8 user 6 critic

China Doll (1958)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, War | 3 December 1958 (USA)
American pilot Cliff Brandon, fighting the Japanese in China, finds himself the unintentional "owner" of a Chinese housekeeper, Shu-Jen. The unlikely couple falls in love and marries, but not without tragedy brought on by the war.


Frank Borzage


Kitty Buhler (screenplay), James Benson Nablo (story) | 1 more credit »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Victor Mature ... Capt. Cliff Brandon
Li Hua Li ... Shu-Jen
Ward Bond ... Father Cairns
Bob Mathias ... Capt. Phil Gates
Johnny Desmond ... Sgt. Steve Hill
Stuart Whitman ... Lt. Dan O'Neill
Elaine Devry ... Alice Nichols (as Elaine Curtis)
Ann McCrea Ann McCrea ... Mona Perkins
Danny Chang Danny Chang ... Ellington
Denver Pyle ... Col. Wiley
Don 'Red' Barry ... MSgt. Hal Foster (as Donald Barry)
Tige Andrews ... Cpl. Carlo Menotti
Steve Mitchell Steve Mitchell ... Dave Reisner
Ken Perry Ken Perry ... Sgt. Ernie Fleming
Ann Paige Ann Paige ... Sally


In China gruff Air Force captain Cliff Brandon wakes up after a night of drinking to discover he has purchased the housekeeping services of comely, young Shu-Jen from her father. Disappointed by Cliff's insistence on staying out late in bars, Shu-Jen leaves for home when Cliff, made aware that she is carrying her child, finds her and marries her in a delightful traditional Chinese ceremony. Happy days are spent as Shu-Jen and her infant daughter join Cliff at a forward base until Cliff, returning from a supply-drop mission, hears the base is under attack by Japanese bombers. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

pilot | chess | brandy | china | captain | See All (24) »


From Kunming to Calcutta ... from the Himalayas to hell ... it splits the China skies with its thunder ! See more »


Drama | Romance | War


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Victor Mature's salary was $125,000. See more »


China Burma India (CBI) patch is on the wrong sleeve for a few of the actors - should always be on the left sleeve. See more »


Referenced in The Way We Live (1959) See more »


Words and Music by 'By' Dunham (as By Dunham) and Henry Vars
See more »

User Reviews

Very Flawed
12 May 2004 | by KalamanSee all my reviews

"China Doll" is highly flawed Borzage romantic melodrama set in China in the 50s. It stars Victor Mature as an American pilot Cliff Brandon taking part in a war against the Japanese. He falls in love and marries a Chinese housekeeper Shu-Jen, played by Li Li Hua. The continuing exploration of love transcending everything - race, religion, war, death - is competently stated. The film is also very poignant in some passages, as is most of Borzage. However, if you look at it closely, it doesn't really jell.

The expert Borzage scholar John Belton, whom I owe a lot in my understanding of Borzage, ranks "China Doll" with the director's other melodramas - "7th Seventh", "A Farewell to Arms", "Man's Castle", "The Mortal Storm", "Three Comrades", "Till We Meet Again". Belton notes that all these works "contain hostile backgrounds which Borzage's fragile characters ultimately surpass."

But I find "China Doll" significantly problematic and less memorable than those films. I get the feeling that something is missing; much of it is characterized by an air of aimlessness or uncertainty. I didn't get that haunting spark that underlies the luminous lovers in much of Borzage's best work.

There is an apparent misalliance between Mature and Li Li Hua. I find Mature's character to be stiff, callow and frail. His careless demeanor does not contrast well with Hua's innocence or devotion. And ultimately (and regrettably) "China Doll" falls very short of greatness.

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English | Chinese

Release Date:

3 December 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Frank Borzage's China Doll See more »

Filming Locations:

Saugus, California, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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