This 1955 movie stars Humphrey Bogart as a Catholic priest who shows up at Catholic Mission in China, a country which is now being contested by warlords and the nascent Communist Party although the infighting is not full blast but in pockets. |
He arrives in tough conditions in the middle of the night and there are only 3 other Westerners at the mission, the Doctor, Dave, and his wife Beryl, who are not Catholic and Anne the nurse who is Catholic, quite attractive and an early scene in the movie has her and Father O'shea taking a walk where she catches herself in a look of attraction towards him and quickly apologizes, but he says that he wasn't always a priest and wore loud clothing in college
She doesn't admit to an outright attraction at first, but Beryl sees it, kind of tells her it is reasonable and this only serves to upset her further as she feels she must quell the attraction given her staunch Catholic faith and his position as a priest. You might guess if he was a Protestant minister it would be a fair game.
For sure, her and Father O'shea seem well matched as buddies and from there if he wasn't a priest the air could hold some romance.
When Beryl tells Father that Anne is struggling with an attraction to him he says that " it's impossible" but of course this flies in the face of the reality that Anne was attracted to him that way whether he believed it or not this was the case. And this turns out to be maybe the key point in the whole movie, that just as it was not impossible that Anne was indeed attracted to him despite his off limits priestly status, it was not impossible that the later events in the movie might evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit, as the film only alludes to. So the attraction that Anne had, serves as a metaphor to possibilities that are not fully impossible, including God possibilities.
The initial meeting with Doctor Dave doesn't start off that well, in that he wants information such as the directives from the bishop and Father O'shea is not forthcoming and gives a hint of a rough side when he says do you want me to take off this collar?
But the relationship gets to a better place when both Father and doctor Dave work together in pastoral care for medical needs and spiritual needs of the local people.
Father O'shea gets the respect and admiration of his parishioners with his caring style that exhibits at times a rough side but with sincerity and outreach that includes giving his sermons in both English and Chinese.
When he learns that there is a Protestant mission on yonder a few valleys away he makes the trip and tells that minister that he is in fact not an ordained priest even as he is now in fact running the mission ably and he outlines his story as to what has happened to get him where he is at now. The revelation indeed is that he is not a priest, he was a downed U.S. pilot captured by war Lord Yang, a character played brilliantly by Lee J. Cobb, and ended up working for him and was given among other things a Chinese girlfriend by Yang as a reward for good service as a lead commander in his outfit.
However he is not there wholly voluntarily and the Chinese coast is a 1000 miles out and hence his impersonation of a priest on a mission as the beginnings of his way out.
In the meantime, Yang did get him a local Chinese girlfriend, who in the brief scene with her certainly matched him in wits and banter, and seemed sharp, fun and nobody’s fool So he had good company and a good position but became Increasingly uncomfortable with his position in China which was now 3 years and running he wanted out of the loop of Yang's gangster style warlord group.
With this new revelation and background information given to the Protestant minister, you wonder if now he and Anne can actually get together romantically however the movie does not go there, but does bring in the theme of the chance and games of dice and were the outcomes due to chance, good fortune, or the very presence of the Holy Spirit in action?
The ending is open ended, as when Anne gets his real name, that might be all that is needed for an eventual reunion and these pals could very well find out each other in another way.
There is mint acting in this movie especially by the Chinese actors who do a great job in their roles and it is almost strictly an English speaking movie, with a brief interlude of a Chinese version of the sermon.
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