Behind the Rising Sun (film)

Behind the Rising Sun is a 1943 American war film based on the 1941 book Behind the Rising Sun written by James R. Young. Later-blacklisted Edward Dmytryk directed the film,[3] and it stars Margo, Tom Neal, J. Carrol Naish, Robert Ryan and Gloria Holden.

Behind the Rising Sun
Film poster
Directed byEdward Dmytryk
Produced byEdward Dmytryk
Howard Hughes
Written byEmmet Lavery
Based onBehind the Rising Sun
by James R. Young
Tom Neal
J. Carrol Naish
Robert Ryan
Gloria Holden
Music byRoy Webb
CinematographyRussell Metty
Edited byJoseph Noriega
Distributed byRKO Pictures
Release date
  • August 1, 1943 (1943-08-01)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.5 million (US rentals)[2]


The film's opening scene is set in 1943 Japan. Reo Seki (J. Carrol Naish) is presented with the ashes of his dead son, Taro Seki (Tom Neal), and blames himself for the death.

The story flashes back to 1936 when Taro Seki returns to Japan after studying in America, with plans to work for an American engineer, Clancy O'Hara (Don Douglas). Taro falls in love with Clancy's secretary, Tama Shimamura (Margo) and they plan to marry. His father does not accept their marriage because Tama is not from a respectable family. Taro is then drafted to the war in China. Tama and Taro write frequent letters to each other and Tama attempts to show Reo Seki all the letters Taro has sent but he refuses to see them or have anything to do with his son.

Meanwhile, in China, Taro experiences the brutality of war and witnesses the cruelty of the Japanese to the poor in China. He is told to accept it by a higher-ranked officer. Sara Braden (Gloria Holden) is an American reporter in China as well as Clancy O'Hara's girlfriend, and she complains to Taro about the violence that the Japanese soldiers are showing towards others. Taro, remembering what the higher-ranked officer had told him, shrugs it off. Outraged, Sara tells him that the war has changed him.

Tama and Reo receive news that Taro is coming home and arrange for a celebration with Clancy, Boris (George Givot) and Max (Wolfgang Zilzer). When Taro arrives, he is different. Reo explains that he has arranged for Tama to be adopted into a respectable family and will allow them to marry. But then, Sara comes in and tells everyone about the children that Taro let die in China to which Tama is in shock. Clancy comments on the Japanese which angers Taro and he demands a fight. They both choose a proxy; Clancy brings American Lefty O'Doyle (Robert Ryan) and Taro chooses a Japanese judo expert (Mike Mazurki). Lefty O'Doyle wins and the judo wrestler is killed for the shame he has brought on the Emperor. Clancy warns Tama that Sara was right, Taro has changed but she has arranged an outing to the countryside to see her parents for the last time before her adoption.

When they arrive in the countryside, Tama finds out that her younger sister has been sold in order for her parents to attain more money for Tama and her wedding. Tama begs for Taro to buy back her younger sister and he agrees. Reo warns Clancy that he should leave Japan immediately and return to America because he knows that they will attack Pearl Harbor. Back in the countryside, Taro has now heard news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Emperor's call to all his men and leaves the country home. Tama asks if he will save her sister in Tokyo but he replies that there is no time for personal issues when the Emperor is in their need and that her sister was a noble sacrifice. Tama returns to Tokyo in search of her sister but is taken to prison under suspicion of being a spy for working under Clancy. A year later, Taro, now in the air corps regiment, testifies against Tama, Clancy and Sara saying that he was "suspicious of them from the first time he met them". Soon after, Clancy proposes to Sara and there is an American bombing raid on Tokyo in which Reo attempts to save Tama, Clancy and Sara but Tama refuses at last minute. At the same time, Taro's plane is hit and he dies.

The film ends with a return to the opening scene. Reo repudiates the Emperor and then commits suicide through seppuku/hara-kiri (stomach cutting) in hope that his own death will bring the people of Japan back to their senses.



The film was enormously popular and earned RKO a profit of $1.48 million.[1][4]


  1. Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p41
  2. "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
  3. "Behind the Rising Sun". NY Times. Retrieved 2011-05-05.
  4. Richard B. Jewell, Slow Fade to Black: The Decline of RKO Radio Pictures, Uni of California, 2016
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