IMDb > The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
The Bitter Tea of General Yen
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The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933) More at IMDbPro »

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7.1/10   2,222 votes »
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Grace Zaring Stone (from the story by)
Edward E. Paramore Jr. (screen play)
View company contact information for The Bitter Tea of General Yen on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
6 January 1933 (USA) See more »
They found a love they dared not touch!
A Chinese warlord and an engaged Christian missionary fall in love. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
User Reviews:
Capra's finest and most unexpected film See more (50 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Barbara Stanwyck ... Megan

Nils Asther ... General Yen
Toshia Mori ... Mah-Li

Walter Connolly ... Jones
Gavin Gordon ... Bob
Lucien Littlefield ... Mr. Jacobson
Richard Loo ... Captain Li

Helen Jerome Eddy ... Miss Reed
Emmett Corrigan ... Bishop Harkness
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jessie Arnold ... Mrs. Blake (uncredited)
Clara Blandick ... Mrs. Jackson (uncredited)
Robert Bolder ... Missionary (uncredited)
Nora Cecil ... Missionary (uncredited)
Wong Chung ... Chinese Officer (uncredited)
Knute Erickson ... Dr. Hansen (uncredited)
Willie Fung ... Officer (uncredited)
Adda Gleason ... Mrs. Bowman (uncredited)
Ella Hall ... Mrs. Amelia Hansen (uncredited)
Daisy Jefferson ... Mrs. Warden (uncredited)
Arthur Johnson ... Dr. Schuler (uncredited)
Tetsu Komai ... Gen. Yen's Messenger (uncredited)
Eddie Lee ... Chinese Soldier (uncredited)
Milton Lee ... Telegrapher (uncredited)
Lillian Leighton ... Missionary (uncredited)
Harriet Lorraine ... Missionary (uncredited)
Doris Louellyn ... Mrs. Meigs (uncredited)
Martha Mattox ... Miss Avery (uncredited)
Arthur Millett ... Mr. Pettis (uncredited)
Moy Ming ... Dr. Lin (uncredited)
Miller Newman ... Dr. Mott (uncredited)
Robert Wayne ... Rev. Bostwick (uncredited)
Ray Young ... Engineer (uncredited)

Directed by
Frank Capra  (as Frank R. Capra)
Writing credits
Grace Zaring Stone (from the story by)

Edward E. Paramore Jr. (screen play) (as Edward Paramore)

Produced by
Frank Capra .... producer (uncredited)
Walter Wanger .... producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
W. Franke Harling (musical score) (as W. Frank Harling)
Cinematography by
Joseph Walker (photography)
Film Editing by
Edward Curtiss (film editor) (as Edward Curtis)
Costume Design by
Robert Kalloch (uncredited)
Edward Stevenson (uncredited)
Makeup Department
Norbert A. Myles .... makeup artist (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Charles C. Coleman .... assistant director (uncredited)
Sound Department
Edward Bernds .... sound engineer (uncredited)
Other crew
Harry Cohn .... president: Columbia Pictures Corporation
Gene Lewis .... dialogue director (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
88 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)
South Korea:15 (2007) | USA:Approved | USA:TV-PG (TV rating)

Did You Know?

Jessie Perry is in studio records/casting call lists playing "Miss Reid," but that role was played by Helen Jerome Eddy.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...See more »
Movie Connections:
Onward Christian SoldiersSee more »


How does the movie end?
What is 'The Bitter Tea of General Yen' about?
Was Megan in love with Yen?
See more »
49 out of 64 people found the following review useful.
Capra's finest and most unexpected film, 7 May 2006
Author: TrevorAclea from London, England

Frank Capra's most atypical and sensual picture, The Bitter Tea of General Yen defies everything people think they know about the director. No small town schmaltz or last minute reprieves here, but a surprisingly modern and often brutal adult drama set in a surprisingly morally ambiguous China torn apart by local warlords and opportunistic Westerners making a fast buck out of the chaos. Bodies hang from what is left of buildings, refugees are machine-gunned from passing trucks as children watch with emotionless faces, and when Stanwyck arrives in the middle of the evacuation of Shanghai to marry a missionary she hasn't seen in three years, no-one – not even the priest who has come to collect her – can be bothered to help her dying rickshaw driver. 'Rescued' by Nils Asther's General Yen, she is awoken by the sound of firing squads carrying out mass executions of prisoners. Yen apologises and promises it will not happen again – "They are taking the rest of them down the road, out of earshot." Quickly realising that he has no intention of returning her to her fiancé, she finds herself involuntarily drawn to him as he constantly challenges her preconceived notions of the Chinese, with tragic consequences.

Although racist stereotypes are present, especially in a surprisingly sexual nightmare sequence where Yen appears as both vampiric rapist and heroic rescuer, they're mainly there to be subverted, and it's surprisingly critical of how incompatible and patronising the intentions of Christian missionaries to impose western values are with the people they have come to 'save.' Racism and defeatism is rife among their ranks as they see dubious merit in their work – as one elderly missionary reveals when explaining how he misinterpreted a group of Mongolian bandits' spellbound interest in the Easter story until they promptly crucified the next merchants' caravan to pass through their territory. Indeed, it's an act of 'Christian' charity and forgiveness that has the most devastating results for Yen, with Barbara Stanwyck only faintly beginning to understand the world she finds herself in too late.

Both characters are uncomfortable with the nature of their desires, and Yen's relationship with his Chinese mistress and his insistence that Stanwyck give herself to him freely or not at all is surprisingly sophisticated considering the usual 'Yellow Peril' stereotypes of the day. Asther in particular does a fine job of avoiding cliché with a complex and unpatronising portrait mixing casual cruelty, bemused cynicism and great sensitivity that is quite remarkable for its time. Walter Connolly similarly plays against expectations as the general's 'financial adviser,' and to him falls the beautiful closing lines in the film's final scene – one of those pieces of great writing that left me thinking, "Damn, I wish I'd written that!" A critical and commercial fop in its day, much cut by the censors (Columbia's UK DVD appears to be uncut) and rarely revived, it has maturity and a tortured romanticism that is truly unique among Capra's work and is well worth seeking out. Great photography by Joseph Walker too.

(A version of this review appeared in Movie Collector magazine)

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