Socially-conscious banker Thomas Dickson faces a crisis when his protégé is wrongly accused for robbing the bank, gossip of the robbery starts a bank run, and evidence suggests Dickson's wife had an affair...all in the same day.
A simple, small town man inherits a massive fortune, making him the target for scammers and publicity-seekers. Overwhelmed by the turn his life has taken, and awoken to another use for his new-found fortune, he makes a momentous decision.
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
I was greatly relieved tonight when I heard there was another American in this strange place.
Well, thank you for the compliment, but, I guess I'm what's known in the dime novels as a renegade. And a darn good one at that. I don't think I'd be much of a relief to anybody.
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A year before his major breakthrough film It Happened One Night director Frank Capra made this romantic tragedy that is filled with provocative topic and outstanding set design sensually photographed by master cinematographer Joseph Walker.
Megan Davis (Barbara Stanwyck) arrives in China in the middle of a civil war to marry her missionary husband Dr. Robert Strike and then work alongside him. Before they even marry they are separated during an evacuation and Davis finds herself in the hands of warlord General Yen (Nils Asther) . Yen at first mocks Davis but soon finds himself falling heavily for her.
The Bitter Tea of General Yen is filled with characters making bad decisions. Davis and Strike are nearly killed due to their naive condescension and trusting Megan is betrayed twice by her maid with huge consequence. General Yen cold and cruel as he may be also succumbs in his case to incurable romanticism. Only Jones (Walter Connolly) the arms dealer is grounded in reality to the dire situation that faces them.
Director Capra ably provides scenes of both chaos ( refugee evacuations, night battles ) and tranquility in the idyllic setting of Yen's compound palace where the General sets about seducing Megan with delicate charm while firing squads outside in the courtyard dispatch his enemy. Capra also finds time to get some satiric shots in at Western superiority and hypocrisy but it is the sexual tension between the leads that is at the center of Yen.
Megan's ambiguity is excellently conveyed by Stanwyck's actions and immature responses to the different world she finds herself. She's totally out of her element and her western ways are constantly checkmated by Yen. As Yen, Nils Asther cuts a dashing figure as the highly cultured warlord. He's cruel by occupation but sensitive in nature, especially around women as Jones informs us and it ultimately brings about his ruin. His scenes with Stanwyck resonate with cultural clash and erotic implication and Capra ups the ante even further with a Freudian dream that Megan has.
Capra went on to make more famous and bigger films but he would never approach the eroticism or cynicism that this provocative thirties work offered causing me to wonder if success took some of the edge out of him..
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