Three Came Home (1950)

106 mins | Drama | March 1950

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HISTORY

Agnes Newton Keith's account of her captivity in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps became a best seller when published in 1947. In Oct 1948, a LAT news item reported that Olivia de Havilland would portray Keith in the film. In the spring of 1949, the studio dispatched a second unit crew to Borneo where, for four weeks, director of photography Charles G. Clarke shot scenics, establishing shots and background plates. According to Clarke, Keith provided lodging for two of the four men in the crew and participated in the filming. She can be glimpsed on a process plate behind Claudette Colbert and another actress as they "walk" along a pier on their way to the Berhala camp.
       Most of the Japanese soldiers in the film were played by Nisei veterans of the U.S. Army. Trade reviews include Kermit Whitfield and Kim Spalding in the cast, but the brief scene in which they appeared as U.S. Naval officers who warn the Keiths to leave Sandakan was cut before the film opened.
       An article in the 20 Mar 1950 edition of Life states that the film gives a more favorable impression of Colonel Suga than the book does. According to the article, Keith was grateful to Suga for having been kind to the children and having, she believes, saved her husband from execution, but also hated him for being the overseer of a degrading system of torture and starvation. In a letter to the NYT published on 26 Mar 1950, Keith wrote, "...I find that one or two critics (not The New York Times ) question why the story was written....I wrote Three Came ... More Less

Agnes Newton Keith's account of her captivity in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps became a best seller when published in 1947. In Oct 1948, a LAT news item reported that Olivia de Havilland would portray Keith in the film. In the spring of 1949, the studio dispatched a second unit crew to Borneo where, for four weeks, director of photography Charles G. Clarke shot scenics, establishing shots and background plates. According to Clarke, Keith provided lodging for two of the four men in the crew and participated in the filming. She can be glimpsed on a process plate behind Claudette Colbert and another actress as they "walk" along a pier on their way to the Berhala camp.
       Most of the Japanese soldiers in the film were played by Nisei veterans of the U.S. Army. Trade reviews include Kermit Whitfield and Kim Spalding in the cast, but the brief scene in which they appeared as U.S. Naval officers who warn the Keiths to leave Sandakan was cut before the film opened.
       An article in the 20 Mar 1950 edition of Life states that the film gives a more favorable impression of Colonel Suga than the book does. According to the article, Keith was grateful to Suga for having been kind to the children and having, she believes, saved her husband from execution, but also hated him for being the overseer of a degrading system of torture and starvation. In a letter to the NYT published on 26 Mar 1950, Keith wrote, "...I find that one or two critics (not The New York Times ) question why the story was written....I wrote Three Came Home for three reasons: For horror of war. I want others to shudder with me at it. For affection of my husband. When war nearly killed me, knowledge of our love kept me alive. And for a reminder to my son. I fought one war for him in prison camp. He survives because of me....The Japanese in Three Came Home are as war made them, not as God did, and the same is true of the rest of us." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Feb 1950.
---
Daily Variety
10 Feb 50
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 49
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 50
p. 3.
Life
20 Mar 1950.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Oct 1948.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 Feb 50
p. 185.
New York Times
21 Feb 50
p. 22.
New York Times
26 Mar 1950.
---
Variety
15 Feb 50
p. 13.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Alex Fraser
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
2d unit dir of photog
Asst cam
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Three Came Home by Agnes Newton Keith (Boston, 1947).
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1950
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 February 1950
Production Date:
late April--mid June 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
21 February 1950
Copyright Number:
LP24
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
106
Length(in feet):
9,510
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
13819
SYNOPSIS

In 1941, Agnes Newton Keith is the only American resident of Sandakan, the capital of British North Borneo. She is married to British colonial officer Harry Keith and, unknown to him, is pregnant with their second child. Concerned about rumors that, in the event of war, Japanese troops could come through the East Indies, Henry suggests that Agnes and their four-year-old son George return to America. Agnes insists on staying but agrees to send George back. However, before that can happen, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and the inhabitants of Sandakan are advised that they will soon be invaded, that they cannot be evacuated and that they must not cooperate with the Japanese. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese, led by Colonel Michio Suga, take over the area. Suga, who speaks English fluently, asks to see Agnes as he has read the Japanese edition of a book she has written about Borneo, and asks her to autograph a copy of the American edition. He talks of his children, a girl and two boys, one a little younger than George. The Japanese occupation of Sandakan is a very trying time, and after a month, Agnes has a miscarriage. In May 1942, the Japanese Army orders that all Europeans be evacuated to prison camps and that men and women be imprisoned separately. George goes with his mother by small boat to Berhala, a desolate, ill-equipped camp, where they endure nine months of filth, hunger and degradation. The men are only a few hundred yards away in a separate compound and, occasionally, notes can be passed between them. Thus, a meeting is arranged between Agnes and Harry. Leaving George, who is feverish, in ... +


