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Three Came Home (1950)

Not Rated | | Drama, War | 20 February 1950 (USA)
During Word War II, American author Agnes Newton Keith is imprisoned by the Japanese in various POW camps in North Borneo and Sarawak.

Director:

Jean Negulesco

Writers:

Nunnally Johnson (screenplay), Agnes Newton Keith (book)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Claudette Colbert ... Agnes Newton Keith
Patric Knowles ... Harry Keith
Florence Desmond ... Betty Sommers
Sessue Hayakawa ... Colonel Suga
Sylvia Andrew Sylvia Andrew ... Henrietta
Mark Keuning Mark Keuning ... George Keith
Phyllis Morris Phyllis Morris ... Sister Rose
Howard Chuman Howard Chuman ... Lieutenant Nekata
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Storyline

The true story of Agnes Newton Keith's imprisonment in several Japanese prisoner-of-war camps from 1941 to the end of WWII. Separated from her husband and with a young son to care for she has many difficulties to face. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The story of one woman's confinement in a WW II Japanese prison camp

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Japanese

Release Date:

20 February 1950 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Captives à Bornéo See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$1,900,000, 31 December 1950
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A 'Life' magazine article in 20 March 1950 states that there is more of a sympathetic portrayal in this film of the Colonel Suga (Sessue Hayakawa) character than compared with his depiction in the source memoir by Agnes Newton Keith. The article states that Suga saved Keith's husband Harry and was kind-hearted to their children. Paradoxically though, Agnes Newton Keith also hated Suga for the starvation, torture and degradation that he inflicted in the prisoner-of-war camp. See more »

Goofs

The Ford Prefect shown in one of the opening scenes is a postwar model. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Agnes Newton Keith: Six-degrees north of the Equator, in the heart of the East Indies, lies Sandakan, the tiny capital of British North Borneo. In Sandakan in 1941, there were 15 thousand Asiatics, 79 Europeans, and 1 American. I was the American. My name is Agnes Keith. I was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. My husband is Harry Keith, a colonial official of British North Borneo. Borneo became my home when Harry and I were married. And it was in ...
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Connections

Referenced in Paradise Road (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

God Save the King
(uncredited)
Traditional
Lyrics attributed to Henry Carey
Sung by the women in the camp
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Intelligent and Moving
26 March 2008 | by mukava991See all my reviews

This is the fourth and last of the heart-wrenching Claudette Colbert World War II films, the previous being SO PROUDLY WE HAIL! (1943), SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) and TOMORROW IS FOREVER (1946) in which she played, respectively a brave Army nurse, a struggling home-front wife and mother and a WW I widow who passionately tries to keep her only son from participating in WW II.

In THREE CAME HOME she plays Agnes Keith, an American author married to a British colonial officer (Patrick Knowles) living in Borneo. When the Japanese invade the island they imprison the American and British residents. The Keiths are interned in separate jungle camps – one for women and children and another for men – for three and a half grueling years. It is true that at times Colbert doesn't quite look like a prison camp starveling but in those days movies did not offer the sort of hyperrealism we've grown accustomed to since the 60's, but she certainly does not look like she stepped out of a beauty salon. In fact I can think of no other film in which she appeared more plain and unvarnished. Few if any actresses of her stature in that era would have taken on the physical demands of this role. Unfortunately it was also her final socko performance on film. None of her 50's work came close to her substantial work here and she was all but wasted in PARRISH (1961). But here both she and Sessue Hayakawa as the prison camp commander deliver true and memorable performances as mortal enemies whose mutual interest in literature and shared experience of parenthood create a tenuous bond that augments the suspense and dramatic impact of the story.

Based on a memoir by the real-life Mrs. Keith (who was quite a character in her own right, and not remotely like Colbert), there is a vein of intelligence running through the proceedings, lifting them out of the mainstream of the often jingoistic wartime prison film genre. The Japanese are depicted in a dignified and fair manner without being whitewashed; in fact, in an early scene Hayakawa praises Mrs. Keith for the balanced views in her book about the Orient which he had read before the war. It is precisely his respect for her broadminded attitude that probably saved her life. Nunnally Johnson's script is tight and focused, as is the whole enterprise. The emphasis is on human relationships, so that by the end we are swept up in the emotional life of the characters. A bright note is the casting of a winning boy actor named Mark Keuning who has to be one of the best and most believable child actors ever. He appeared in only two movies, both in 1950, before retreating permanently from films.

This is a film worth seeing again and again. It has lost none of its essential power over the decades. Other films are grittier, with more blood and pus and exaggerated savagery, more breathtaking location shooting and exotic cultural immersion, but few can pack the kind of punch this one does. The ending is one of the most moving you will ever see.


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