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A Town Like Alice

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A Town Like Alice PG rating

An Englishwoman is captured by Japanese forces during WWII and befriends an Australian POW, in this gritty adaptation of Nevile Shute’s novel.

War 1956 116 mins

Director: Jack Lee

Overview

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A rare British feature to cover the Pacific theatre of World War Two, this adaptation of Nevil Shute’s best-selling novel (in fact, just the book’s first half) relays the experiences of an Englishwoman who's captured by Japanese forces while building wells in Kuala Lumpur (Virginia McKenna). During her ordeal she falls for a fellow POW, an Australian soldier (Peter Finch), and the pair band together to help ease the suffering of their fellow prisoners.

Directed by Crown Film Unit veteran Jack Lee, A Town Like Alice works as both a touching love story and a gritty, tense war drama, notable for its strong ensemble of female actors (Marie Löhr, Renée Houston, Jean Anderson). Remarkably, it was almost entirely shot in and around Pinewood Studios, with the cold ponds of Burnham Beeches standing in for the humid swamps of Malaya. Both leads would be rewarded with Baftas for their committed performances, but the film itself was withdrawn from the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, lest it offend Japanese sensibilities.