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All her life Englishwoman Gladys Aylward knew that China was the place where she belonged. Not qualified to be sent there as a missionary, Gladys works as a domestic to earn the money to send herself to a poor, remote village. There she eventually lives a full and happy life. But Gladys discovers her real destiny when the country is invaded by Japan and the Chinese children need her to save their lives.

Mark Robson
Ingrid Bergman, Curd Jurgens
Writing Credits:
Alan Burgess, Isobel Lennart


Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Stereo
English Monaural
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural

Runtime: 158 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 8/5/2003

• Audio Commentary with Nick Redman, Aubrey Solomon, and Donald Spoto
• Movietone Newsreels
• Trailers
• Restoration Comparison.

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 21, 2003)

When I glanced at the cover of 1958’s The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, I immediately groaned. Based on the image of Ingrid Bergman, I feared that it would follow in the footsteps of the dull and insipid Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing and feature a very non-Asian woman in an Asian role.

A few other western actors do portray Chinese characters. But despite the garb worn by Bergman in the cover shot, she doesn’t play an Asian. She portrays former chambermaid Gladys Aylward, a woman who badly wants to do missionary work in China. Dr. Robinson (Moultrie Kelsall), the head of the China Missionary Society in London, won’t send her due to her lack of education and experience. Gladys then pursues passage on her own and works to save the necessary money to pay for a train ticket.

Gladys eventually pays for this and she gets some help from her employer, Sir Francis Jameson (Ronald Squire), who connects her with a missionary named Jeannie Lawson (Athene Seyler). The latter plans to build an inn for mule trains that pass through the area; that will allow her to spread the Christian gospel. Along with a cook named Yang (Peter Chong), the group launches their little enterprise.

In the meantime, we meet the local Mandarin, Hsien Chang (Robert Donat), and a Chinese military officer of mixed Eurasian heritage, Captain Lin Nan (Curt Jurgens). Lin Nan is there to get Hsien Chang to enforce the laws against the binding of female feet, but the foot inspectors fail in their work.

When the elderly Lawson falls and dies, Gladys takes over the inn. Unfortunately, the missionary group that helped support them did so out of respect for Lawson; with her gone, they retract their financial aid. Gladys decides to persevere anyway.

Before long, Hsien Chang offers the job of foot inspector to Gladys, who takes on the task if she can get needed concessions. Years pass and we see how successful Gladys became in the job. She fits in with the northern Chinese society and gets renamed “Jen-ai”, or “the one who helps”. Now promoted to colonel, Lin returns to warn the locals that the Japanese may attack and they’ll be the first line of defense. Since she doesn’t believe in war, Jen-ai won’t urge them to cooperate, but she allows Lin to tag along as she conducts her rounds. Along the way, the pair slowly start to fall in love. The movie leads toward war and we see how this affects Jen-ai, Lin, and the others.

1956’s Anastasia earned Bergman an Oscar, and she pretty much carried that otherwise unexceptional film. The actress gets more help during Inn, but she remains a main reason it succeeds. The unrelentingly good and noble character of Gladys/Jen-ai easily could have become insufferable, but Bergman totally avoids the part’s perils. She offers a bright and earnest portrayal that never becomes smug or annoyingly chipper. Bergman makes her character honest and likable and never comes across like some untouchable saint. She doesn’t even bother to attempt an English accent, but given her sweet and endearing performance, I don’t care.

Though he doesn’t look remotely Asian – or even Eurasian, as touted here – Jurgens brings a nice sense of strength to Lin Nan. Both he and Bergman remain low-key and appropriately subdued throughout the movie, and that makes their romance more powerful. They don’t go all mushy on us, so we care about them even more. The restraint exhibited allows us to see them as real people and not just artificial movie creations.

That lack of sentimentality shows up through the whole film, and this makes it more effective. Various issues aren’t telegraphed, and although it’s a little lame to see yet another story of a western woman who “saves” so many non-western people, the movie fails to become condescending and superior. It never treats the Chinese as exotic playthings or baubles. The film sees them as real people and conveys that attitude of respect from start to finish.

