|Claudette Colbert plays a prisoner of war in Three Came Home.|
Agnes Newton Keith was imprisoned on the island of Borneo by the Japanese during World War II. The classic film starring Claudette Colbert as Agnes and directed by Jean Negulesco will be part of Facets Night School’s “Reel People” series. If you are used to seeing Colbert in glamorous roles, this movie will be a bit of a shock. Dressed in clothes off the rack and often appearing sweaty and dirty, there is nothing glamorous about Three Came Home.
Agnes was born in Oak Park, IL, and earned a degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She married Henry G. Keith (Patrick Knowles), a citizen of the United Kingdom and a childhood friend of her brother’s. Henry Keith worked for the Government of North Borneo. After Henry and Agnes were married, they settled there and had a child. A writer by profession, Agnes was the author of many books, including several about Asia and its people.
Tormentor and Confidant
When the Japanese invaded Borneo, they separated husbands and wives. Men were imprisoned with men and women with women (children were imprisoned at the womens’ camp). Agnes suffered many indignities under the Japanese. She also had a unique and strange relationship with the camp’s commander, Colonel Suga, portrayed by Sessue Hayakawa in the film. He was both her tormenter and confidant.
One of the Strongest Films of the Year
The film, well received at the time of its release, is mostly forgotten today. New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther had this to say in his February 21, 1950 review: “Soundly written, sincerely directed and honestly played by Claudette Colbert and an excellent cast, this picture, which opened here last night at the Astor, bids fair to stand as one of the strongest of the year.”
Three Came Home is definitely worth viewing for its honesty and superior storytelling that avoids stereotyping. But it still packs a wallop.
The Classic Movie Man (Steve Reginald) will introduce the film at Facets Film School, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. Chicago IL 60614 800.331.6197, and conduct a Q & A afterward.