The Bitter Tea of General Yen
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The Bitter Tea of General Yen

88 min
Drama | Romance | War
IMDB rate:
Frank Capra
Country: USA
Release Date: 1933-01-06
Filming Locations: San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California, USA
Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck
The Bitter Tea of General Yen
Nils Asther
General Yen
Toshia Mori
Walter Connolly
Gavin Gordon
Lucien Littlefield
Mr. Jacobson
Richard Loo
Captain Li
Helen Jerome Eddy
Miss Reed
Emmett Corrigan
Bishop Harkness
Jessie Arnold
Mrs. Blake (uncredited)
Clara Blandick
Mrs. Jackson (uncredited)
Robert Bolder
Missionary (uncredited)
Nora Cecil
Missionary (uncredited)
Wong Chung
Chinese Officer (uncredited)
Knute Erickson
Dr. Hansen (uncredited)
Willie Fung
Officer (uncredited)
Adda Gleason
Mrs. Bowman (uncredited)
Ella Hall
Mrs. Amelia Hansen (uncredited)
Daisy Jefferson
Mrs. Warden (uncredited)
Arthur Johnson
Dr. Schuler (uncredited)
Tetsu Komai
Gen. Yen's Messenger (uncredited)
Eddie Lee
Chinese Soldier (uncredited)
Milton Lee
Telegrapher (uncredited)
Lillian Leighton
Missionary (uncredited)
Harriet Lorraine
Missionary (uncredited)
Doris Louellyn
Mrs. Meigs (uncredited)
Martha Mattox
Miss Avery (uncredited)
Arthur Millett
Mr. Pettis (uncredited)
Moy Ming
Dr. Lin (uncredited)
Miller Newman
Dr. Mott (uncredited)
Robert Wayne
Rev. Bostwick (uncredited)
Ray Young
Engineer (uncredited)
Did you know?
Jessie Perry is in studio records/casting call lists playing "Miss Reid," but that role was played by Helen Jerome Eddy.
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Chinese officials in Washington, D.C. complained about the depiction of the treatment of war prisoners in this film (which were toned down a bit) and some dehumanizing language about the Chinese people, such as "Human life is the cheapest thing in China," (which remains in the film).
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Swedish actor Nils Asther played General Yen. Asian actors were never cast in lead roles in American productions at the time. Although multilingual, Asther did not speak Mandarin. However, he did use a Mandarin dialect for the part.
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Megan Davis: It's pretty hard to become acquainted with a man who ruthlessly slaughters helpless prisoners in one move, and in the next shows such a tender reverence for the beauty of the moon.
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Jones: Well, it's no skin off my nose.
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General Yen: Conquest of a province, or the conquest of a woman... What's the difference?
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How does the movie end?
Having lost his entire fortune in the train robbery, Yen still assures Megan that everything will be all right. He invites her into his bedroom to see some swords, but Megan mistakes his intentions. He explains that he could never accept anything that the heart does not give willingly. Holding her in his arms, he admits that he was intending to kill her, as she promised him her life for Mah-Li's disloyality, and then he intended to kill himself. Megan runs crying from his room. Yen calls for a servant but realizes that they have all deserted him. He prepares a cup of tea and laces it with poison. Just as he's about to drink it, Megan enters his room, dressed Chinese style. She kneels at his feet and promises never to leave him. He tenderly wipes the tears from her eyes, but she continues to cry. Without saying a word, Yen drinks his bitter tea and promptly dies. In the final scene, as Megan and Jones head back to Shanghai on a boat, Jones eulogizes Yen while Megan sits by wordlessly. Jones expresses the hope that, when he dies, he'll go wherever Yen is. 'And I'll bet I find you there, too,' he says to Megan.
What is 'The Bitter Tea of General Yen' about?
Was Megan in love with Yen?
From the content of her daydream, which begins with a fiendish Yen breaking into her bed chamber and ends with the handsome General making love to her, it's obvious that there is an attraction on Megan's part as well.
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Photos from cast
Barbara Stanwyck
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