THREE STRIPES IN THE SUN, a thoughtful, fact-based 1955 drama written & directed by Richard Murphy, was inspired by a New Yorker article titled “The Gentle Wolfhound”, telling the story of an American soldier who overcame his wartime anti-Japanese feelings during the postwar occupation of the country. The title conjoins the rank stripes of his uniform with Japan’s symbolic “rising sun”. *
Japan, 1949: American army Sergeant Hugh O’Reilly (Aldo Ray) is assigned to a regiment doing occupation duty in Osaka. Though other men in the outfit are enjoying the job and making friends, O’Reilly’s combat experiences in the Pacific have left him bitter and suspicious about the Japanese,. His rude behavior is at odds with the good will his commanding officer (Phil Carey) demands his troops to convey. O’Reilly’s attitude softens when he sees conditions at a Catholic orphanage, and begins to aid the nuns and kids: eventually his entire unit joins the charity drive. Further reconciliation becomes more personal, when the sergeant’s remaining defenses are breached by working with Yuko Saito (Mitsuko Kimura), a sweet-natured interpreter.
Shot on location in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the telling benefits accordingly, though a bet was missed by not using color. The script, taking a few expected (but not critical) liberties with O’Reilly and Yuko’s story, is pretty good: Richard Murphy’s track record included Boomerang!, Panic In The Streets and Broken Lance. His direction is all right (he only did that job one other time, on 1961s The Wackiest Ship In The Army), and he gets decent work from the cast, which includes light-touch comedy relief from Dick York and Chuck Connors, both gaining career traction at the time.
Though this was little-seen (158th place, grossing $1,300,000), Ray notched one of lead roles in the year’s second biggest hit, Battle Cry (as a Marine, fighting the Japanese) and another next to Humphrey Bogart and Peter Ustinov in the successful comedy We’re No Angels.
Charming actress Kimura only appeared in five films, and this was her only English-language performance: she brims with sincerity and heart.
Nicely scored by George Duning. With Camille Janclaire and Tatsuo Saitô. 93 minutes.
* Time to make up: The Teahouse Of The August Moon, Sayonara, Cry For Happy, Joe Butterfly, Escapade In Japan, The Bridges At Toko-Ri, The Geisha Boy.
Hugh O’Reilly died at 91 in 2006. Yuko O’Reilly passed away in 2018.