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The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

From Academic Kids

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is a 1958 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 film was shot in Britain, including Snowdonia in Wales, and some of the main Chinese characters were played by Europeans, including Robert Donat.

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.

A stubborn but endearing woman, the local mandarin appoints Aylward 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 final tribute to 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. 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.

Th 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.

The film has been crticised as having the most unauthentic casting, showing Ingrid Bergman, tall with a Swedish accent, as Gladys Aylward, who was short (The original story was called 'The Small Woman') and had a Liverpool accent.

The real-life Gladys has reportedly commented that most of the story in the fim is fiction and she never knew any one remotely like Colonel Lin.

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