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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.

Director:

Frank Capra (as Frank R. Capra)

Writers:

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

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

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

Taglines:

The flaming drama of a forbidden love that wrecked an empire! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Mandarin | French

Release Date:

6 January 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La amargura del general Yen See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The character Jones, played by Walter Connolly, was original called Schulz in the novel by Grace Zaring Stone. See more »

Quotes

Megan Davis: I was greatly relieved tonight when I heard there was another American in this strange place.
Jones: 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.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The Lady with the Torch (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

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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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Bitter Tea sweet film making by Capra
4 July 2010 | by st-shotSee all my reviews

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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