A Tale of Two Cities (1958)

Happy birthday, Mr Dickens!

Yes, Charles Dickens was born exactly 200 years ago today – on February 7, 1812, in Portsea. In his lifetime, he wrote a number of short stories and non-fictional works, besides about a dozen major novels. He was recognised as one of Britain’s greatest writers within his lifetime – and cinema took to his stories like a duck to water. Have a look at his filmography, and you’ll see what I mean. Dozens of adaptations, feature films, short films and TV series, have been made of Dickens’s work.

So, as a tribute to Charles Dickens, here’s one of them: a story of love and hate set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. A Tale of Two Cities.

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The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)

The Chinese wish each other five happinesses: wealth, longevity, good health, virtue, and a peaceful death in old age. The sixth happiness one must decide for oneself.

Richard’s recent post on Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani reminded me of this film, because the two films share a lot in common. Like Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is based on a real life story—in this case, that of the Englishwoman Gladys Aylward (1902-70), who in 1930 went off to China to ‘serve’ the people there. Like Dr Kotnis, she too fell in love with a Chinese national, and is even today, 40 years after her death, regarded as something of a national heroine.

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, while not completely true to the story of Gladys Aylward (artistic license makes films sell!), is accurate enough in the basics. It tells, with sensitivity and feeling, the story of a brave woman’s determination to go halfway across the world—to a land of which she didn’t even know the language—simply in order to follow her dream.

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