I've not previously seen much of Aldo Ray's work, knowing him best from PAT AND MIKE (1952), but he was the star of two of the movies I've enjoyed most so far this year. Last month I loved him in the excellent crime film NIGHTFALL (1957), and today I found THREE STRIPES IN THE SUN (1955) to be a very special movie.
THREE STRIPES IN THE SUN is based on a true story. Ray plays Master Sergeant Hugh O'Reilly, who is unhappy to be stationed in Occupied Japan in the late '40s. A survivor of Pearl Harbor, O'Reilly resents the Japanese and doesn't mind letting it show.
Things change when Sgt. O'Reilly meets Father Yoshida, who runs an orphanage. Underneath his gruff exterior, the sergeant is absolute mush when it comes to helpless little kids, and he soon becomes very involved with the orphanage, providing food, raising funds, and ultimately spearheading the building of a completely new facility.
This is quite simply a very well-done "feel good" movie with fairly unique subject matter, taking an up-close look at U.S.-Japanese postwar relations as well as dealing with racial and cultural issues. The film is admirably restrained, as it could easily have poured on the treacle when it comes to the kids or the romance; the film's honest, measured tone has a lovely payoff in the explosion of warm emotion in the movie's final scene.
There are also some nice bits of humor supplied by a fine supporting cast comprised of Phil Carey, Dick York, and Chuck Connors. There's even a chance to see onetime real-life baseball player Connors playing the game at a fundraiser for the orphanage.
The movie was directed by Richard Murphy, who cowrote the screenplay with Albert Duffy, based on a magazine story. The real-life Sgt. O'Reilly was a technical advisor on the film.
I found a brief tribute to Sgt. O'Reilly, including an interview with Yuko O'Reilly, on YouTube.
It was filmed in black and white by Burnett Guffey.
This movie is available on DVD in a remastered print from Sony Choice/Columbia Classics. The DVD can be rented from ClassicFlix.
It's also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.
THREE STRIPES IN THE SUN is a relatively little-known film which deserves a wider audience. It's a thoughtful, absorbing, and ultimately uplifting film which I thoroughly enjoyed. Very much recommended.