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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 <email@example.com>
A 'Life' magazine article in 20 March 1950 states that there is more of a sympathetic portrayal in this film of the Colonel Suga (Sessue Hayakawa) character than compared with his depiction in the source memoir by Agnes Newton Keith. The article states that Suga saved Keith's husband Harry and was kind-hearted to their children. Paradoxically though, Agnes Newton Keith also hated Suga for the starvation, torture and degradation that he inflicted in the prisoner-of-war camp. See more »
Colonel Suga says he attended the University of Washington for four years and Agnes reveals that she attended Berkeley. Suga goes on to say that Cal "murdered" Washington's football team. However, Tatsugi Suga arrived at Washington in 1924 and during the next four seasons California never defeated Washington. Only one football game would fit Suga's description: a 33-0 loss in 1933. 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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First-rate production from TCF. The studio's craftsmanship is really in evidence in this atmospheric and moving account of one woman's heroic effort at surviving Japanese internment during WWII. A highly de-glamorized Colbert is simply superb as real-life Britisher Agnes Keith imprisoned on Borneo with her small boy in the early days of the war. Those nightmarish jungle scenes with the wind and the foliage have stayed with me over the years and cast an appropriately unstable mood over the movie as a whole. Credit ace director Jean Negulesco for bringing out the film's strong emotional values without sentimentalizing them. He continues to be an underrated movie-maker from the dynamic studio period.
We know from Sessue Hayakawa's cultivated Japanese colonel that Hollywood is changing its perceptions of our former enemy. Cruel stereotypes do continue (presumably based on fact), but the colonel's character is humanized to an unusually sympathetic degree-- even his loss in the recent atomic bombing of Hiroshima is mentioned. Then too, it's well to remember that during the war our government interned US citizens of Japanese extraction in pretty inhospitable camps along the eastern Sierras, and probably illegally so.
Anyway, the movie has the look and feel of the real thing, while the producers should be saluted for using as many actual locations as possible. The fidelity shows. Since the story is the thing, the cast appropriately has no stars except for Colbert, which helps produce the realistic effect. There are a number of riveting and well-staged scenes. But the staging of the final crowd re-union scene strikes me as particularly well done. And, of course, there's that final heart-breaking view of the hilltop that still moves me, even 60 years later. All in all, this is the old Hollywood system at its sincere and de-glamorized best.
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