Cast & Crew
English housemaid Gladys Aylward yearns to become a missionary in China, but is turned down by Dr. Robinson, the head of the China Missionary Society. After years of working in the household of Sir Francis Jamison, a friend of the Society, Gladys saves enough money to buy a train ticket to China. Taking pity on Gladys, Sir Francis then offers to contact Jeannie Lawson, an elderly missionary friend who lives in China. At the end of her train journey, Gladys rides muleback to the city of Yang Cheng in a remote province of Northern China. There she is welcomed by Mrs. Lawson, who plans to establish an inn at the mule train crossing and teach the Bible to the passing muleteers in the hopes they will impart the stories to peasants living in the distant mountains. Gladys is regarded as a "foreign devil" by the distrustful villagers, but is equally baffled by their customs. After the inn is finally completed, Mrs. Lawson christens it "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness," and gives Gladys the task of supplying their first guests. When Gladys' attempts frighten the reluctant mule drivers, she turns to Capt. Lin Nan, a passing Eurasian solider who speaks English, for help. Lin has been sent by the Chinese government to enforce the nation's laws, and of paramount concern to him is the unbinding of young girls' feet. After Lin persuades the drivers to frequent the inn, Mrs. Lawson is soon dispensing Bible stories along with bowls of rice. Aided by Mrs. Lawson and Yang, the inn's cook, Gladys begins to grasp the language and customs of the village. Gladys' education is cut short, however, when Mrs. Lawson falls from the top floor of the inn and dies from her injuries. When word comes that the inn is to be closed, Lin, who distrusts all missionaries, urges Gladys to return home and asks the Mandarin, the ruler of the district, to ensure her safe passage. The wily Mandarin instead offers Gladys the job of "foot inspector," enforcing the unbinding of young girls' feet, a post no man will accept. When Gladys' first attempt results in the villagers stoning her, an elderly woman volunteers to unbind her own feet. Sensitive to the woman's pain, Gladys protests, and a young mother then presents her little daughter's bound feet to Gladys. As other women follow suit, Gladys' mission is hailed as a success, and she then demands that the Mandarin allow her to spread the word of God as she travels the mountain villages. After Gladys masters Chinese and wins the respect of the people, the Mandarin befriends her and the inn becomes a success. One day, the convicts in the prison riot and the warden orders them shot. When Gladys objects and offers to reason with the prisoners, the Mandarin sends her inside the prison, totally alone. During the rioting, a prisoner raises an ax to strike Gladys, but lowers it when she is recognized as the women who helped their people. Li, a prisoner, tells Gladys that the warden has been stealing their food and that the men are restless and want work. Promising reform, Gladys hurries back to report to the Mandarin and finds him in a meeting with Lin, who has been promoted to colonel. Lin is astonished to discover that Gladys has remained in the village, and Gladys proudly states that she has become a Chinese citizen. After Gladys convinces the Mandarin to institute prison reforms, Lin informs them that war is looming between Japan and China. Lin asks Gladys to tell the villagers that they must fight their invaders, but she refuses on the grounds that killing conflicts with her faith. Gladys invites Lin to accompany her on a tour of the mountain villages, and when she rescues an abandoned baby girl in one of the villages, Lin urges her to turn the infant over to a Chinese family and then bitterly confides that his European father abused and divorced his Chinese mother. Upon returning to the inn, Gladys cheerfully introduces Lin to the four other Chinese children she has adopted. Confused about his feelings toward Gladys, Lin consults the Mandarin, who, deciding to play matchmaker, sends Gladys a flattering dress and invites her to dinner with Lin. Lin is smitten with Gladys, but the evening is interrupted when news comes that war has started and that Japanese troops are amassing at the border. Before reporting for duty, Lin confesses to Gladys that he has fallen in love with her. Soon after, Japanese planes bomb the city, and the Mandarin announces that Japanese troops are near and orders the villagers to seek refuge in the mountains. When Gladys discovers that Yang has been injured in the attack and is unable to move, she insists on remaining behind with him and sends the children with Li. After Yang dies, Gladys escapes, and once the invaders depart, Lin returns to the inn. Finding the building deserted and in shambles, Lin fears that Gladys is dead until she suddenly appears and they embrace. Forecasting defeat, Lin orders the Mandarin and his council of elders to flee to the provinces in the south. When Gladys refuses to leave her people, Lin promises to love her as long as he lives, and then rides off to battle. At