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China Seas
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Reviews & Ratings for
China Seas More at IMDbPro »

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Worth a second, third, fourth look

9/10
Author: lucy-19 from London
23 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of my favourite films and is as great as people say. It's got a lot of plot, some I think lifted from other sources. The gold in the steam-engine - wasn't that a story by Kipling? (Notice how the runaway engine is mirrored by the runaway piano in the saloon where the posh people have taken refuge.) And the "fake" pearls are definitely Somerset Maugham - they turn up again in a film that's a compendium of his short stories. I love Jean Harlow, and she only betrays Gable because she thinks she's lost him. Surely she redeems herself and switches sides again. (And was her real-life husband murdered? His motiveless "suicide" is one of those Hollywood mysteries that have a hundred solutions.) Harlow died tragically young of untreated kidney disease - her mother was a Christian scientist. Or is that another legend?

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Harlow, magnificent idiot

7/10
Author: Tashtago from Vancouver, Canada
17 July 2008

A pretty good movie with an excellent cast and some decent special effects. Gable is at his best and the same can be said for Beery , Sir C. and Harlow. I haven't seen many Harlow films but I'm assuming that her stock character is the one she portrays here , a sort of bad girl with a heart of gold, a lovable moron who speaks first and thinks later. The kind of woman who (if she were your wife/girlfriend) would ruin a party and make a big scene if she became jealous. In other words the kind of woman most men might stupidly have casual sex with and then realizing what an idiot they were saddled with, run away from as fast as they could. I'm guessing many depression era women could identify with her low class stubborn pride but now she seems like an annoying , shrill, infantile idiot constantly seeking approval. As a portrait of this kind of woman , Harlow is magnificent. You might want to strangle her or throw her overboard but she's always watchable, the bra less gowns help.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Jean & Clark hit the high seas

8/10
Author: jjnxn-1 from United States
5 May 2013

Rollicking fun with the MGM sheen at its height. Jean and Gable were always a great match and they continue here as a doxy and a ship's captain. The script is serviceable enough to not stretch belief too far, what is more fantastic is that Jean would be traveling on a China tug in white satin no matter how striking it is, same goes for Clark in his white captain uniform but that's Metro for you. This is the last of Jean's true brassy platinum blonde roles. For the short time she had left in her regrettably too brief career she softened her look and her roles were heading to the more ladylike end of the spectrum, for instance Wife vs. Secretary. Rosalind Russell is just starting out here too stuck in one of what she referred to as her Lady Mary roles, full of good diction and the graaaand manner her great flair for comedy wouldn't be tapped for several years, she's fine but knowing what she's capable of she feels constrained. The rest of the cast is terrific with Wally Beery and Robert Benchley standing out in full bodied characterizations. Keep in mind that this was made in the 30's so racism and sexism are on full display in a very casual way.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Thrills and romance on the China Sea.

6/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
9 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film has some good things going for it. First, a cast of MGM's finest -- Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery, Rosalind Russel, Robert Benchley, among others. Gable is the skipper of a somewhat battered passenger liner in Asiatic waters. Harlow is the girl he's been associated with, so to speak, a little "tainted", as Gable puts it. But who the hell is HE to talk? He comes aboard just before sailing, filthy and unshaven, hung over. He barks out orders to the crew and to just about everyone else. Rosalind Russel is an old flame from London and her husband has died so she is now "available." Wallace Beery is a likable big lug who gambles and drinks but is in cahoots with some pirates who take over the ship, just after the big hurricane hits. Benchley is thrown in as a harmless drunk given to wisecracks and non sequiturs, only one of which (about his being a chess master) is truly funny.

Second, there is the set dressing by Cedric Gibbons. Love it. Everything is painted white. The crummy little ship has a saloon the size of Madison Square Garden. This is one of those films in which all the men dress in white suits and wear pith helmets. The women's garb is more nearly traditional. Rosalind Russell has an English accent and an equally hoity-toity wardrobe. Harlow is dressed in slinky gowns that seem to glow in the dark and she eschews brassieres.

