The Inn of the Sixth Happiness  (20th Century Fox, 1958, not rated)

A sympathetic and positive portrayal of a segment of the life of Gladys Aylward, the British Christian servant girl with a powerful love of both God and China.  This small woman (incongrously but convincingly played by Ingrid Bergman) had great impact in northern China during the tumultous 1930's and 40's.  Single-handedly leading nearly 100 children over the mountains to safety during the Japanese invasion, and persuading the remote villages to comply with the new law against the footbinding of women, were but a small part of her successes.

As movies go, this one is reasonably true to the story.  I realize that's damning with faint praise, but I've learned to lower my expectations for truth from movies, which must alter events to make a convincing story fit in under three hours, and must include non-existent romantic scenes to please the audience.  Perhaps its worst crime is in making Aylward's extremely arduous life look easy.  In addition to the "normal" hardships of malnutrition and hard labor, she was beaten, tortured, shot, and severely injured in a bomb blast, but Bergman's hair is never mussed more than can be fixed with a quick flick of her fingers, and the journey across the mountains seems almost as easy as the end of The Sound of Music.

It's a fun and inspiring movie, worth watching if you also make a point of learning "the rest of the story."  As much as can be learned, anyway:  Aylward was old, with broken health and failing memory, when her story was finally written down, so much remains unknown.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Edit
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