Movie Mirrors Index

Three Came Home

(1950 b 106')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Based on Agnes Newton Keith’s autobiographical book, an American woman, her son, and her British husband are interned by the Japanese in Borneo for the war.

         Agnes Newton Keith (Claudette Colbert) and her husband Harry Keith (Patric Knowles) live in Sandakan, Borneo. Dr. Bandy tells her she is pregnant. The Japanese invade in December 1941. Harry calls Agnes to go to Government House with their child George Keith (Mark Keuning). Japanese soldiers arrive and make the women bow. A British civilian tells Col. Suga (Sessue Hayakawa) what he destroyed, and Suga slaps him. Suga summons Agnes and talks with her. He read her book on Borneo and asks for an autographed copy.

         In May 1942 the women and men are to be imprisoned separately. Harry and Agnes kiss each other goodbye. Agnes and George go on a boat to a prison camp on an island. The men are nearby.

Agnes gets a note to meet Harry at ten. Henrietta (Sylvia Andrew) complains that Agnes risks getting them all punished. Women make fun of a sergeant who knows no English. Agnes sneaks out at night, slides under barbed wire, and waits for Harry. She feels sick, and he kisses her. George has malaria, and Betty Sommers (Florence Desmond) asks the Captain for quinine. He goes to see and finds Agnes with George.

         Women are being transferred, and across water they say goodbye to the men. Agnes fears the men will be killed. The women go to a large camp. Agnes works and is whipped, but a doctor gives her vitamins from the Red Cross.

         Lt. Nekata (Howard Chuman) summons Agnes and George. Col. Suga asks her to sign her book for him. Betty gives Agnes food from the garbage. At night Australian men talk to the women and start to climb the fence but are shot by the guards.

         Two years go by, and Agnes hopes to see Harry. The women sing. At night outside a soldier tries to rape Agnes but runs off. She tells Col. Suga that she was attacked. Lt. Nekata interrogates Agnes, and Suga apologizes. After Suga leaves the camp, Nekata asks Agnes to identify the man; but she can’t. Nekata orders her to sign a false confession, and she refuses. Agnes is tortured, but she says she won’t talk about it.

         The next day Agnes is told to report to Nekata, and she asks Betty to take care of George. Agnes hugs George. Nekata asks Agnes to sign, and she says no. Suga appears, and Nekata says she is dropping the charge.

         On March 25, 1945 Allied planes drop bombs, and the women celebrate. Months pass, and a plane drops leaflets that Japan has surrendered. Suga talks with Agnes and says his family was killed at Hiroshima. He invites hungry George and two children to his house for a meal. They pick flowers and eat. Suga cries.

         On September 11 the guards are gone. Allied soldiers arrive in trucks. Some find their husbands, but many do not. They raise the Union Jack and sing. Finally Agnes sees Harry limping on the road and goes to him.

         This realistic drama accurately portrays prison camps during the Japanese occupation of Borneo. A writer with knowledge of Oriental culture is able to form a special relationship with an enemy officer despite the harsh conditions.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

Movie Mirrors Index

BECK index