Friday, October 21, 2011

79. The Bitter Tea of General Yen

The Bitter Tea of General Yen

This was truly a great movie.  Finally, a movie set in China that isn't a propaganda film or just a backdrop for Marlene Dietrich's sexuality.  Granted, General Yen is really Swedish (which gives me uncomfortable flashbacks from Broken Blossoms) but everyone else was actually Chinese.  It this time period you have to take what you can get.

Barbara Stanwyck is captured by General Yen and she falls in love with him.  This movie is really well-acted; I knew Stanwyck would deliver but I thought the other actors would either pale in comparision or give an offensive performance.  The love story is unlike anything seen before.  Not only is it interracial (which was really shocking at the time) but it wasn't comedic, light, or unrealistic.  Not that the other movies we have been reviewing were frivolous, but this is really one of the first tragic love stories we have seen (if you don't count King Kong; I really don't).  General Yen was also a bad boy (he took it a bit too far at times) which was unusual considering the totally square protaganists as of late.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

The Chinese government was upset about the scene with the firing squad and the portrayal of the Chinese philosphy on life.  This did not result in any editing.

Nils Asther (General Yen) did not speak Mandarin.

The dream sequence reminded me of Nosferatu.

I may be wrong about this, but I think the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast was partly inspired by this.  If you watch this, can you comment on my theory?  This isn't at all a ploy to get people to actually comment on my blog.  Or is it?

Available on YouTube.  First part:


  1. Put Stanwyck in a movie and you got a winner, hands down. This one is a lot better than anticipated.

  2. I guess we are all in agreement!