the final meeting of the elders, the Mandarin pays tribute to Gladys and converts to Christianity in her honor. Gladys is overcome with tears as the Mandarin bids her farewell. As Japanese war planes strafe the city, Gladys prays for the safety of the children. One day, a band of ragged orphans arrive with news that Dr. Robinson has set up a mission in Sian and has arranged for a train to take the orphans to safety. Upon hearing that Gladys intends to lead her children to Sian, Lin warns her that the Japanese have set up a roadblock on the main road. Convinced that her purpose in life is to save the children, Gladys decides to brave the treacherous mountain trails in order to reach Sian in time. Before embarking on her perilous journey, she promises Lin she will return to him, and he slips his ring on her finger, but Lin is later killed while trying to decoy some Japanese troops. After weeks of hardships, Gladys and the children cross the final mountain range in their path to Sian. On the day that the train is to leave, Robinson anxiously awaits the arrival of the orphans. At the last minute, Gladys leads the children into town to the cheers of the people. She then reintroduces herself to Robinson, who regretfully recalls the day he judged her unfit to be a missionary. When Robinson invites her to join him and the children, she replies that she is going home to North China.
Helen Ho Kai
Cecil F. Ford
J. B. Smith
F. A. Young
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
The casting was Hollywood International - Bergman, a Swede, played an English maid and Englishman Robert Donat played a Mandarin who at first resents Bergman and later converts to Christianity in her honor. Scotsman Sean Connery was considered for the role eventually given to the Austrian Curt Jurgens - a Eurasian Chinese army officer whose romance with Bergman is interrupted when she must flee with the children from the village when the Japanese invade.
The real-life missionary Gladys Aylward was furious with Fox, calling the film "a bunch of lies" and loudly proclaimed that not only had she never been given a final script, she never had a romance with a Chinese colonel. She was further angered that "my name was used without my permission and associated with that wicked woman." Aylward was referring, of course, to Ingrid Bergman, who had left her husband and child for an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, which had resulted in not only an out-of-wedlock child but a public backlash that included a denouncement on the floor of the United States Senate. A few years later, now engaged to Swedish producer Lars Schmidt, Bergman resumed her career, but apparently Aylward could not overlook Bergman's supposed sins. Despite all her protests and letters written to the media, she never sued the studio.
While public opinion had changed and Bergman had had a big success and an Oscar® for Anastasia (1956), the studio was worried about having Bergman associated with any one religious denomination, so she is never shown teaching religion to the children or going into a church. Bergman was also hesitant about the role, saying, "I swore that I wouldn't play any more saints or nuns, so now I'm playing a missionary!"
Although the film was produced by 20th Century-Fox, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness was actually shot in Cinemascope at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Boreham Wood, Elstree, England and Snowdonia in Wales from March to July 1958. The Hollywood Reporter announced that the film was going to be shot in Formosa, but had to be moved to Wales when relations with the Chinese government broke down and they refused permission. The children in the film were from the Chinese community in Liverpool, which is one of the largest in Europe. Perry Lee was one of the children who had worked on the film. "It was amazing, it was really great and I have extremely fond memories of the experience. Once they had decided to film in Snowdonia, the Chinese community in Liverpool was the obvious place to come to find the children to play the parts of the orphans. I was just turned six and my brother William was four and a half. We got paid £12.50 a week which was a lot of money in those days so I got a bike out of it and he got a little scooter. For a six year old it was tremendously exciting but it wasn't all glamour. We weren't allowed to wear shoes. If you were lucky you were allowed to wear pumps and if you were very unlucky you had to have rags tied around your feet - painted red to simulate blood. And we had to dive in the cow pats whenever the Japanese planes came over. You were never conscious of the cameras being trained on you but my big scene was the river crossing when Ingrid Bergman grabbed me." Burt Kwouk, who starred as the schoolteacher who sacrifices his life for the children, remembered that they "were a lively bunch but very well behaved, they had chaperones and they were very well taken care of." Kwouk's career was launched by this film and he would later become famous as Peter Sellers' assistant Cato in the Pink Panther films.
