The Bitter Tea of General Yen


Action / Drama / Romance / War

Plot summary

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802.24 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 27 min
P/S ...
1.45 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 27 min
P/S 0 / 1

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by bkoganbing8 / 10

The Chaos Of Kuomintang China

Following in the same path as Paramount classics, Shanghai Express and The General Died at Dawn, The Bitter Tea Of General Yen is a remarkable film about the chaos that was Kuomintang China. And it had a theme about interracial love that was years ahead of its time. Albeit though it was a love unresolved.

Barbara Stanwyck plays a missionary newly arrived from the USA with the hope of marrying missionary doctor Gavin Gordon. While trying to get some missionary orphans out of the way of war, she falls into the hands of Nils Asther playing the title role.

Unlike Warner Oland in Shanghai Express or Akim Tamiroff in The General Died At Dawn, Asther is an intelligent and articulate man who expresses the Chinese view of life better than was seen on film until Curt Jurgens in The Inn Of Sixth Happiness. He also dares to love the white missionary, but she's otherwise taken with Gavin Gordon. Nevertheless Barbara finds a lot that's intriguing about Asther.

There is a less than flattering view of the white people here, but not the usual criminal lowlifes who profit from war in China. It's the missionaries here with a sense of superior culture that comes in for criticism. Highly unusual and way ahead of its time for a movie theme. In fact Walter Connolly who works for Asther in procuring arms for his troops is a far better observer of the Oriental mind than any of the missionary people.

There is a subplot in The Bitter Tea Of General Yen very similar to The King And I. One of Asther's many concubines is Toshia Mori who really loves one of his officers, Richard Loo. Asther reacts the same way Yul Brynner did when Tuptim found him so non-appealing, a question of vanity and pride more than of the heart.

The interracial theme and the ideas way ahead of their time did not augur well for The Bitter Tea Of General Yen. I think it can be better appreciated by today's audience than the audience of 1933.

Reviewed by MartinHafer8 / 10

Despite the usual horrible casting, this is a very good film!

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.

By the way, after watching this film, try SHANGHAI EXPRESS. While many of the plot elements are similar, notice how different Warner Oland's Chinese warlord character differs from Nils Asther's---there is quite the contrast.

Reviewed by TheLittleSongbird8 / 10

Nothing bitter about this film

Despite the not particularly appealing and on first glance misleading title, there was no doubt in my mind about seeing 'The Bitter Tea of General Yen'. Speaking as somebody who considers Barbara Stanwyck one of the finest actresses of her generations and who loves a lot of Frank Capra's other films, especially one of my all-time favourites 'It's a Wonderful Life'. The subject was also very interesting and was a bold subject to portray on film at the time.

Found the film to be very good indeed and one of my better recent first time viewings. It is a shame that it flopped at the time and was banned in many places for not just having such an ahead of its time subject but portraying it so overtly, which will not have boded well with some. Can see why and if it doesn't work for some today this reviewer will not take issue with that. Actually think it will hold up better, as the subject was a far bigger issue at the time than it is now. For me though, 'The Bitter Tea of General Yen' is one of Capra's best early films, very different for him too, it is a great representation of Stanwyck and it does show why it is sad that Nils Asther is not better known today.

Admittedly it does get off to a false start. Did find the first fifteen minutes rather silly and unintentionally funny, as well as finding the overt stereotyping uneasy.

If one is put off by that, it is not hard to understand why being somebody in the same boat. Am so glad about sticking with the film though, and will recommend doing the same personally (all subjective though),because the rest, apart from the too melodramatic and somewhat improbable ending (the only other big criticism in my view),is excellent. It looks great, the scenery is really quite majestic and exotic and the film is exquisitely shot. That final shot of Stanwyck's face is pretty unforgettable and one mustn't forget the superb editing in for example a dialogue scene between Stanwyck and against type Walter Connolly. The music is stirring and haunting in all the right places.

The script is very intelligently written and thoughtful, while the story is disturbing, sensual and affecting in equal measure. The subject is a sensitive and brave one, executed daringly. Capra directs brilliantly, this was an early work of his and is one of his most atypical films (being a director best known for his feel good films coined "Capra corn") but he never seemed uncomfortable with such risky material and doesn't shy away.

Regardless of any authenticity, there is so much to admire about the performances. Stanwyck may not be at her very best here, but one sees signs of her trademark steel and vulnerability and she is effective in her role. It is a shame that Asther isn't better known today and he proves that in one of his finest and most layered performances here, his character is not a one-dimensional caricature but has a striking ambiguity played with menace and allure by Asther. He and Stanwyck are magic together, and it was easy to appreciate too Connolly's more subtle acting style to usual here while conveying his character's amorality unsettlingly.

Concluding, very very good and nearly great apart from a dubious beginning and the ending. 8/10

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