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The Sand Pebbles (1966)

In 1926, a U.S. 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:

THE STORY OF MEN...men who disturbed the sleeping dragon of China as the world watched in 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

The engine used during the filming is now on display aboard the S.S. Lane Victory, an original World War II Victory ship currently on display at the Port of Los Angeles, next to the cruise ship lines. The engine is located below deck in a forward cargo hold. The S.S. Lane Victory is the only operational Victory ship in the world in its original configuration, and makes summer cruises from San Pedro to Catalina, complete with a staged aerial attack en route featuring the AT-6 Texans of the famed Condor Squadron of Van Nuys, California. See more »

Goofs

Upon seeing the boom in the river, the Captain (Richard Crenna) leans forward grabbing the forward handrail. In the next scene, he again leans forward grabbing the forward handrail. See more »

Quotes

Captain Collins: [addressing the assembled crew of the USS "San Pablo"] Today we begin cruising to show the flag on Tungting Lake and the Hunan Rivers. I want all honours rendered smartly. At home in America, when today reaches them, it'll be Flag Day. For us who wear the uniform, every day is Flag Day. It is said there will be no more wars. We must pretend to believe that. But when war comes, it is we who will take the first shock, and buy time with our lives. It is we who keep the faith. We serve the flag. The...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: SHANGHAI See more »

Alternate Versions

The original "roadshow" version ran 196 minutes; later cut to its present length (182 minutes) for its general release. The roadshow version was included in a 2007 special edition DVD release, which provided the first viewing of this version since the original 1966 release. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Hollywood Mouth 3 (2018) 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

 
Robert Wise's Masterpiece
7 May 2003 | by henri sauvageSee all my reviews

... and that's saying quite a bit, given his impressive filmography.

There are just a couple of points I'd like to add to the preceding commentary:

To really appreciate this movie, you must see it in letterbox, preferably on DVD. Joseph MacDonald's cinematography is breath-taking; you could take almost any individual frame of "The Sand Pebbles" and hang it on your wall as a work of art.

The second is that Wise himself (if you believe his commentary) wasn't trying to draw explicit parallels to Vietnam, where things did not begin to drastically escalate until near the end of filming for this movie. It's just that history has a sad habit of repeating itself.

If you get the DVD, listen to the commentary at least once: It's worth the time spent. Poor Candice Bergen: She comes across as simultaneously grateful for the opportunity to have worked on this film, and embarrassed that -- as a 19-year-old with little acting experience -- she didn't make a better job of it.

She should have credited Wise with seeing her possibilities a little better than she could. Bergen's gawky shyness is a pretty good fit with her role as a virginal, idealistic missionary newly arrived in China. Her often tentative body language works beautifully as a counterpoint to McQueen's assured and seemingly effortless performance, giving their doomed love affair great believability and poignancy.

This is an example of 60s' epic film-making at its best.


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