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness was Robert Donat's last film. Long ill with asthma-related complications which weakened him, a large brain tumor was discovered just before his death and he died of cerebral thrombosis shortly after his scenes were filmed on June 9, 1958. His final line was, "We shall not see each other again, I think. Farewell." Ironically, it was also producer Buddy Adler's final film. He would die as production ended on July 12, 1958.
Gladys Aylward opened a children's orphanage in Taiwan in 1958 and continued to run it until her death in 1970. Considered a national hero in that country, she nevertheless was deeply embarrassed by the film and regarded it as having "soiled" her reputation.
Producer: Buddy Adler
Director: Mark Robson
Screenplay: Isobel Lennart (screenplay); Alan Burgess (novel "The Small Woman")
Cinematography: F.A. Young
Art Direction: John Box, Geoffrey Drake
Music: Malcolm Arnold
Film Editing: Ernest Walter
Cast: Ingrid Bergman (Gladys Aylward), Curd Jurgens (Capt. Lin Nan), Robert Donat (The Mandarin of Yang Cheng), Michael David (Hok-A), Athene Seyler (Jeannie Lawson), Ronald Squire (Sir Francis Jamison), Moultrie Kelsall (Dr. Robinson), Richard Wattis (Mr. Murfin), Peter Chong (Yang), Tsai Chin (Sui-Lan).
by Lorraine LoBianco
"Reunion for Film's Classic Cast", BBC News 25 Apr 04
The AFI Catalog of Feature Films
The Internet Movie Database
Spoto, Donald, Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
We shall not see each other again, I think.- The Mandarin
The working titles of this film were The Inn of the Eighth Happiness and The Small Woman. The film opens with the following written prologue: "This story is based on the life of Gladys Aylward, a woman of our time who was, and is dedicated to the simple, joyful and rare belief that we are all responsible for each other." Aylward was an English parlor maid who, denied the opportunity to become a missionary because of her lack of education, used her earnings to buy a ticket to China in 1930 and went on to found a mission in Shansi Province.
According to news items in Hollywood Citizen-News and Los Angeles Herald Express, Aylward denounced the film as a "bunch of lies" and claimed that the studio never showed her the completed script. She charged that "my name was used without my permission and associated with that wicked woman [Ingrid Bergman]." Presumably, Aylward was referring to the scandal that erupted when Bergman left her husband and daughter for Italian director Roberto Rossellini ( for Anastasia for further information). Aylward also stated that she never fell in love with a Chinese colonel. Although she wrote a stream of letters in protest, there is no evidence that Aylward ever sued the studio.
According to a January 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was originally to be shot on location in Formosa. A modern source adds that Wales was substituted for Formosa when relations broke down with the Chinese government. The film was also shot on location in Wales and at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios outside London, according to the Variety review. Although Hollywood Reporter pre-production news items state that Mark Robson was both to produce and direct the film, Buddy Adler is credited as producer onscreen and in reviews. Adler and Bergman had previously worked together on Anastasia. "The Mandarin" was Robert Donat's last role; Donat died on June 9, 1958. The film was also Adler's last production; he died on July 12, 1958. Director Mark Robson was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the film. The song's cheerful signature song, "This Old Man," was a big hit in 1958-59.
1958 National Board of Review Special Citation for Robert Donat's Last Performance.
Voted Best Actress by the 1958 National Board of Review.
Released in United States Fall November 1958
Released in United States Fall November 1958