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The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance, War  |  6 January 1933 (USA)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 2,349 users  
Reviews: 51 user | 29 critic

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

Director:

(as Frank R. Capra)

Writers:

(from the story by), (screen play) (as Edward Paramore)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
General Yen
Toshia Mori ...
Mah-Li
...
Jones
Gavin Gordon ...
Bob
Lucien Littlefield ...
Mr. Jacobson
Richard Loo ...
Captain Li
...
Miss Reed
Emmett Corrigan ...
Bishop Harkness
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

They found a love they dared not touch! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

6 January 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La amargura del general Yen  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The role of Megan Davis was originally supposed to go to Constance Cummings. See more »

Quotes

General Yen: The only way to get loyalty is to compel it. Take Captain Lee, for example. He is the only son of a very powerful family which claims to support my rule. Alright, I believe them. But, as evidence of their good faith, I made them place him in my hands, as a hostage. Now, if they would betray me, the life of Captain Lee enables me to save my own face. That's the way we get loyalty in China.
Megan Davis: That's why China's 2,000 years behind the times.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) See more »

Soundtracks

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
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Without sugar
25 March 2005 | by (Derby, UK) – See all my reviews

Bitter Tea is one of my favourite Capra films, the earliest one I would call that "much over-worked phrase", a classic. I don't know if the original story was much different, but even being pre-Code this film would be shot much differently nowadays - unfortunately, of course! It appears to be just as hung up about love between the races as any other Golden Age movie was, except the tale's conclusion is more open to interpretation and franker in its portrayal. But even that was spoiled by Walter Connolly's Jerry Springer type moral ramblings at the end as solace for any outraged whites.

It's a murky, atmospheric, lustrous (in the romantic arc-light), absorbing 83 minute journey through a rather horrible world, populated by semi human beings - naturally Western wars are so much more civilised affairs. Throughout Stanwyck does her best and looks her best too, no wonder Gen Yen fell for her! I hope modern Scandanavians don't feel too humiliated by Nils Asther playing a Chinaman though (& v.v.) As a non practising Christian I didn't take offence at the criticism levelled at Christianity's manifold moral ambiguities - but enough of all that!

A wonderful film to sink into every few years not only for the story but also the gleaming photography, the visual composition of the scene near the end where Yen is brewing the tea of the title is so achingly beautiful that it brings the tears to my eyes as I think about it! But remember it was made in 1932 so if you don't like shiny charming creakers it's probably not your cup of tea.


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