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Japanese War Bride
Drama, Favorite

1952 | 4:3 | Black & White | Quality: Good - Soft print but very watchable

Don Taylor, Shirley Yamaguchi, Marie Windsor


Wounded during his service in the Korean War, American Jim Sterling (Don Taylor) falls in love with his Japanese nurse, Tae Shimizu (Shirley Yamaguchi), and visits her home in Japan to ask her father for permission to marry. Not long afterward, Jim Sterling receives a medical discharge and both he and Tae fly back to his home in California. Yet, even though Jim's parents are delighted to see him, his mother Harriet (Louise Lorimer) isn't nearly as excited to see his new bride. Neither is Jim's new sister-in-law Fran (Marie Windsor) who has long had feelings for Jim and doesn't like the fact that he has recently been married--especially to someone outside of his own race. The attitude around town is not much different. Try as she might, Tae is continuously confronted with rudeness, resentment, contempt and outright dislike - especially after the birth of the couple's son. They face no end of troubles, driving a wedge between husband & wife, and poor Tae to her breaking point.

Beautifully understated but effectively eloquent, Japanese War Bride is a neglected gem that still has as much to say now as it did back in 1952. Shirley Yamaguchi and Don Taylor's excellent performances will leave a lasting impression. Relevant, subtle, well rounded, and believable... The transformation from hopeful expectation for the new couple to awkward circumstances, passive resistance, and the resulting series of crises and their resolutions are very well handled. The good nature of Tae and her desire to win over the appreciation of her husband's family is heartbreaking. Watching the mother finally open her hardened heart to Tae in a scene where Tae massages her mother-in-law's back is quite touching and nicely performed by both actresses. Marie Winsor, who made a career out of vengeful, hateful women in films like "The Killing" and "The Narrow Margin," excels here in the same kind of role, as Jim's sister-in-law who still holds a torch. Nobody seemed to do these kinds of roles as well as she did, and keep a close eye during the finale as she takes a slap upside the head for real by Cameron Mitchell. Though the ending is a bit dramatic, as a film about race relations between Americans and Japanese, "Japanese War Bride" is, in my opinion, superior to and less soapy than 1957's "Sayonara," a much higher profile film. I think many will be surprised by this film's depth and honesty.

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