In 1941, Agnes Newton Keith is the only American resident of Sandakan, the capital of British North Borneo. She is married to British colonial officer Harry Keith and, unknown to him, is pregnant with their second child. Concerned about rumors that, in the event of war, Japanese troops could come through the East Indies, Henry suggests that Agnes and their four-year-old son George return to America. Agnes insists on staying but agrees to send George back. However, before that can happen, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and the inhabitants of Sandakan are advised that they will soon be invaded, that they cannot be evacuated and that they must not cooperate with the Japanese. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese, led by Colonel Michio Suga, take over the area. Suga, who speaks English fluently, asks to see Agnes as he has read the Japanese edition of a book she has written about Borneo, and asks her to autograph a copy of the American edition. He talks of his children, a girl and two boys, one a little younger than George. The Japanese occupation of Sandakan is a very trying time, and after a month, Agnes has a miscarriage. In May 1942, the Japanese Army orders that all Europeans be evacuated to prison camps and that men and women be imprisoned separately. George goes with his mother by small boat to Berhala, a desolate, ill-equipped camp, where they endure nine months of filth, hunger and degradation. The men are only a few hundred yards away in a separate compound and, occasionally, notes can be passed between them. Thus, a meeting is arranged between Agnes and Harry. Leaving George, who is feverish, in the care of her friend, Betty Sommers, a terrified Agnes sneaks out under the wire, past the guards, to meet Harry for the first time in five months. However, while Agnes is away, George's fever worsens and Betty has to go to the camp's captain to plead for quinine. The captain decides to see George's condition for himself, and Agnes makes it back to the barracks just before he arrives. The women eventually leave Berhala but the men remain there. After ten days at sea in miserable conditions, the women arrive at another appalling camp, run by Lieutenant Nekata, who tells them that the war will last another ten years. Although the women are forced to labor in the rice paddies, their daily food ration consists of one cupful of thin rice gruel, five tablespoonfuls of rice, an occasional vegetable and a cup of tea. One day, Agnes is summoned to Nekata's office to discover that Suga is there, having been put in charge of all camps in the area. He has brought a copy of Agnes' book, which he took from her house, and she autographs it "To Colonel Michio Suga-a lover of beautiful letters." One night, a group of Australian male prisoners-of-war from a nearby camp come to flirt with the women and try to climb the wire fences. Suddenly, the compound is ablaze with light and the guards begin shooting the men, horrifying the women with the sight of bodies impaled on the wire. Months later, Agnes is brutally attacked by one of the guards and complains to Suga. He assigns Nekata to conduct an investigation but Agnes cannot identify her assailant as it was too dark. Suga apologizes to her but, once he leaves the camp, Agnes is again interrogated by Nekata, who insists that she identify the man from a line-up. When she cannot do this, Nekata orders her to sign a document denying that she was attacked. Agnes refuses to sign as, she knows Nekata can have her executed for falsely accusing a Japanese soldier if she does. Agnes is tortured but refuses to sign. Later, Agnes is summoned for another interrogation, and fearing she will not return, she asks Betty to look after George. Nekata is about to torture her again when Suga returns to the camp and learns that Agnes has now decided to drop all charges. In May 1945, the women are working in the fields when the area is bombed by Allied planes. Although they hope the attack means their freedom is imminent, three months pass before the Australian Air Force drops leaflets announcing that Japan has surrendered and that help will arrive as soon as possible. Suga tells Agnes that his wife and children have been killed in the Hiroshima bombing. Later, when Suga finds George and two young friends scavenging for food, he invites them to a picnic at his house where, upon seeing the happy children, he breaks down. One morning, the women awake to find that their captors have left. Soon, trucks loaded with Australian soldiers and liberated male prisoners from surrounding camps arrive, and Suga is captured. Agnes' friend Betty reunites with her husband but there is no sign of Harry. After Agnes and George keep a vigil at the camp's entrance, Harry finally appears on crutches. Although barely able to walk, Harry runs toward Agnes, but falls in the dusty road. Agnes and George rush to help him, and the family is together once more. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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