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The Sand Pebbles
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The Sand Pebbles (1966) More at IMDbPro »

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The Sand Pebbles -- 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.


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Up 35% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Richard McKenna (novel)
Robert Anderson (screenplay)
View company contact information for The Sand Pebbles on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
20 December 1966 (USA) See more »
THE STORY OF who disturbed the sleeping dragon of China as the world watched in terror! See more »
Engineer Jake Holman arrives aboard the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo, assigned to patrol a tributary of... See more » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 10 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Steve McQueen's best performance. See more (100 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Steve McQueen ... Jake Holman

Candice Bergen ... Shirley Eckert

Richard Attenborough ... Frenchy Burgoyne

Richard Crenna ... Captain Collins
Emmanuelle Arsan ... Maily (as Marayat Andriane)

Mako ... Po-han
Larry Gates ... Jameson
Charles Robinson ... Ensign Bordelles

Simon Oakland ... Stawski
Ford Rainey ... Harris

Joe Turkel ... Bronson

Gavin MacLeod ... Crosley
Joe Di Reda ... Shanahan (as Joseph di Reda)
Richard Loo ... Major Chin

Barney Phillips ... Franks

Gus Trikonis ... Restorff
Shepherd Sanders ... Perna
James Jeter ... Farren
Tom Middleton ... Jennings
Paul Chun ... Cho-jen (as Paul Chinpae)
Tommy Lee ... Chien
Beulah Quo ... Mama Chunk

James Hong ... Victor Shu
Stephen Jahn ... Haythorn
Alan Hopkins ... Wilsey (as Jay Allan Hopkins)
Stephen Ferry ... Lamb (as Steve Ferry)
Ted Fish ... Wellbeck

Loren Janes ... Coleman
Glenn R. Wilder ... Waldron (as Glenn Wilder)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Frank Coghlan Jr. ... Bald bespectacled man at Red Kettle Bar (uncredited)
Larry Duran ... Brawler at Red Kettle Bar (uncredited)

Robert Kelly-Schleyer ... Bosun's Mate (uncredited)
Jon Lormer ... Hamilton (uncredited)
Gil Perkins ... Customer at Red Kettle Bar (uncredited)
Walter Reed ... Bidder at Red Kettle Bar (uncredited)
Henry Wang ... Lop-eye Shing (uncredited)
Ben Wright ... Englishman (uncredited)

Directed by
Robert Wise 
Writing credits
Richard McKenna (novel)

Robert Anderson (screenplay)

