Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mama told me not to go

TCM is showing one of Hollywood's more interesting World War II movies overnight tonight (or very early on the morning of September 21) at 4:00 AM ET: Bridge to the Sun.

Bridge to the Sun is based on the true story of Gwen Terasaki, played here by Carroll Baker. She's a debutante in Washington, DC in the 1930s, and at one of the many diplomatic parties, she meets Hidenari. Terasaki (James Shigeta), who is a low-level employee at the Japanese embassy in Washington. Despite the differences between American and Japanese cultures, the two rapidly fall in love and get married. War is brewing, and there's an internal struggle among the various Japanese diplomats over how nicely Japan should play with America, with nobody being able to trust anybody else. Mr. Terasaki is one of those who absolutely doesn't want war, which as we'll see later has consequences for him. History of course proves that the Japanese eventually attack Pearl Harbor, with the result that all of the Japanese citizens in the US have to return to Japan.

This causes a serious dilemma for the Terasakis. Gwen is still a US citizen, and has a child by her husband. She's urged by her relatives to stay in the US with them for the duration of the war, as it will be safer. But, being in love with her hasband, not wanting him to have to abandon his child, and frankly out of a sense of naïveté, she follows him to Japan to live with him. Life in Japan during World War II isn't very easy for anybody, especially once the tide of war turns against them. However, it's especially tough for a gaijin, especially one with a politically suspect husband. It's fairly well-known in the important circles that Mr. Terasaki is pretty much against the war, which by now is almost a treasonous position.

Fortunately, the two principals were able to survive the war, although the ending isn't particularly happy. Instead, it's a poigniant and heartbreaking love story. However, both of the lead actors do an excellent job, displaying their characters' honest emotions for each other in the face of two cultures that are incredibly hostile to their love.

Sadly, Bridge to Sun doesn't seem to have been released to any video format, which is a huge shame.

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