the Japanese 1931 invasion... Gladys meanwhile has succeeded in restoring order in a prison uprising with her healing presence, and when Lin Nan finds it necessary to warn the people of the countryside against the Japanese, Gladys, through bandits she has befriended and are now devoted to her, manages to aid him in his efforts...
Lin and Gladys gradually fall in love, and before he leaves to rejoin the Chinese forces, he gives her a jade ring as a token of his feeling, and promises that they will someday be permanently together...
The Japanese attack, and it becomes necessary to march 100 motherless children to a mission safe in the interior... Before Gladys volunteers for, and leaves on, the mission with the children, the Mandarin offers her a parting gift: his conversion to Christianity.
There is no doubt about the splendor of Ingrid Bergman dramatizing Gladys Aylward, the "woman who wasn't qualified to come to China." With a luminous smile, she fills the screen with radiance, bringing missionary work purity of spirit, challenge, simplicity, frankness, honesty, energy, force and love...
The film, based on the novel "The Small Woman" by Alan Burgess, is a fine adventure story with love, war, religion, comedy, music, and spectacle...
Hollywood took some liberties in romancing the character with a Chinese officerwhich was not trueGladys Aylward (1904-70) was a great 'little woman' who lived a virtuous life full of quality, respect and admiration... She faced the impossible with hope, seeing the world through God's telescope...
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