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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 »


Mervyn LeRoy


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




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


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


THE NOVEL THAT HYPNOTIZED A MILLION READERS (Print Ad- Leader-Post, ((Regina, Sask.)) 2 August 1935) See more »




Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Bess Flowers, Samuel S. Hinds and Cyril Ring are listed as cast members in the AFI Catalog but are not seen here. See more »


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


Referenced in Things You Never See on the Screen (1935) See more »


Chinatown, My Chinatown
(1910) (uncredited)
Music by Jean Schwartz
Whistled by Pat O'Brien
See more »

User Reviews

Fine Drama Of Corporate Soullessness
15 December 2000 | by Ron OliverSee all my reviews

An earnest fellow struggles in the Orient for years as the employee of a huge corporation, trying to provide OIL FOR THE LAMPS OF CHINA. Never faltering in his devotion, even at the expense of family & friends, he is repeatedly mistreated or ignored by The Company...

This intriguing film, based on the best-selling novel by Alice Tisdale Hobart, shows the eternal struggle between the Cog & the Wheel, the little man and the giant corporation. In this case, The Company is the epitome of every heartless bureaucracy, commercial or political, which controls the lives of its workers, demands unswerving obedience, and offers very little in return.

The cast all do very well in their roles: Pat O'Brien, constantly called on to choose between The Company and his family; Josephine Hutchinson as his wife, who must become a tower of strength while blaming The Company for the death of her son; Lyle Talbot, John Eldredge, Henry O'Neill, William B. Davidson & George Meeker, as various Company functionaries & executives, who move through their lives for good or ill; and Jean Muir, as a young Company wife driven near to desperation.

Christian Rub as an old doctor & Keye Luke as a young Communist officer both standout in key roles. Willie Fung, who appeared uncredited numerous times in tiny bit parts during Hollywood's Golden Age, here receives proper recognition in what was probably his finest performance, that of O'Brien's servant.

Special nods should go to Arthur Byron & dour Donald Crisp, wonderful in small roles as bosses who make the ultimate sacrifice for The Company.

Warners didn't stint on producing fine atmospherics for this film. The Chinese scenes are especially well mounted.

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Release Date:

8 June 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Oil for the Lamps of China See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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