Three Secrets
Three Secrets

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
Eleanor Parker and Patricia Neal

Eleanor Parker and Patricia Neal

millions of viewers around the country were rapt in front of their radios as they waited for the outcome.

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.

Synopsis 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 by the 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 Three Secrets told him about the child she gave birth to five years earlier.  When she learns that the injured boy stranded on the mountain was adopted, she becomes 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 Susan to 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 resist.  Two weeks after her divorce becomes final, Phyl discovers that she is pregnant. She immediately telephones Duffy, only to learn that he has remarried.  Phyl is brought back to the present when a report reveals that radio contact with 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, explains that 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 evening.  When 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 finally 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 Susan.  She 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 when Ann announces that they earlier cancelled Phyl's call to the orphanage.  She then 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

Wise Facts
  • Bill Welch, the real reporter in the rescue scene, was an actual reporter for the Fiscus case.
  • Exterior scenes were shot on location near Mt. Waterman in the Angeles National Forest outside of Los Angeles and Lone Pine, CA.
  • Credits: 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.
    Patricia Neal Cast  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.

    Photo Gallery
    Movie Clips
    Complete Credits


    1. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 94
    2. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 94

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