The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness – Directed by Mark Robson. Pious Drama. An English woman unqualified to be a missionary in China makes her way there and become a great one. 158 minutes Color 1958.
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The studio asked Mildred Dunnock to tutor Ingrid Bergman in the accents of the Great Women Of History, characters she was to play on a radio show, but when Bergman came to her, Bergman resisted learning them, and wouldn’t, saying that people liked her own accent, and she left. Bergman spoke Swedish and Summer Vacation German, and thought and spoke in English. Her Italian was highly inflected and her French was also. People said to her Roberto Rossellini ruined her career, but she always said, “No, I ruined his,” and she was right, that is to say she could never play an Italian. She was always the stalwart Swedish lass. In Jean Renoir’s film she is certainly not French. In Hollywood films she is certainly not American. Playing a Russian she is a Swede. In very few films did her accent suit her character; Casablanca is one of them. Of course, in one way she was right: her accent was always charming. She loved to act, because she said she liked to be other people, but it’s not quite true. What she liked to be was the other person inside herself that other people loved. That person was remarkably real, though – loving, happy, sensual, and kind – and also a person who could express her feelings freely, just as she had with her father who reared her and who died when she was young. She married three highly controlling men. Around them, she was permitted to be only partly natural, the part they liked. In ordinary life and on the set, everyone found her beautiful, light spirited, down to earth, and accessible. All this she also brought to the screen, along with a radiance which she was aware of and which made her the super-star saint of film of her era. There was a certain kind of actress she was, and there was a certain kind of actress she was not. She was as stubborn as Saint Joan, just as driven, just as martyred, and almost just as graced with the light of God. This is one of her saint roles, and no one else could have been so good in it. She plays a young woman; she is 41 and looks it; it doesn’t matter. She is both competent in the part and brings to it 25 years of stardom in just such roles, so we accept the tale and its outcome long before it is told. In it the German actor Kurt Jurgens plays a Chinese colonel; Robert Donat, in his last film role, plays a mandarin. And a wonderful actress named Althene Sayler plays the missionary Bergman replaces. The film is beautifully produced. The music is great and is by Malcolm Arnold. In it Ingrid Bergman speaks Chinese with a Swedish accent.