The Bitter Tea Of General Yen

  • 1933
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

Stanwyck arrives in Shanghai to marry missionary Gordon, a wedding of convenience. When the couple move through a danger zone threatened by warring factions to rescue some Chinese orphans, they are suddenly in the middle of a shooting revolution. The crowds panic and Stanwyck is swept into the arms of troops under the command of Asther, an infamous warlord....read more

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Stanwyck arrives in Shanghai to marry missionary Gordon, a wedding of convenience. When the couple move through a danger zone threatened by warring factions to rescue some Chinese orphans, they are suddenly in the middle of a shooting revolution. The crowds panic and Stanwyck is swept into

the arms of troops under the command of Asther, an infamous warlord. She soon discovers that Asther has no intention of releasing her; he is fascinated with this white woman whom he slowly attempts to seduce. Asther is unlike any other Chinese warlord in history. His manners are courtly, he speaks

fluent English, spouts poetry, and defers to the woman's comfort. At one point he tells her the story of an ancestor who tried once to catch the moon and fell into the Yellow River and drowned, a prophecy of his own star-crossed passion. Connolly is splendid as Asther's opportunistic American

financial adviser. When all of Asther's aides desert him, only Stanwyck and Connolly stay by his side as enemies close in for the kill. Grieving Asther more than such disloyalty is the fact that he cannot possess the one thing he desires most in life, Stanwyck. He takes his bitter tea, laced

heavily with poison, and puts himself beyond misery. Stanwyck plays her victimized role with aplomb and shines most brightly in the dream sequences, where she envisions Asther as her lover. The subject was taboo when Capra made this unusual film; miscegenation was a real bugbear then. It was

unthinkable for a white woman to wind up in the arms of a Chinese, even a most sophisticated Asian as Asther certainly represented. The film, despite its gentle, almost poetic approach, did not do well because of the racial issue. England and several other countries banned the film for its radical

love theme, and women were repelled by Asther, one-time silent screen idol who had played opposite the great Garbo. He was no longer the handsome, tall Lothario. Director Capra had stiff upper lids attached to his eyes and cut his eyelashes short to give him persuasively Asian eyes (which caused

severe strain, requiring Asther to have constant medical attention). Asther was now a leering "Yellow Peril" in hot pursuit of lily-white Stanwyck. Capra's film is full of sturm und drang. It teems with exotic life and customs and is fascinating in its meticulous detail of Asian life, due to the

perfectionism of its splendid director. In one scene, when Capra brought on more than a thousand extras to attack a train, stage-trained Connolly, playing the American adventurer, fell out of a boxcar and promptly broke his leg. He played the rest of the film on crutches, using these implements to

help steal more scenes.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Stanwyck arrives in Shanghai to marry missionary Gordon, a wedding of convenience. When the couple move through a danger zone threatened by warring factions to rescue some Chinese orphans, they are suddenly in the middle of a shooting revolution. The crowd… (more)

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