7.7/10
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105 user 23 critic

The Sand Pebbles (1966)

In 1926, an US naval engineer gets assigned to a gunboat on a rescue mission in war-torn China.

Director:

Robert Wise

Writers:

Richard McKenna (novel), Robert Anderson (screenplay)
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Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve McQueen ... Jake Holman
Richard Attenborough ... Frenchy Burgoyne
Richard Crenna ... Captain Collins
Candice Bergen ... Shirley Eckert
Emmanuelle Arsan ... Maily (as Marayat Andriane)
Mako ... Po-han
Larry Gates ... Jameson
Charles Robinson Charles Robinson ... Ensign Bordelles
Simon Oakland ... Stawski
Ford Rainey ... Harris
Joe Turkel ... Bronson
Gavin MacLeod ... Crosley
Joe Di Reda Joe Di Reda ... Shanahan (as Joseph di Reda)
Richard Loo ... Major Chin
Barney Phillips ... Franks
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Storyline

Engineer Jake Holman arrives aboard the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo, assigned to patrol a tributary of the Yangtze in the middle of exploited and revolution-torn 1926 China. His iconoclasm and cynical nature soon clash with the "rice-bowl" system which runs the ship and the uneasy symbiosis between Chinese and foreigner on the river. Hostility towards the gunboat's presence reaches a climax when the boat must crash through a river-boom and rescue missionaries upriver at China Light Mission. Written by Martin H. Booda <booda@datasync.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

This is the heroic story of the men on the U.S.S. San Pablo who disturbed the sleeping dragon of savage China as the threatened world watched in breathless terror See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for violence and sexual material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Mandarin

Release Date:

20 December 1966 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El Yang-Tsé en llamas See more »

Filming Locations:

Taipei City, Taiwan See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$30,017,647, 31 January 1968
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (BBFC submission before censorship) | (roadshow)

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System)| Mono (35 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System)| 4-Track Stereo

Color:

Color (Color by Deluxe)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Julie Christie turned down the role of Shirley Eckert. See more »

Goofs

During the battle scene at the blockade, Holman is send forward on the port (left) side with two men manning a BAR position. When the main battery on San Pablo fires and hits the mast of a junk, a group of men back aft near midships who are part of the boarding party are seen laughing, Holman being one of them. See more »

Quotes

Jameson: If they obey orders then the Navy takes care of them. It's a way of life that appeals to a certain kind of man.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is a credit for 'Diversions by Irving Schwartz' in tribute to a mysterious, unknown correspondent whose letters proved a morale booster to cast and crew during trying location work in Hong Kong and Taiwan. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Nostalgia Chick: The Worst Witch (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Sleepy Time Gal
(uncredited)
Music by Richard A. Whiting and Ange Lorenzo
Lyrics by Ray Egan and Joseph R. Alden
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Steve McQueen's best performance.
18 October 2001 | by jckruizeSee all my reviews

Steve McQueen felt an affinity for this role like few others in his career.

In this compelling war drama set in China in 1926, he plays American sailor Jake Holman, a man who's bonded to machinery more than people yet is imbued with a powerful sense of right and wrong. It's a part that plays perfectly to McQueen's strengths as an actor and his lifelong quest to hone performance into character, while jettisoning all but essential dialogue. All his emoting comes subtly: slight shifts of gaze; the way he cocks his head to listen; his complete stillness before action. In 1966 it also brought him his only Academy Award nomination, for Best Actor (but won that year by Paul Scofield for "A Man For All Seasons").

Scripter Robert Anderson had a tough job distilling Richard McKenna's sprawling novel of U.S. Navy gunboat 'San Pablo' (hence her sailors called themselves 'Sand Pebbles') at the start of the revolution that would tear China asunder and ultimately transform it into the post-WWII behemoth we know today. Luckily he and director Robert Wise knew to keep the plot's underpinnings solidly on the central irony of McKenna's story: that it is Jake's very alienation from his fellows that leads him inevitably to sacrifice and redemption. The ending is shocking and powerful; a reminder of better, more mature days in American film.

Wise directed on locations in Hong Kong and Taiwan with his customary mastery of both intense personal confrontation and epic sweep. In excellent support are Richard Attenborough, Richard Crenna and Mako. The film also features one of Jerry Goldsmith's most memorable scores.

I must again mention McKenna's novel. It is superb; sadly, the only full-length work he finished before his untimely death. It may be out of print but is well worth an online used book search.


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