The Bitter Tea of General Yen
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

American missionary Megan Davis (Barbara Stanwyck) arrives in Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War to marry her missionary fianc Dr Robert Strife (Gavin Gordon). On her way from the ship, Megan's rickshaw driver is run down, and Megan gets a quick lesson as to the value of a Chinese life as no one, including the owner of the car that struck him, seems to give a darn. When she is finally reunited with her fianc, he postpones the wedding in order to save a group of orphans. Megan goes along to help but gets separated from him and is hit in the head and knocked out. She comes to on the train of General Yen (Nils Asther), a powerful Chinese warlord and the owner of the car that knocked down her rickshaw driver. General Yen takes her to his palace, vowing to return her to Shanghai as soon as possible but has secretly fallen in love with her and has no intention of sending her home any time soon.

Yes. The Bitter Tea of General Yen is also a 1930 novel by American novelist Grace Zaaring Stone. The novel was adapted for the movie by American screenwriter Edward E. Paramore, Jr.

From the content of her daydream, which begins with a fiendish Yen breaking into her bed chamber and ends with the handsome General making love to her, it's obvious that there is an attraction on Megan's part as well.

The only ones who knew about the plan were Yen, his financial advisor Jones (Walter Connolly), and his personal guard Captain Li (Richard Loo). Megan deduces that a message from Li must have been inside the slipper that he asked her to return to Mah-Li (Toshia Mori).

How does the movie end?

Having lost his entire fortune in the train robbery, Yen still assures Megan that everything will be all right. He invites her into his bedroom to see some swords, but Megan mistakes his intentions. He explains that he could never accept anything that the heart does not give willingly. Holding her in his arms, he admits that he was intending to kill her, as she promised him her life for Mah-Li's disloyality, and then he intended to kill himself. Megan runs crying from his room. Yen calls for a servant but realizes that they have all deserted him. He prepares a cup of tea and laces it with poison. Just as he's about to drink it, Megan enters his room, dressed Chinese style. She kneels at his feet and promises never to leave him. He tenderly wipes the tears from her eyes, but she continues to cry. Without saying a word, Yen drinks his bitter tea and promptly dies. In the final scene, as Megan and Jones head back to Shanghai on a boat, Jones eulogizes Yen while Megan sits by wordlessly. Jones expresses the hope that, when he dies, he'll go wherever Yen is. 'And I'll bet I find you there, too,' he says to Megan.

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 1 year ago
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