There are some slam-bang special effects during the hurricane. And a great scene in which the Malay pirates take over the ship and torture Gable to get him to squeal about where the gold is hidden. "Oh, NO! Not the Malay BOOT! Tell them where the gold is. I can't stand to witness this!" (That's Wallace Beery, who hasn't been outed as a traitor yet, in mock anguish over the torture Gable is about to undergo.) It seems that we're all set up for another rousing, funny, exotic adventure movie along the lines of "Gunga Din," except that the script keeps undercutting the light-heartedness with serious, sometimes rather insightful dialog. Example: Harlow is jealous of Russell and, at the captain's dinner table, she has a couple of drinks and starts shouting lewd and suggestive remarks. Russell: "You must be very fond of him." Harlow: "Whaddaya mean?" Russell: "To humiliate yourself like this." There are a lot of ways Russell's punch line could have been delivered -- angrily, with bitchiness, for instance, but Russell's tone and expression convey empathy and sadness. Gable too is given some sober, thoughtful exchanges but acts as if he can't quite bring himself to believe what he's saying, as if he'd prefer the careless, rough-hewn character that first appeared on the screen, kind of like his character in "Red Dust." It's an above average flick for its genre though. All that whiteness is almost blinding.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A really enjoyable film hindered by an ending that just made no sense!

7/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
9 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first 95% or more of the film was quite enjoyable and this is no surprise considering the talent MGM assembled for the film. Three of its biggest money-making stars (Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Wallace Beery) were featured in this film, along with other notables such as Lewis Stone and Rosalind Russell. The plot is all about a cargo/passenger ship commanded by Clark in the China Seas--which is an area infested with pirates. Beery is one of the passengers but unknown to everyone, he's also the leader of the pirates!! Harlow is Clark's ex-girlfriend. Just how close she and Clark were is a bit vague, though it is implied they were more than just boyfriend/girlfriend. However, an old flame, Russell, comes aboard and Clark quickly dumps Harlow in favor of her because Russell isn't a loud-mouthed skank--plus she is pretty sophisticated with her British accent. Here is an odd bit of casting, because we then hear that Clark, too, is British, but he made no attempt at an accent and sounded about as British as the Frito Bandito or Yogi Berra!! But, despite this, the writing is pretty good and the acting top-notch, so it can easily be ignored.

Unfortunately, what cannot be ignored is the end of the film. It just made absolutely no sense at all. While Harlow was a foul-mouthed tramp who actually HELPED the pirates, Clark unexpectedly dumps Russell at the end even though she's a stand-up dame (great lingo, huh?)! It seems that the ONLY reason they ended the film that way was because Harlow was by far a bigger star compared to Russell and they just couldn't let Clark end the film without Harlow. Plus, in so many, many, many ways, this film is RED DUST, PART II. Both feature the pair in Southeast Asia, both had a back story where Gable and Harlow were strongly implied to be more than just "friends" and both had Gable fall for a sophisticated lady yet end up with Harlow in the end of the film!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Red Dust meets Grand Hotel

8/10
Author: robertguttman from Tappan, New York
14 November 2012

China Seas is a sort of follow-up to Red Dust, with the addition of the sort of all-star cast pioneered in Grand Hotel, only set on board a passenger ship instead of in a hotel. As in Red Dust, the central plot element involves a triangle featuring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. However, this time the hypotenuse is occupied by Rosalind Russel rather than Mary Astor.

By the time China Seas was produced the infamous Hayes Office was already busily enforcing standards of decency in the film industry. Consequently, the action is a good deal less steamy than in Red Dust. Nevertheless, the Gable-Harlow chemistry is still very much in evidence, even if their byplay has been somewhat toned-down.

Another major element of the plot involves piracy against modern (1930s) shipping in the Far East. Some viewers might find that notion a bit far-fetched. However, it is far less absurd than one might think. In fact, it is still going on today (2012)!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Typhoon and pirates in the high seas

7/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
30 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Capt. Gaskell shows up a bit drunk in Hong Kong's harbor for his trip to Singapore. He will be taking a cargo that includes heavy equipment and gold. An assortment of passengers are on board for the voyage, among them, China Doll, the former girlfriend of the captain, and and old flame, Sybil traveling to England.

