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The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance, War  |  6 January 1933 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 2,406 users  
Reviews: 51 user | 29 critic

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


(as Frank R. Capra)


(from the story by), (screen play) (as Edward Paramore)
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Complete credited cast:
General Yen
Toshia Mori ...
Gavin Gordon ...
Lucien Littlefield ...
Mr. Jacobson
Richard Loo ...
Captain Li
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


The flaming drama of a forbidden love that wrecked an empire! See more »


Drama | Romance | War


Approved | See all certifications »




| |

Release Date:

6 January 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La amargura del general Yen  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Grace Zaring Stone and her husband and daughter were invited to visit the set on one day of filming. Zering later said she was impressed by the realism of the set but that the film was miscast and that Barbara Stanwyck was all wrong for the part of Megan. See more »


General Yen: Conquest of a province, or the conquest of a woman... What's the difference?
See more »


Featured in The Slanted Screen (2006) See more »


Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)
(1850) (uncredited)
from "Lohengrin"
Written by Richard Wagner
Played by an unidentified organist at the wedding
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Unique Capra film
22 February 2007 | by (Santiago de Chile.) – See all my reviews

Unusual, strange, interesting, intriguing, offbeat, surreal, unique film… so atypical of Capra's acknowledged style, that one truly regrets that he never made a film of this sort afterwards in his career.

For sure, a product of the more permissive Pre-Code era (1930-1934), it couldn't have been filmed under the Production Code's strict rules; the only suggestion of miscegenation would have risen too many brows during its enforcement.

I must say, though, that I have the impression that I saw an edited or censored version of the official release, since the DVD I watched is of British origin (it's not yet available on DVD in the USA) and apparently the out-of-print VHS American edition, is 5 or 6 minutes longer. Well, it shouldn't surprise me since this film was banned in England for many years (reportedly for its miscegenation subject, a delicate matter for the British Empire in those years).

This fantastic tale of a Chinese Warlord's (Nils Asther) infatuation with an American Woman (Stanwyck), who's engaged to a missionary, is charged with sensuality, erotic imagery and sexual tension (by early 1930s standards) between the two leading players.

Asther gives an intense, credible portrayal and is simply mesmerizing as the Warlord, in spite of the fact that he was actually Swedish. Stanwyck is aptly helpless, confused and vulnerable as the heroine. It's also a pleasure to see Walter Connolly in a different role, as an amoral "entrepreneur". Toshia Mori is deliciously evil as Asther's double-crossing mistress.

This film demonstrates that the Occidentals, at least up to that time, still did not fully appreciate and understand Oriental Cultures, dismissing its people as cruel and savage.

Beautiful sets and décors.

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