Produced by
Charles H. Maguire .... associate producer (as Charles Maguire)
Robert Wise .... producer
Original Music by
Jerry Goldsmith 
Cinematography by
Joseph MacDonald 
Film Editing by
William Reynolds 
Production Design by
Boris Leven 
Set Decoration by
William Kiernan 
Walter M. Scott 
John Sturtevant 
Costume Design by
Renié  (as Renie)
Makeup Department
Del Acevedo .... makeup artist
Margaret Donovan .... hair stylist
Ben Nye .... makeup artist
William Turner .... makeup artist (as Bill Turner)
Sharleen Rassi .... hair stylist (uncredited)
Jay Sebring .... hair designer: Steve McQueen (uncredited)
Production Management
Saul Wurtzel .... unit production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Ridgeway Callow .... assistant director
Charles H. Maguire .... second unit director (as Charles Maguire)
Robert F. Liu .... first assistant director (uncredited)
Art Department
Herbert Cheek .... location construction supervisor
Tom Jung .... graphic designer (uncredited)
Dong Kingman .... watercolor artist (uncredited)
Dennis J. Parrish .... assistant property master (uncredited)
Sound Department
Bernard Freericks .... sound
Murray Spivack .... sound
Douglas O. Williams .... sound
Special Effects by
Gerald Endler .... special effects (as Jerry Endler)
Visual Effects by
L.B. Abbott .... special photographic effects
Travis Dutch .... digital restoration scanning (restored version)
Emil Kosa Jr. .... special photographic effects
Larry Duran .... stunts (uncredited)
Loren Janes .... stunt double: Steve McQueen (uncredited)
Loren Janes .... stunts (uncredited)
Gil Perkins .... stunts (uncredited)
Bill Saito .... stunts (uncredited)
Glenn R. Wilder .... stunts (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Dick Johnson .... photographer: second unit (as Richard Johnson)
Thomas Del Ruth .... second assistant camera (uncredited)
Dave Friedman .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Clyde Taylor .... gaffer (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Ed Wynigear .... wardrobe
Editorial Department
David Bernstein .... colorist: digitally restored version (uncredited)
Music Department
Lionel Newman .... conductor
David Tamkin .... orchestrator
Arthur Morton .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Other crew
Harley Misiner .... technical advisor
Irving Schwartz .... diversions
Maurice Zuberano .... production associate
Alan Callow .... production assistant (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Rated PG-13 for violence and sexual material (re-rating) (2000)
182 min | UK:196 min (BBFC submission before censorship) | Sweden:193 min | USA:196 min (roadshow version)
Aspect Ratio:
2.20 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System) | Mono (35 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System)
Argentina:16 | Australia:PG | Brazil:14 | Canada:14A (video rating) | Finland:K-16 | Iceland:16 | Ireland:15 | Norway:16 | Norway:11 (DVD rating) (2006) | Portugal:M/12 | Singapore:PG | Sweden:15 | UK:A (original rating) (cut) | UK:12 (2007) | UK:15 (1988) | USA:Approved (certificate #21310) | USA:PG-13 (re-rating) (2000) | West Germany:16
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Director Robert Wise was so proud of this film that he held yearly parties with surviving cast members to celebrate it.See more »
Continuity: Upon seeing the boom in the river, the Captain (Richard Crenna) leans forward grabbing the forward handrail. In the next scene, he again leans forward grabbing the forward handrail.See more »
Captain Collins:Do you know what this is? Desertion in the face of the enemy.
Jake Holman:I don't got no more enemies. Shove off, Captain.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Monster Squad Forever! (2007) (V)See more »
Sleepy Time GalSee more »


What and why are they chanting?
See more »
37 out of 44 people found the following review useful.
Steve McQueen's best performance., 18 October 2001
Author: jckruize from North Hemis

Steve McQueen felt an affinity for this role like few others in his career.

In this compelling war drama set in China in 1926, he plays American sailor Jake Holman, a man who's bonded to machinery more than people yet is imbued with a powerful sense of right and wrong. It's a part that plays perfectly to McQueen's strengths as an actor and his lifelong quest to hone performance into character, while jettisoning all but essential dialogue. All his emoting comes subtly: slight shifts of gaze; the way he cocks his head to listen; his complete stillness before action. In 1966 it also brought him his only Academy Award nomination, for Best Actor (but won that year by Paul Scofield for "A Man For All Seasons").

Scripter Robert Anderson had a tough job distilling Richard McKenna's sprawling novel of U.S. Navy gunboat 'San Pablo' (hence her sailors called themselves 'Sand Pebbles') at the start of the revolution that would tear China asunder and ultimately transform it into the post-WWII behemoth we know today. Luckily he and director Robert Wise knew to keep the plot's underpinnings solidly on the central irony of McKenna's story: that it is Jake's very alienation from his fellows that leads him inevitably to sacrifice and redemption. The ending is shocking and powerful; a reminder of better, more mature days in American film.

Wise directed on locations in Hong Kong and Taiwan with his customary mastery of both intense personal confrontation and epic sweep. In excellent support are Richard Attenborough, Richard Crenna and Mako. The film also features one of Jerry Goldsmith's most memorable scores.

I must again mention McKenna's novel. It is superb; sadly, the only full-length work he finished before his untimely death. It may be out of print but is well worth an online used book search.

Was the above review useful to you?
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Where can I get this on DVD? wulff9
Did the navy issue... jakholman
Harris in the battle scene jakholman
Am I the only one to find it sooo boring? Epapadaki
a casting oddity coop-16
I can't stand people my age. huggin_possums
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