China Doll, still in love with Gaskell, cannot hide her disappointment when the captain clearly shows a preference for the more refined Sybil. Jamesy MacArdle has no problems getting closer to China Doll; after all, he has his own personal agenda and she will be perfect for what he is trying to accomplish.

What the passengers, and crew, do not count on, is the typhoon they encounter as they get midway into the voyage. The rough seas almost wreck the ship. Some lower deck passengers, poor Chinese mainly, are killed when the heavy machinery break loose from the chains that are holding them tied firmly.

Jamesy MacArdle whose plan is to steal the gold, has been working with Malay pirates that board the ship and want to get the treasure. Jamesy persuades China Doll to steal a key from Gaskell, giving the pirates access to the firearms they carry in the ship for protection. The disgraced Davids, having been blamed for the poor handling of the typhoon rises to the occasion, saving the ship by repelling the invaders.

"China Seas", directed by Tay Garnett was an ambitious MGM production that offered a great spectacle that involved adventure and romance. With the studio resources the film must have been impressive, even in those days without the computerized special effects. Mr. Garnett showed he had an eye for the genre as he balances the action into a film that is enjoyable because all the elements worked they way he intended.

The dashing Clark Gable makes an excellent Capt. Gaskell. He showed why his screen chemistry with his co-star, Jean Harlow. They went to play opposite each other a few more times until her untimely death. Wallace Beery shows up as MacArdle, the schemer looking to steal the fortune stored in the ship. Rosalind Russell plays the sophisticated Sybil, and Lewis Stone appears as Davids. The beauty of the films from this era was the magnificent supporting casts that were put together, as is the case with this film.

The DVD we watched recently seems to have been lovingly restored.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Rough Seas - With Terrifying Scene

9/10
Author: wolfen244 from United States
9 June 2014

Aside from being a fine movie with a nice plot with plenty of intrigue and tension, this movie - and I've seen 'em all - had the single MOST terrifying scene I'd EVER seen in any movie bar NONE!! If you see it at around 50 minutes into it, it seems to last forever. For the life of me I really don't have a clue how they filmed this one. Don't forget this isn't CGI. Take your sea sick pills and fasten your seat belts for this one!!!!!

Gable, Harlow, Russell & Beery - along with the great Hattie McDaniel in a small role. And a great cast make this one a serious winner.

The 2 other "cast" members are a baby grand piano and a steam roller. Trust me.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Red Dust and Mogambo waterlogged

7/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
21 March 2009

A good cast and lots of action highlight "China Seas," a 1935 film directed by Tay Garnett and starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery and Rosalind Russell. Gable plays Alan Gaskell who is captain of a ship sailing from Hong Kong to Singapore. He's in love with the refined Sybil Thorndike (Russell) and attempting to reform his some of his bad habits. He has a constant reminder of his former life, however, and that's his old girlfriend Dolly (Harlow) who wants him back. When the ship is hijacked by pirates looking for gold, Gaskell wonders how much Dolly and her drinking buddy, MacArdle, were involved.

Gable and Harlow worked extremely well together and give good performances here, and there's a lot happening - a typhoon and the pirate attack - which make for good adventure.

Derivative but very enjoyable.

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***1/2

9/10
Author: edwagreen from United States
24 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jean Harlow steals the film as a fast talking, brassy blond up to no good with being in cahoots with Wallace Beery, the latter bringing pirates on board to lift a case of gold from the ship.

As if this isn't enough, the passengers had to endure a major typhoon knocking everything around and causing near mayhem.

Clark Gable is the captain of the ship. With a gruff exterior, but a kindness only made by him, he is endearing here. Rosalind Russell, a widow, is on board with her wonderful English accent to woo Gable.

The scenes with the typhoon raging are marvelously staged and Beery is his usual no nonsense character wonderfully matched by Harlow's fast way of living.

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