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      The Bitter Tea of General Yen

      Released Dec 25, 1932 1h 29m Drama Romance War List
      86% Tomatometer 58 Reviews 65% Audience Score 500+ Ratings Megan Davis (Barbara Stanwyck) arrives in China to marry Dr. Robert Strike (Gavin Gordon), her missionary fiancé. The Chinese Civil War interrupts their wedding plans, and the couple is separated while trying to save endangered orphans. Chinese warlord General Yen (Nils Asther) rescues Davis after she faints but subsequently holds her captive, persistently attempting to seduce her. Surprisingly, though, Davis becomes attracted to Yen and develops a sympathy for his embattled position. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Buy Now

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      The Bitter Tea of General Yen

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      Critics Consensus

      Expertly brewed by director Frank Capra, The Bitter Tea of General Yen offers an engaging account of forbidden love during dangerous times.

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      Critics Reviews

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      Irene Thirer New York Daily News Nils Asther gives a superb performance; one which will put him right back into the rank of front-line actors -- just where he was before talkie time. Rated: 3/4 Apr 25, 2023 Full Review Mary Sears Fort Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com The war scenes are sufficiently exciting to stir most anyone's blood. On the whole, it is good film entertainment, with only a thin plot to hold together the picturesque scenes. Apr 25, 2023 Full Review Mae Tinee Chicago Tribune Overshadowing all else in this picture, adapted from the novel by the same name, is the superb work of Nils Asther. Apr 25, 2023 Full Review James T. Hamada The Nippu Jiji (Honolulu) The Bitter Tea of General Yen is a triumph of direction. It’s spectacular, dramatic, magnificently mounted and gorgeously artistic. Apr 25, 2023 Full Review Kevin B. Lee Senses of Cinema This is what I find to be of such value in [it]; that it risks offence for the sake of constructing a dialogue, one fraught with so many perils in the realms of politics, religion, cultures and sex, that it would not be worth it if it weren’t necessary. Apr 25, 2023 Full Review Eleanor Barnes Illustrated Daily News (Los Angeles) Frank Capra, an imaginative director, with the aid of Joseph Walker, his cameraman, preserved the misty illusion through delicately screened photography and an interesting presentation of Nils Asther as the Chinese general. Apr 25, 2023 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

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      Steve D Dated, unlike most of its stars work. Hard to root for anyone too. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 05/07/23 Full Review Audience Member Years ago I tried watching it off part-way through the film because I thought that the casting of Nils Asther as "General Yen" was ridiculous and rather insensitive since he looks about as Chinese as Nipsy Russell. However, on a second viewing I found that the movie STILL had a lot going for it. Plus, like it or not, casting Westerners in leading roles of Asian characters was the norm in the 1930s and 40s--there's no getting past this with only a very few exceptions. What did I like about the film? Well, first off, despite being made in Hollywood, Columbia did an exceptional job in getting the look correct. Very impressive sets, costumes and convincing battle scenes all indicate that this was a top project for a studio which, at the time, was definitely a second-tier company. Heck, MGM and Warner would have been proud to make a movie that looked this good--and they were the "big money" studios. It certainly was a pretty film to look at and lovely cinematography sure helped as well. Second, while the movie has some silly stereotypes, in a way it is also very modern compared to other pictures of the day. It dares to consider the possibility of interracial love (something banned when the new Production Code was put in place the following year) and despite initially come off as a demon, General Yen was quite decent and civilized in his own manner. He definitely was NOT some one-dimensional Asian caricature--having greater depth than you'd usually find in non-White characters of the day. Finally, while odd and fully of bizarre twists, the plot really was pretty exciting and romantic. I especially loved the silly but majorly cool dream that Barbara Stanwyck had soon after Yen took her into protective custody! So, if you are looking for an unusual, pretty and very interesting film from Hollywood's golden era, then look no further. This is quite an unusual film and you won't soon forget it. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/08/23 Full Review Audience Member Decades ahead of its time, this expressive slice of art has stood the test of time and should be considered as one of Hollywood's timeless masterpieces. Stanwyck emanates the true underrated artist she is - as does her longtime admirer Capra. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/05/23 Full Review William L This film is a complete surprise, particularly given who filled the role of director. Capra is so synonymous with feel-good films that bank on an underlying moral nature shining through to combat vice that it's hard to believe a film such as this could exist. You can't fault the man for his career trajectory; he found a bankable niche and largely stuck with it. But The Bitter Tea of General Yen is a much more complex romance based around culture clash than it has any right to be. Capra and screenwriter Paramore chose in 1933 to depict a Chinese character as educated, polite, strong-willed, and perhaps most brazenly, with valid criticisms of the Christian missionary gospel espoused by Stanwyck's Davis. Asther's Yen points out hypocrisy (without Capra going so far as to call Christians hypocrites) and an incompatibility between Christianity and Chinese culture, as his initial acceptance of Davis' message of forgiveness immediately begins to cause his undoing, proving him correct. Yes, parts of the film's depicitions of Chinese culture have aged poorly and would not fly in a modern production, particularly a titular character of Chinese descent being played by, of all people, a Swedish actor, but these were seen as commonplace in the era, and in other areas it is so progressive that it should stand as a landmark film. People were so against the idea of an interracial relationship, even one that was essentially platonic, that it caused the film to tank in its initial run and the Production Code Administration that was to be created the following year would ban a rerelease for decades. This film completely changes my interpretation of Capra; he was not as thematically simplistic a filmmaker as I had thought, he simply catered to national tastes. (4/5) Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/13/21 Full Review s r 1001 movies to see before you die. A different story all together and an overlooked gem. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member An unknown art film masterpiece - made decades ahead of its time! Poetic, symbolic, ironic, tragic, and controversial even by today's standards. A must see for any true film lover. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/18/23 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis Megan Davis (Barbara Stanwyck) arrives in China to marry Dr. Robert Strike (Gavin Gordon), her missionary fiancé. The Chinese Civil War interrupts their wedding plans, and the couple is separated while trying to save endangered orphans. Chinese warlord General Yen (Nils Asther) rescues Davis after she faints but subsequently holds her captive, persistently attempting to seduce her. Surprisingly, though, Davis becomes attracted to Yen and develops a sympathy for his embattled position.
      Director
      Frank Capra
      Producer
      Walter Wanger
      Screenwriter
      Edward E. Paramore Jr.
      Distributor
      Columbia Pictures
      Production Co
      Columbia Pictures Corporation
      Genre
      Drama, Romance, War
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Dec 25, 1932, Original
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Dec 24, 2020
      Runtime
      1h 29m
      Sound Mix
      Mono
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