Purple Plain, The (1954)

Purple Plain, The (1954)

“I think he cracked up years ago.”

A Canadian RAF pilot (Gregory Peck) struggling with flashbacks to his wife’s death is taken by a kind doctor (Bernard Lee) to visit the home of a missionary (Brenda de Banzie) in Burma, where he meets and falls in love with a beautiful young nurse’s aide (Win Min Than). Soon Peck’s trauma decreases enough that he’s able to help support his crew through a dangerous and unexpected crash landing.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Airplanes and Pilots
  • Character Arc
  • Gregory Peck Films
  • Mental Breakdown
  • Survival
  • World War II

Former child-actor-turned-editor Robert Parrish didn’t get a chance to direct many films, but this BAFTA-nominated feature remains among his best. Evoking memories of his starring turn in Twelve O’Clock High (1949), Peck once again plays a fighter pilot under pressure, with Parrish making good use of atmospheric flashbacks to give us context for why Peck has “cracked up”:

The storyline then shifts into two new directions: Peck’s budding romance with Than —

… and a gripping crash-survival scenario.

As DVD Savant notes, the overall storyline “hits an emotional chord” through a story (by Eric Ambler) whose “details have an unspoken feeling of faith and abiding inner peace.” Indeed, it’s refreshing seeing Peck (in yet another fine performance) being given a new chance at life after the grief he’s suffered.

Also of note is British character actress Brenda de Banzie in a memorable role as an earnest, hymn-belting missionary:

While The Purple Plain isn’t must-see viewing, it’s recommended as a “good show”.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Gregory Peck as Bill Forrester
  • Brenda de Banzie as Miss McNab
  • Geoffrey Unsworth’s cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing.


One thought on “Purple Plain, The (1954)

  1. First viewing (11/27/20). Not must-see.

    Odd, somewhat-turgid drama with an ill-defined narrative and protagonist. Of course, almost any story with a war-torn backdrop is going to be unsettling to some degree but there’s actually little focus on that. It’s a long, somewhat listless wait to momentum – in the form of a well-handled plane crash sequence.

    Overall, the point seems to be the effort Peck’s character makes in allowing himself to believe that life is worth the attempt at beating the odds. Still, the film itself is all a bit diffuse.

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