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The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1932)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, War | 6 January 1933 (USA)
A Chinese warlord and an engaged Christian missionary fall in love.


Frank Capra (as Frank R. Capra)


Grace Zaring Stone (from the story by), Edward E. Paramore Jr. (screen play) (as Edward Paramore)




Complete credited cast:
Barbara Stanwyck ... Megan
Nils Asther ... General Yen
Toshia Mori ... Mah-Li
Walter Connolly ... Jones
Gavin Gordon ... Bob
Lucien Littlefield ... Mr. Jackson
Richard Loo ... Capt. Li
Helen Jerome Eddy ... Miss Reed
Emmett Corrigan ... Bishop Harkness


The American missionary Megan Davis arrives in Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War to marry the missionary Dr. Robert Strife. However, Robert postpones their wedding to rescue some orphans in an orphanage in Chapei section that is burning in the middle of a battlefield. While returning to Shanghai with the children, they are separated in the crowd, Megan is hit in the head and knocked out, but is saved by General Yen and brought by train to his palace. As the days go by, the General's mistress Mah-Li becomes close to Megan and when she is accused of betrayal for giving classified information to the enemies, Megan asks for her life. The cruel General Yen falls in love for the naive and pure Megan and accepts her request to spare the life of Mah-Li against the will of his financial advisor Jones. Meanwhile Megan feels attracted by the powerful and gentle General Yen, but resists to his flirtation. When Mah-Li betrays General Yen and destroys his empire, Megan realizes that to be able ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They found a love they dared not touch! See more »


Drama | Romance | War


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The production schedule included 14 days of night shoots. Nils Asther and Barbara Stanwyck had trouble adjusting to the schedule, but Walter Connolly, who was an habitual night-owl, had no trouble at all. See more »


Jones: Well, Miss Davis, you certainly gummed up the prettiest set-up I ever saw. I had visions of making General Yen the biggest thing in China, but you sure queered that beautifully. I hate your insides, Miss Davis, but you're an American and we've got to stick together now.
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Featured in The Lady with the Torch (1999) See more »


Onward Christian Soldiers
(1871) (uncredited)
Music from "St. Gertrude" by Arthur Sullivan (1871)
Lyrics by Sabine Baring-Gould (1865)
Sung by an unidentified quartet at the wedding
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User Reviews

Triumph For Nils Asther
10 June 2013 | by GManfredSee all my reviews

This picture is on TV pretty often, so often that I usually miss it. The title sounds uninviting, like a dull movie about a tea plantation. Then I saw it on a big screen last month at a film festival and I was astonished. I was especially astonished by Nils Asther's portrayal of the General, and I'm not sure I've seen him in anything else. It was a hypnotic performance, as good a job of acting as has ever been put on the Silver Screen. The film was early Stanwyck but she was as good as ever and, coupled with Asther, they worked magic.

The picture has been reviewed about 50 times now and everyone recaps the plot. It's enough to say it is possibly Capra's best effort. I thought the pace of the film compared to "Lost Horizon", the action and energy of the opening scenes and then the placid unfolding of the main story, which in both cases turns out to be a love story - and then the knockout ending. Also noteworthy are the spectacular sets and the shimmering, immaculate photography. I saw it at Cinevent, Columbus, O., 5/13.

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English | Mandarin | French

Release Date:

6 January 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Bitter Tea of General Yen See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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