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The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)

She expected to find many new things in China, but love wasnt one of them.

Directed by:

Mark Robson

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 151 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United States

Ingrid Bergman stars as Gladys Aylward, an English domestic servant who has dreamed all her life of travelling to China as a missionary. When she applies to join a missionary society and go to work in China, she is summarily turned down as being unqualified for the work. Instead, she books passage on the Orient Express by herself, and takes a position as second maid to famous explorer Sir Francis Jamison (Ronald Squire) to pay for it. Caught reading Sir Francis' books on China, he helps her by putting her in touch with a lady missionary he knows there called Jeannie Lawson (Athene Seyler). In time Gladys earns enough for her passage and sets off to join Jeannie at her work.

After enduring a difficult journey, Gladys arrives to find Jeannie setting up her Inn of the Sixth Happiness, a roadside hostel for mule train drivers where the Christian message can be passed on. When Jeannie dies in an accident, Gladys finds herself in charge of the Inn and taking on the missionary work. During this time, the region is facing many changes, both in terms of modern law being applied to the locals and the threat of invasion by warmongering Japan. The local Mandarin (Robert Donat) employs Gladys to bring some of the modern laws to the outlying peoples, and she gains the trust of the local Chinese. She meets a captain in the Chinese army called Lin Nan (Curt Jurgens) who is half English, and the two fall in love, but the impending war will tear them apart and Gladys will find her mission changing from saving souls to saving lives.

Charming and exotic, this classic China mission tale provides plenty of adventure and some genuine insights into the culture. Loosely based on a true story, it is the first half of the film that is the most interesting – Gladys' passion for China and the setting up of the mission. The second half deteriorates somewhat into classic Hollywood, with Gladys leading a hundred singing children over the mountains to safety. Sadly the film fails to tie up its loose ends, as it finishes without ever explaining what happens to the key romance between Gladys and Lin Nan. All the actors turn in fine performances, although it is hard to see Curt Jurgens and Robert Donat as Chinese. This is one of the better films of its type, and will continue to satisfy for many years to come.

It's Got: An outstanding first half.

It Needs: Chinese actors in the main Chinese roles.

DVD Extras The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is only available in the UK as part of a two-disc DVD set with another Ingrid Bergman film Anastasia. Extras: Theatrical trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

China Sky, Satan Never Sleeps., The Left Hand of God

Summary

Fine missionary drama set in China that starts well but fails to tie up all its loose ends.

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