In 1949, Kathy Fiscus, a three-year-old Los Angeles girl, fell down a well. Rescue efforts were recorded live by a local news team, and
The little girl did not survive, unfortunately. The story, however, inspired this film about a boy who is trapped on a mountain after he is in a plane crash that takes the lives of his parents and the three very different women who each suspect the boy may be the son they gave up for adoption.
Once again, Wise employed his skills for realism to bring a believability to a film even he called a "soap opera":
"My favorite piece is the rescue effort. To help make it more believable, I was intent on getting every bit of texture in the mountain-climbing area. The mountaineers were actual climbers from the Sierra Club, and the interviewer was a real one, Bill Welsh....What you see on the screen is an actual interview with a TV commentator and real mountain climbers worked into the situation."*
THREE SECRETS was also the first time Wise would work with Patricia Neal, who would appear the next year in his first science fiction film, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
When an airplane crashes on a
mountain near Bishop,
California, the only survivor is a five-year old boy. Hardin,
a reporter, learns that
the now-orphaned boy, Johnny Peterson, was adopted as a baby
from a shelter.
Three boys listed with the same birthday as Johnny's were placed
shelter, but the matron refuses to reveal the names of their
mothers. One of
those women, Susan Chase, is now married to Bill, a lawyer,
but has never
told him about the child she gave birth to five years earlier.
learns that the injured boy stranded on the mountain was adopted,
convinced that the child is hers. After Bill leaves on
a business trip,
Susan drives all night to the site of the rescue effort.
During the drive
she reflects on the events that led to the birth of her son:
During the war,
Susan falls in love with Paul Radin, a Marine. Before
he is shipped out, he
tells Susan that he is still in love with a woman back home,
whom he has
known since childhood. Later, a pregnant Susan tries to
kill herself, but
her mother calls a doctor and, after the baby is born, convinces
give him up and put the past behind her. Two other women are
at the shelter
that day. One of them, Phyllis Horn, a reporter, is also
watching the rescue
effort. She recognizes Susan and tells her that the boy
could also be her
child. Over coffee, Phyl remembers returning home from
London five years
earlier: When Bob Duffy, her husband, fails to meet her
at the airport, Phyl
goes to his favorite bar in search of him. He announces
that he can no
longer tolerate her job and intends to get a divorce.
Determined not to lose
him, Phyl later begs Duffy to reconsider and promises that she
will stay at
home in the future. They make up, but the following week,
when her boss,
Mark Harrison, assigns her to cover the Pacific war, Phyl cannot
weeks after her divorce becomes final, Phyl discovers that she
She immediately telephones Duffy, only to learn that he has
is brought back to the present when a report reveals that radio
the rescue party has been lost following a landslide.
Phyl and Susan's
attention is distracted when a woman starts an argument with
one of the
reporters. Phyl recognizes her as Ann Lawrence, the third
woman at the
shelter. Later, Ann tells her story: Five years
earlier, she is a dancer in
love with wealthy Gordon Crosley. One night, when she
goes to Gordon's
apartment and finds he is not there, his associate, Del Prince,
Gordon no longer wants to see her. Convinced that Prince
is trying to keep
her away from Gordon because she is only a chorus girl, Ann
pursues him to
California. Prince again advises her to forget Gordon.
After Ann tells
Prince that she is pregnant, Prince tells her to return that
she does, a man named Bobby Lynch, who claims to be a former
lover of hers,
is there. Prince tells her that Lynch will claim to be
the father of her
child and offers her a check signed by Gordon. Hysterical, Ann
realizes that Prince has been telling the truth about Gordon,
and kills her
lover. She is convicted of manslaughter and gives up her
son for adoption.
After she finishes her story, Susan reveals that she is unable
to have any
more children. The rescuers reach Johnny and signal that
he is still alive.
Phyl now decides to discover which of the women is the real
mother of the
boy. Meanwhile, Bill arrives in response to a telegram from
reveals her suspicions about Johnny, and Bill responds that
if the child is
hers they will take him home. While Bill and Susan talk,
Phyl learns that
Johnny is Ann's child. She is about to relay this to Susan
announces that they earlier cancelled Phyl's call to the orphanage.
adds that of the three of them, Susan is the best suited to
be a mother and
should try to adopt Johnny.
From the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
|102 min. United States Pictures, Inc.; Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures; Directed by: Robert Wise; Produced by: Milton Sperling; Screenplay by: Martin Rackin & Gina Kaus; Edited by: Thomas Reilly; Director of Photography: Sid Hickox; Music by: David Buttolph; Production Design by: Charles H. Clarke; Sound by: Charles Lang; Wardrobe by: Leah Rhodes; Make-up by: Perc Westmore; Hair by: Alice Monte.|
|Eleanor Parker (Susan Chase), Patricia Neal (Phyllis Horn), Ruth Roman (Ann Lawrence), Frank Lovejoy (Bob Duffy), Leif Erickson (Bill Chase), Ted de Corsia (Del Prince), Edmon Ryan (Hardin), Larry Keating (Mark Harrison), Katherine Warren (Mrs. Connors), Arthur Franz (Paul Radin), Peter Brocco (Stephani), Frank Fenton (Macdonald), Duncan Richardson (Johnny Peterson), Joel Allen (Operator), Gil Warren (Assistant), Paul Picerni (Sergeant), William Self (Sergeant), Glenn Denning (Pilot), Mike Mahoney (G.I.), Russ Conway (Captain), Jay Adler (City editor), Frances Williams (Delia), Nana Bryant (Supervisor), Janet Warren (Assistant supervisor), Margaret Bert (Maid), Bill Welsh (Radio commentator), John Morgan (Ralph), Mary Alan (Hokanson), Cherie May (Nurse), Edna Holland (Receptionist), Ray Hyke (Trooper), Ralph Montgomery (Vendor), Billy Bevan (Jackson), George Lynn (Reporter), Mervin Williams (Reporter), Rory Mallinson (Reporter), Tim Graham (Reporter), Frank Wilcox (Reporter), Ross Elliott (Reporter), John Butler (Bartender), Cathy Dart (Switchboard operator), Willard Waterman (Max), Mack Williams (Army doctor), Chris Drake (Radio technician), Wheaton Chambers (Man with dog), Edmund Glover (Ranger), Perc Launders (Chauffeur), Lester Dorr (Houseman), Waldon Boyle (Room clerk), Bill Tannen (Bobby Lynch), John Dehner (Gordon Crosley), Eleanor Audley (Warden), Eula Guy (Matron), Ken Tobey (Officer), David McMahon, and Charles Wagenheim.|