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The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)

 -  Drama | Romance | War  -  6 January 1933 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 2,005 users  
Reviews: 50 user | 23 critic

A Chinese warlord and an engaged Christian missionary fall in love.


(as Frank R. Capra)


(story), (screenplay)
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Title: The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)

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Complete credited cast:
Megan Davis
Gen. Yen
Toshia Mori ...
Gavin Gordon ...
Dr. Robert 'Bob' Strike
Lucien Littlefield ...
Mr. Jacobson
Richard Loo ...
Capt. Li
Helen Jerome Eddy ...
Miss Reed
Emmett Corrigan ...
Bishop Harkness


The American missionary Megan Davis arrives in Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War to marry the missionary Dr. Robert Strife. However, Robert postpones their wedding to rescue some orphans in an orphanage in Chapei section that is burning in the middle of a battlefield. While returning to Shanghai with the children, they are separated in the crowd, Megan is hit in the head and knocked out, but is saved by General Yen and brought by train to his palace. As the days go by, the General's mistress Mah-Li becomes close to Megan and when she is accused of betrayal for giving classified information to the enemies, Megan asks for her life. The cruel General Yen falls in love for the naive and pure Megan and accepts her request to spare the life of Mah-Li against the will of his financial advisor Jones. Meanwhile Megan feels attracted by the powerful and gentle General Yen, but resists to his flirtation. When Mah-Li betrays General Yen and destroys his empire, Megan realizes that to be able ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

general | missionary | love | palace | american | See more »


They found a love they dared not touch!


Drama | Romance | War


Approved | See all certifications »




| |

Release Date:

6 January 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Bitter Tea of General Yen  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Swedish actor Nils Asther played General Yen. Asian actors were never cast in lead roles in American productions at the time. Although multilingual, Asther did not speak Mandarin. However, he did use a Mandarin dialect for the part. See more »


Jones: Yen once told me you could crowd a lifetime into an hour. Heh. Into a drink. Great guy. Great gambler. Told me he couldn't lose. And the joke was certainly on him. He lost his province, his army, and his life. Maybe not. Maybe the joke's on us. Ah... maybe you will marry Strike at that. Yen was crazy. He said we never really die... we only change. He was nuts about cherry trees. Well, maybe he's a cherry tree now. Maybe he's the wind that's pushing that sail. Maybe he's the wind that's playing ...
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Referenced in Murder by Numbers (2002) See more »


Onward Christian Soldiers
(1871) (uncredited)
Music from "St. Gertrude" by Arthur Sullivan (1871)
Lyrics by Sabine Baring-Gould (1865)
Sung by an unidentified quartet at the wedding
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

12 January 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This little known film represents fine work by everybody involved. Barbara Stanwyck and Nils Asther are absolutely mesmerizing. You would not know it is a Frank Capra film-- it has none of his familiar "life is good" feeling. Though, his fine direction shows. The street scenes in war-torn Shanghai will have you on edge. Stanwyck, the American do-gooder, barges in where brave men fear to go,and plays it beautifully. She learns many lessons along the way. All of the sets are impeccably done. The Missionery's house looks just right. Yen's palace is rich and beautiful. The train scenes are great. This has been tagged as Drama and War, but it is also a magnificent romance. It was my late husband's favorite film.

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