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Film / Bridge to the Sun

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Bridge to the Sun is a 1961 film directed by Etienne Perier.

The film was a French production, with a French director and a French producer, but all the dialogue is in English. It's the Based on a True Story tale of Gwen Harold (Carroll Baker), a young woman from Tennessee who attends a party at the Japanese embassy in Washington, DC. There she meets Hidenari "Terry" Terasaki (James Shigeta), a junior diplomat. They fall in love, and despite the opposition of her family and his bosses in the embassy, they get married. They have a daughter, Mako. Then a little bit of unpleasantness at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, happens. Gwen insists on accompanying her husband when he's sent back to Japan, and she lives out the war there, her suffering increased by being a white American behind enemy lines.

A quarter-century after this film, veteran character actor James Shigeta played Mr. Takagi in Die Hard.



  • Artistic License – History: The Doolittle Raid (and it's definitely the Doolittle Raid, Ted Lawson's Ruptured Duck bomber is seen) is said to take place some ten months after the outbreak of hostilities, after Japan has suffered some devastating defeats. At the time of the real raid, in April 1942, only five months had elapsed since Pearl Harbor and Japan hadn't suffered any defeats. Also, the damage inflicted by the Doolittle Raid is rather exaggerated.
  • Based on a True Story: Broadly faithful to the memoir of the Real Life Gwen Terasaki. In real life their post-war history wasn't so dramatic. Terry served as a translator to Emperor Hirohito for a while. Gwen and Mako went back to America in 1949 when it was time for Mako to go to college. The Korean War interfered with Gwen's return to Japan, and then Terry died in 1951.
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  • Beneath Notice: As Terry is on the phones at the embassy trying desperately to avert war in December 1941, he doesn't notice the guy clearing away food, who informs to Terry's pro-war enemy Jiro.
  • Bittersweet Ending: They make it through the war, and Gwen goes home with Mako. But they have to leave behind Terry, who will soon die.
  • Call-Back: Terry and Gwen visit his parents' graves, and Terry says that in Japanese custom you have to visit your parents' graves at important moments, like when you know you are going to die. When Gwen sees Terry visiting the graves again near the end of the movie, she realizes he is terminally ill.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: If a radio is on in this movie, it will be delivering some vital news, like the attack on Pearl Harbor or Japanese defeat at Iwo Jima.
  • Culture Clash: Gwen goes through a lot of this in Japan. Gwen does not like it at all when Terry expects her to be a submissive, subservient Japanese wife. On a lighter note, she is horrified when a stranger tries to join them in the bath and Terry thinks it's no big deal.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Gwen tries to call Terry at the embassy on December 7, 1941, to find out what's going on. As she's talking to her husband, an FBI agent who has entered the embassy leans over the operator and yanks out the phone lines on the switchboard.
  • Geisha: One night after Gwen gets really pissed off after being treated like a subservient creature, Jiro, a villainous figure, takes Terry to a geisha house. After Jiro suggests Terry sample the pleasure of the geishas, Terry hits him in the face, goes back home, and apologizes to Gwen.
  • Hands-On Approach: The rapidly developing romance between Terry and Gwen is shown in a brief scene where he is draped all over her in an effort to teach her golf.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Nobody approves. Gwen's aunt begs her to reconsider. Terry's parents are dead, but his boss the ambassador also begs Gwen to reconsider, telling her that marrying a white woman will hurt Terry's career.
  • Match Cut
    • Gwen crying out in agony during labor; cut to her newborn baby crying.
    • The feet of American soldiers marching as Gwen boards a train, to Japanese soldiers marching in Tokyo.
    • A Time Passes Montage bookended. Mako has a kite. Match Cut to an American fighter plane. Stock footage clips of the latter portion of the war follow, including MacArthur wading ashore in the Philippines. Cut to an American bomber, then another Match Cut back to Mako's kite.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: A gender flip, as Gwen the American woman struggles to fit in to patriarchal Japanese culture (the fact that Japan is at war with America doesn't help).
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: For scenes without Gwen, like when Terry is walking down the street talking with fellow anti-war diplomat Nemoto, there are no subtitles. The audience basically has to guess the content from context and tone.
  • Spy Speak: Terry resorts to this when talking with fellow anti-war diplomats in late 1941, talking about how Mako is sick and needs medicine when he's really talking about their desperate efforts to stop Japan from going to war against the United States.
  • Stock Footage: Combat footage from World War II is sprinkled through a couple of montages.
  • Title Drop: When their daughter is born, Terry says "She'll be our bridge across the Pacific."
  • Tokyo Rose: Heard when Gwen listens to the radio. Unlike other instances of this trope, the actual person Tokyo Rose (or rather, a fictional Tokyo Rose, not Iva Toguri), appears onscreen, trying to recruit Gwen to make anti-American broadcasts.
  • Toplessness from the Back: The Hays Code was on its last legs in the early 1960s. So it's one thing that we see Gwen topless from the back; it's more surprising that she is in the bathtub with Terry when we see this.
  • Train-Station Goodbye:
    • Subverted. The opposition of both her aunt and the Japanese ambassador has convinced Gwen that she shouldn't go through with marriage to Terry. She gets on a train. The train is about to pull away when Terry shows up at the station. Gwen jumps off the train, and they get married.
    • Played straight at the end, with Terry and Gwen saying goodbye forever—except that it's a boat, as Gwen is going back home, while Terry will stay in Japan to die.

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