Oil for the Lamps of China (1935)

Approved  |   |  Drama  |  8 June 1935 (USA)
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An American, working for his oil company in China, disregards all but the company's interests. " The characters and the institution portrayed in the story are not actual but the product of ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Josephine Hutchinson ...
Jean Muir ...
Arthur Byron ...
No. 1 Boss
John Eldredge ...
Mr. McCarger
Willie Fung ...
Tetsu Komai ...
Henry O'Neill ...
Edward Hartford
Ronnie Cosby ...
Bunsy Wellman
William B. Davidson ...
E.H. Swaley (as William Davidson)
George Meeker ...
Bill Kendall
Joseph Crehan ...
Christian Rub ...
Dr. Jorgen


An American, working for his oil company in China, disregards all but the company's interests. " The characters and the institution portrayed in the story are not actual but the product of fiction. The oil business was chosen because light has ever been symbolic of progress." Written by Michael Crew <m.crew@bbcnc.org.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A courageous young American and his bride --- fighting for happiness against ten centuries of darkness --- caught in a maelstrom of mystery, glamor, hatred, intrigue! See more »








Release Date:

8 June 1935 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Foties stin Kina  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Suey Long Wong took two weeks off from his day job as Laird Doyle's live-in cook to appear in this film. See more »


Hester Adams Chase: Two things matter to a man, the woman he loves and the work he does.
See more »


Referenced in Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935) See more »


Chinatown, My Chinatown
(1910) (uncredited)
Music by Jean Schwartz
Whistled by Pat O'Brien
See more »

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User Reviews

bizarre by today's standards
16 December 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Pat O'Brien stars with Josephine Hutchinson in "Oil for the Lamps of China," a 1935 film, directed by Mervyn LeRoy. O'Brien plays Stephen Chase, who is transferred to China by the oil company for whom he works. After a time, he arranges for his fiancé to meet him in Yokahama so they can be married, though the company frowns against marriage because "women can't handle it" - meaning living in the Chinese outpost.

Unfortunately or fortunately, Stephen's bride-to-be leaves him standing at the altar, or the boat dock, anyway; he receives a telegram saying she changed her mind. He walks into a hotel bar and sees a woman (Josephine Hutchinson) sitting alone at a table. Her name is Hester. They talk for a few minutes. He learns that she was traveling with her father, who taught Chinese history but had never been to China. On the boat over, he died. Stephen invites her to dinner. He later explains that to return without a wife means that he will lose face and be considered a fool. He proposes, asking for nothing but companionship. She accepts.

Eventually they fall in love, and in many ways, Hester is the best thing that has ever happened to him. She's certainly a lot better than the company he deifies, which causes him both personal and professional losses after he makes great sacrifices in order to do right by them.

The film seems to be making the statement that no sacrifice on behalf of "the company" is too great. Seeing the way a lot of companies act today, and the way "the company" behaved in this film, I wouldn't say that's the way to go.

The original book, by Alice Tisdale Hobart, apparently concentrates on the romance in the exotic locale of China. I wish the film version had done the same, casting a romantic leading man like Errol Flynn, perhaps. As it stands, it doesn't hold up well today. Josephine Hutchinson was an interesting actress and it was good to see her. Pat O'Brien, usually likable, remains likable here but also a bit of a fool given his devotion to the company.

Just okay.

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