After Florence Fallon's father dies unappreciated in the church where he preached for many years, she becomes embittered and loses faith. She teams up with Horsby, a con man, and performs ... See full summary »
Socially-conscious banker Thomas Dickson faces a crisis when his protégé is wrongly accused for robbing the bank, gossip of the robbery starts a bank run, and evidence suggests Dickson's wife had an affair...all in the same day.
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
Doctor Stike told me all about you. You yellow swine, if you think that... I advise you to send me back to Shanghai just as soon as you can.
You will always find me, your most humble servant.
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I would describe this film as sumptuous, erotic, sophisticated and emotionally complex. It is a 1933 Frank Capra film, about a love affair between a Christian missionary's fiancée and an educated Chinese warlord, a film which broke the taboo against depicting inter-racial relationships just prior to the introduction of the reactionary Hayes code in Hollywood.
As a work of film craftsmanship and artistry it is just breath-taking - starting with the initial scenes of chaos in the midst of a bombing raid where Megan Davis (Barbara Stanwyk) makes her first impression on General Yen through a small act of kindness. The crowd scenes are masterfully directed and the photography positively glows. Later on, watch the superimposition of images as they gradually hover around Megan's face, suggesting a dream state. Then, in the train compartment, the three main characters are assembled - Megan, General Yen, and Yen's concubine, Mah-Li. Without a word being spoken the camera prowls among the three characters catching every little nuance of the eyes and body language as they react to one another. It is very intimate - almost uncomfortably so - and very dramatic. There is a dream sequence of Megan's later in the film, too. I will not spoil it for you, but it is provocative and jaw-dropping, and it must have caused gasps in the audience back in 1933.
The film is somewhat a psychological dance among the main characters. None of them is quite who they seem to be or even who they think they are. As General Yen's fortunes decline Megan's dearly held Christian beliefs seem overwhelmed by a tragic set of events that she has no control over but which she is inexorably a part of. Even when she is compelled to bargain for the Christian ideal of mercy, Yen is stung, fearing he is being "taken" by a missionary type, while loving said missionary type so passionately. Nils Asther's performance as Yen is, at this point, heartbreaking.
It has been commented that several Chinese in the Christian household at the beginning of the film appear in shadow and are depicted as sinister. That is not my take on it at all. If anything, this film is anti-racist .Those Chinese servants in shadows are depicted as being practically invisible to the whites at the party - people you snap your fingers at if you want an hors-d'oeuvre or the piano played. David Lean did something similar in "A Passage to India" decades later. Toshia Mori, as Mah-Li, plays a fully-developed character, and adds considerable weight to the authenticity of the movie. Oh, and Walter Connolly, as the resident white scumbag, fatuous as he may sound, delivers a lot of wisdom and expert postulating, particularly at the end. He's a one-man Greek chorus.
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