The Purple Plain
|The Purple Plain|
|Directed by||Robert Parrish|
|Produced by||John Bryan|
|Screenplay by||Eric Ambler|
|Based on||The Purple Plain
by H. E. Bates
Win Min Than
|Music by||John Veale|
|Edited by||Clive Donner|
|Distributed by||General Film Distributors (UK)
United Artists (US)
|Running time||100 minutes|
|Country||United Kingdom United States|
|Box office||$1.3 million (US)|
The Purple Plain is a 1954 British war film, directed by Robert Parrish, with Gregory Peck playing a Canadian pilot serving in the Royal Air Force in Burma in the closing months of the World War II, who is battling with depression after having lost his wife. It was nominated for two BAFTA awards.
Bill Forrester (Gregory Peck), a Canadian pilot serving in the Royal Air Force in Burma, flying de Havilland Mosquitos, a two-seat fighter bomber. Forrester is emotionally distraught after losing his new wife in the ‘’Blitz’’ in London and has become self destructive, seeking to end his life in action. "You'd think that would be easy in a war", he explains to a Burmese woman, Anna, "but I just kept getting medals instead." With Anna's support, Bill begins to recover his emotional stability.
Forrester and his new navigator, Carrington (Lyndon Brook), on a routine non-combat flight to Myitkyina, with Flight Lieutenant Blore (Maurice Denham) as passenger in the Mosquito's bomb bay, is forced to go down because of an engine fire in a remote desert area of Burma's central plain, which lays under Japanese control. As the three men struggle to survive in the hostile environment, the self-destructive Bill finally realises that he can depend on support from others and that he may have someone to live for. Blore, however, abandons them to attempt to return to the crash site and commits suicide.
- Gregory Peck as Squadron Leader Bill Forrester
- Win Min Than as Anna
- Maurice Denham as Flight Lieutenant Blore
- Lyndon Brook as Flying Officer Carrington (navigator)
- Brenda De Banzie as Miss McNab
- Bernard Lee as Dr. Harris
- Anthony Bushell as Wing Commander Aldridge
- Josephine Griffin as Mrs. Forrester
- Ram Gopal as Mr. Phang
- Dorothy Alison as Nurse
- Peter Arne as Flight Lieutenant
- Jack McNaughton as Sergeant Brown
- Lane Meddick as Radio operator
- Harold Siddons as Navigator Williams
- John A. Tinn as Burmese Jeweler
The Purple Plain is regarded generally as historically accurate with good production values and attention to detail, and depicts the native Burmese in a respectful manner. The film is based on the 1947 novel The Purple Plain by H. E. Bates, one of three novels he wrote after his travels to Burma and India in 1945, on military assignment to write short pieces portraying the Burmese war for American readers. The novel was first serialised in the Saturday Evening Post in September and October 1947. The film script was written by novelist Eric Ambler in consultation with Bates.
The film was produced with a relatively modest budget by Two Cities Films and was directed by the American director Robert Parrish and colour photography was by Geoffrey Unsworth. The film was shot in Sigiriya, in what was then Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and utilised several locations later used in Bridge on the River Kwai. The aircraft in the film were repainted in accurate camouflage and markings, and were provided through the co-operation of the Royal Air Force, which also provided several staff on-site during the filming. Some of these are credited as extras.
Anna is played by Win Min Than who was born Helga Johnston, the wife of Burmese politician and businessman Bo Setkya (1916–1969; aka Thakin Aung Than, Bo Set Kya or Set-kya), in her only film role. Her father was Australian and her mother Burmese. In 1964 she shaved her head and became a Buddhist nun in Rangoon, adopting the name Daw Wanthalamar. Her husband had fled the country, went underground, and had not been heard of since General Ne Win had taken over the country in March 1962. She left the convent a year later and went into business selling gourds. Both Bo Set Kya and Ne Win were members of the Thirty Comrades.
The Purple Plain was successful at the box office, being the 11th most popular film in Britain in 1954. It was ultimately nominated in the category of ‘’Best British film’’ of 1954 at the 8th British Academy Film Awards, while actor Maurice Denham was nominated for the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance as Blore.
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- "U.S. Star heads film poll. The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931–1954), via National Library of Australia, 31 December 1954, p. 11. Retrieved: 24 April 2012.