Inn of the Sixth Happiness [1958]

An epic and extraordinary true story--or, at least, an extraordinary story based on a novel (Alan Burgess's The Small Woman) based on a true story. Gladys Aylward (an improbably mesmerizing Ingrid Bergman) is a British would-be missionary with an obsession about China. As she has no experience, the Missionary Society won't let her go, but she goes anyway, alone, to a remote northern province. She is hated, then loved; finally she becomes both a significant political figure and the heroine of a miraculous escape in which she shepherds 100 children to safety across the mountains just ahead of a Japanese invasion. Curt Jurgens is suitably stony as Lin Nan, the half-Dutch, half-Chinese military officer who falls in love with her, and a visibly ailing Robert Donat (who died before this, his final film, was released) is the wily local mandarin who sees and makes use of her extraordinary abilities. Directed by Mark Robson, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is a sweeping, stirring tearjerker, a big tale told in a big landscape with acres of orchestrated strings by Malcolm Arnold. A beautiful and beautifully made film that's a classic of the "everyone said I couldn't but I did it anyway" genre. --Richard Farr

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