|The Inn of the Sixth Happiness|
|Distributor:||20th Century Fox|
|Released:||December 11 1958|
|Language:||English, Mandarin, Japanese, Russian|
|Internet Movie Database entry 0051776|
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is a 1958 20th Century Fox film based on the true story of Gladys Aylward, a tenacious British maid, who became a missionary in China during the tumultuous years leading up to World War II. Directed by Mark Robson, who received an Academy Award for Directing nomination, the film stars Ingrid Bergman as Aylward and Curt Jurgens as her love interest, Colonel Lin Nan, a Chinese officer with a Dutch father. Robert Donat, who played the mandarin of the town in which Aylward lived, died before the film was released. The musical score was composed by Malcolm Arnold. The cinematography was by Freddie Young.
The story begins with Aylward being rejected as a potential missionary to China because of her lack of education. Dr.Robinson, the senior missionary, feels sorry for her and secures her a position in the home of a veteran explorer with contacts in China. Over the next few months, Aylward saves her money to purchase a ticket on the Trans-Siberian railway, choosing the more dangerous overland route to the East because it is less expensive.
Once in China, she settles in the town of Yang Cheng, where she secures a post as assistant to a veteran missionary, Jeannie Lawson (played by Athene Seyler), who has set up an inn for traveling merchants, where they can get a hot meal and hear stories from the Bible. The film follows Aylward's acculturation, culminating in her taking over the inn when Lawson dies in an accident.
The local mandarin appoints Aylward, a stubborn but endearing woman, as his Foot Inspector to ensure that the ancient practice of foot binding is eradicated in the region he governs. She succeeds in this, and manages to put down a prison revolt as well, winning her the esteem of the local population as well as of the mandarin. Meanwhile, however, China is being invaded by Japan, and Aylward is encouraged by Lin to leave. She refuses, and as the town of Yang Cheng comes under attack, she finds that she has fifty orphans in her care.
As the population prepares to evacuate the town, the mandarin announces that he is converting to Christianity as a result of the Christian love shown by Aylward. Aylward is overcome with emotion, but is now left alone with the children, aided by Lee, the former leader of the prison revolt that she helped to resolve (played by Burt Kwouk). Lin tells her that the only hope for safety is to take the children to the next province, where trucks will drive them to safety, but they must get there within three weeks, or else the trucks will leave without them.
Just as they are preparing to leave, another fifty orphans appear from a neighbouring town, so Aylward and Lee have no choice but to lead one hundred children on a trek across the countryside. Although it should only have taken them a week, the roads are infested with Japanese patrols, and the group has no choice but to cut across the mountains. After a long, difficult journey, they all arrive safely (except for Lee, who gave his life to save them from a Japanese patrol) on the day the trucks are to leave. Aylward is greeted by Dr.Robinson, whom she reminds how he rejected her as a missionary years before.
The film culminates with the column of children, led by Aylward, marching into the town, singing the song "This Old Man" to keep up their spirits.
Sean Connery was considered for the role of Colonel Lin. The screen tests from this can be seen on the DVD.
The film makers, since release, have been criticised for casting, Ingrid Bergman, a tall woman with a Swedish accent, as Gladys Aylward who was in fact short and had a cockney accent. Likewise, the two leads, British actor Robert Donat and Austrian actor Curt Jurgens were not even Chinese.
The film was based on the book The Small Woman (1957), by Alan Burgess.
The real Gladys Aylward (1902 - 1970) was born in London. She was a former domestic turned missionary in China and best known for her work with children. Aylward became a Chinese citizen in 1936. Four years later, despite being in ill health herself, she led more than 100 children over the mountains to safety at the height of the Second 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.