Not much about The Inn of the Sixth Happiness comes across as spectacular, but most everything about it works nonetheless. A nicely unsentimental combination of a romance and a social issues film, Inn seems well paced and involving. Much of this comes from another solid performance from Ingrid Bergman, but the flick succeeds in many other ways as well.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture didn’t present the best effort I’ve seen from the Fox Studio Classics discs, Inn nonetheless looked very good.

Sharpness mostly seemed positive. Wider scenes periodically tended to appear a little soft and ill defined, but those were the exceptions. The majority of the movie looked nicely accurate and concise. No problems with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and only a little edge enhancement popped up during a few occasions. Given the movie’s age, one might expect a mix of print flaws, but only a smattered appeared. A few examples of specks and grit arose, but most of the movie looked quite clean.

Colors appeared fairly subdued but accurate. The tones rarely seemed particularly vivid, but they also showed no distinct concerns. Overall the hues were acceptably accurate and well displayed. Black levels seemed dense and deep, while shadows were mostly smooth and appropriately visible. A few “day for night” shots presented moderately opaque images, but those didn’t create substantial concerns. As a whole, Inn offered another positive presentation in the Fox Studio Classics line.

The stereo soundtrack of The Inn of the Sixth Happiness seemed acceptable but not any better than that. The soundfield remained pretty restrained. Music demonstrated passable stereo imaging but didn’t present the score in a terribly well defined way. The music spread across the front with decent delineation but not anything better than that. Some effects popped up from the sides, and a few scenes brought the soundfield to life in a modest way, but the movie stayed rather restricted for the most part.

Audio quality seemed fairly average for the era. Speech suffered from some weak dubbing and came across as somewhat brittle and sibilant at times. In addition, lines occasionally bled to the side speakers. Still, the dialogue mostly was distinct and lacked any issues connected to intelligibility. Music failed to display great vividness, but the score was acceptably dynamic and rich given its age. Effects also came across as reasonably accurate but without great range. Those elements failed to display problems but they also didn’t show much spark. Overall, the audio of The Inn of the Sixth Happiness seemed fine for a film of this vintage.

Like the other Fox Studio Classics DVDs Inn features a decent roster of supplements. It opens with an audio commentary from documentary filmmaker Nick Redman, The Films of 20th Century Fox co-author Aubrey Solomon, and Ingrid Bergman biographer Donald Spoto. All three were recorded separately and their comments were edited together for this piece.

Most Fox Studio Classics commentaries provide good chats, and Inn follows that trend. We learn about a wide variety of topics. The track starts with great notes about the life of the real Gladys Aylward, and those elements pop up throughout much of the commentary. We also find many nice facts about the creation of the film, the folks who participated in it – especially Bergman – and other pieces that relate to the flick. We find out what the real Aylward’s personality was like and that she vehemently opposed the casting of Bergman among many other intriguing subjects. The excellent information comes at us virtually constantly and really adds a lot to the viewer’s appreciation of the movie. It’s a terrific listen.

Unlike most other Fox Studio Classics discs, Inn fails to include any form of documentary related to the film. However, we do find two Movietone Newsreels. One shows the New York premiere (62 seconds) and the other displays the Hollywood debut (63 seconds). Neither seems very interesting.

A Restoration Comparison provides text that covers the work done for this DVD and then shows splitscreen images of a mix of different versions of the film. Lastly, some advertisements appear. In addition to trailers for Inn in English and Spanish, we find a section called Studio Classics. This includes promos for All About Eve, An Affair to Remember, Anastasia, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Gentleman’s Agreement, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Song of Bernadette, The Song of Bernadette and How Green Was My Valley.

Chalk up The Inn of the Sixth Happiness as a pleasant surprise. The movie seems somewhat sugarcoated much of the time, but it clearly achieves its goals as it provides a lively and moving examination of its subject. The DVD looks quite good, and the audio quality seems fine for its age. Its extras seem a little skimpy compared to other Fox Studio Classics DVDs, but it does include a simply excellent audio commentary. With a low list price of less than $20, I definitely recommend this sweet and understated flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3571 Stars Number of Votes: 28
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