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Oil for the Lamps of China (1935)

Approved | | Drama | 8 June 1935 (USA)
An American, working for his oil company in China, disregards all but the company's interests. " The characters and the institution portrayed in the story are not actual but the product of ... See full summary »

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Writers:

Alice Tisdale Hobart (by), Laird Doyle (screen play)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Pat O'Brien ... Stephen Chase
Josephine Hutchinson ... Hester Adams
Jean Muir ... Alice
Lyle Talbot ... Jim
Arthur Byron ... No. 1 Boss
John Eldredge ... Don
Donald Crisp ... Mr. McCarger
Willie Fung ... Kin
Tetsu Komai Tetsu Komai ... Ho
Henry O'Neill ... Edward Hartford
Ronnie Cosby ... Bunsy Wellman
William B. Davidson ... E.H. Swaley (as William Davidson)
George Meeker ... Bill Kendall
Joseph Crehan ... Clements
Christian Rub ... Dr. Jorgen
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Storyline

An American, working for his oil company in China, disregards all but the company's interests. " The characters and the institution portrayed in the story are not actual but the product of fiction. The oil business was chosen because light has ever been symbolic of progress." Written by Michael Crew <m.crew@bbcnc.org.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The FLAMING HELL OF THE LAST FRONTIER (original print ad - mostly caps) See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 June 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A sárkány birodalma See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Suey Long Wong took two weeks off from his day job as Laird Doyle's live-in cook to appear in this film. See more »

Quotes

Hester Adams Chase: Two things matter to a man, the woman he loves and the work he does.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The China Hustle (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Don't Send My Boy to Harvard
(uncredited)
Composer unknown
Sung by Pat O'Brien
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Bizarre Fascinating Depressing
8 November 2013 | by utgard14See all my reviews

A lot of what you read about "Oil for the Lamps of China" focuses on the socialist, anti-big oil themes of the film's story. While this is a particularly fascinating aspect of the film, historically and philosophically, I can't help but feel the real crux of the story is much darker and more depressing. As a matter of fact, this is one of the most depressing films I've ever seen from the 1930's.

This movie tells the story of a man profoundly lacking in the slightest shred of dignity. A man who has no self-respect and allows himself to be abused and mistreated by the company he works for. He allows his very soul to be raped by this company. Why, the complete and total devotion he shows to this company surpasses the reasonable and enters the realm of psychosis.

This, to me, is why the movie is about more than just bashing the corporation and propping this guy up as some kind of hero through victimization. This man is no hero. He's pretty disgusting to me. He is complicit in many of the company's sins, as well as his own. He is the one who repeatedly chooses the company over his wife, his baby, his friends, his pride. This isn't some Steinbeck story about what a man will do to keep from starving. There is no indication Stephen Chase couldn't go back to the States and get another job. He refuses to do so. Refuses because he delusionally believes his job is a part of some greater calling and that there is some payoff at the end of all this. There could not be a reward to make it all worthwhile really. Any rational man or woman would know this. The film seems to say that it is Stephen's idealism that allows him to suffer and make others suffer. But I find that pretty hard to swallow. He doesn't just take it on the chin the whole time but he passes it on to those around him.

It's certainly a highly interesting character study, as well as all it has to say about corporations and business practices. But it's also pretty bleak and soul-crushing. The actors are all superb and the direction is fine. It's a film that gives you quite a bit to chew over but be prepared to not like the taste of everything you're chewing.


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