The Sand Pebbles (1966)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Drama, Romance  |  20 December 1966 (USA)
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Reviews: 100 user | 31 critic

Engineer Jake Holman arrives aboard the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo, assigned to patrol a tributary of the Yangtze in the middle of exploited and revolution-torn 1926 China. His iconoclasm and... See full summary »



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Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Emmanuelle Arsan ...
Maily (as Marayat Andriane)
Larry Gates ...
Charles Robinson ...
Ensign Bordelles
Ford Rainey ...
Joe Di Reda ...
Shanahan (as Joseph di Reda)
Richard Loo ...
Major Chin


Engineer Jake Holman arrives aboard the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo, assigned to patrol a tributary of the Yangtze in the middle of exploited and revolution-torn 1926 China. His iconoclasm and cynical nature soon clash with the "rice-bowl" system which runs the ship and the uneasy symbiosis between Chinese and foreigner on the river. Hostility towards the gunboat's presence reaches a climax when the boat must crash through a river-boom and rescue missionaries upriver at China Light Mission. Written by Martin H. Booda <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


THE STORY OF who disturbed the sleeping dragon of China as the world watched in terror! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

20 December 1966 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El Yang-Tsé en llamas  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (BBFC submission before censorship) | (roadshow)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System)| (35 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film's opening prologue states: "CHINA 1926 . . . Ravaged from within by corrupt warlords . . . oppressed from without by the great world powers who had beaten China to her knees a century before . . . China . . . a country of factions trying to unite to become a nation . . . through revolution . . . " See more »


During one of the scenes where the San Pablo is in danger of being boarded by hostile Chinese, the crewmen are issued Springfield rifles. But they are not given any ammunition belts. Even if the rifles were loaded, which they would not normally be while in storage, they would hold only five cartridges (six with a round in the chamber). Such a limited supply of ammo would not have been enough to turn back the large number of Chinese if they had attempted to board the ship. See more »


Frenchy Burgoyne: If they obey orders then the Navy takes care of them. It's a way of life that appeals to a certain kind of man.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is a credit for 'Diversions by Irving Schwartz' in tribute to a mysterious, unknown correspondent whose letters proved a morale booster to cast and crew during trying location work in Hong Kong and Taiwan. See more »


Referenced in Nostalgia Critic: The Haunting (2011) See more »


Sleepy Time Gal
Music by Richard A. Whiting and Ange Lorenzo
Lyrics by Ray Egan and Joseph R. Alden
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Throughly enjoyable.
28 March 2003 | by (Philadelphia) – See all my reviews

"The Sand Pebbles" was a throughly enjoyable movie. The setting was exotic and the story engaging. Though it starred Steve McQueen, who did an excellent job, its strength was the ensemble acting with a very talented cast including Richard Crenna, Richard Attenborough, Mako and Candice Bergen. The story was nicely involved and, though it portrayed the sailor's prejudices, did not feel condescending toward the Chinese as many war-type movies do. The men were caught up in the turbulent times and many of the conflicts portrayed seem to come more from troubled psyches. It is not Ramboish macho crap. I found the portrayals of the people and times entertaining. I had read the book so maybe I read more into the movie than others seeing it cold. It was a very good movie and well worth a watch.

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