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The Proud and Profane

The Proud and Profane(1956)

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In 1943, Lee Ashley arrives in Noumea, on the island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, where she has come to work as a Red Cross volunteer. As the island is home to an Allied military base, the attractive Lee quickly draws the attention of the love-starved soldiers, sailors and Marines stationed there, but she is only interested in finding out the plight of her late husband Howard, a victim of the Battle of Guadalcanal. When the latest group of casualties arrive in Noumea, Lee is hesitant to help with the injured soldiers until Kate Connors, the head of the local Red Cross club, reminds her that it is her duty. Later, Eddie Wodcik, an old friend of Kate, arrives at the military base and quickly falls in love with Lee, as she reminds him of his deceased sister, who died tragically in a tenement house fire. Lee, however, falls prey to the roguish Lt. Col. Colin Black, a battalion leader who pretends to have been a friend of her late husband in hopes of seducing her. Though Lee tells him that she has come to New Caledonia to discover if Howard's death was quick and peaceful, Colin declares that what she really wants to know is whether her husband died a soldier's or coward's death. Though seemingly repulsed by the gruff and domineering Marine, Lee admits to Kate that she has fallen in love with Colin, though he is the polar opposite of her late husband. In turn, Colin confesses to the cultured Kate that he joined the Marines to escape his life as a poverty-stricken half-breed. With Colin's unit about to leave Noumea on military maneuvers, the two lovers finally consummate their relationship after seeking shelter from a rainstorm in a French inn. Months later, Lee is offered her long-awaited transfer to Guadalcanal, but she declines, telling Kate that she wishes to stay in Noumea and wait for Colin, to whom she is secretly engaged and by whom she is now pregnant. Lee soon learns from a wounded Marine, however, that Colin is already married. Confronted with the truth, Colin tells Lee that he cannot get a divorce, as his wife is an institutionalized alcoholic, driven to the bottle by his dedication to the Marines. Angered and humiliated, Lee attempts to hurl herself off a cliff, only to be stopped by Colin. In the ensuing struggle, Lee is knocked to the ground and suffers a miscarriage. Learning of Lee's plight, Eddie tries to murder Colin, but is quickly subdued by the colonel. Realizing his culpability, Colin refuses to press charges against his love-sick subordinate. Soon after, Lee is transferred with Kate to Guadalcanal, where she is finally forced to confront the grave of her husband. At the cemetery, she meets Eustace Press, a battle fatigue patient who served with Howard. Unaware of Lee's identity, Eustace tells her that while Howard had nothing but kind words for his wife, he recognized her as the "blood-sucker type" who dominated her husband completely. Acknowledging her own selfishness in the soldier's words, Lee then dedicates herself to her work. Soon thereafter, Colin arrives at the Red Cross station, the victim of a mortar attack. Lt. J. G. Holmes, the chaplain of his unit, tells Lee that Colin has thought of little more than her the last two months, which is why the shell-shocked Marine can has said nothing but the words "forgive me" since his injury. In the end, she does.