Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Bitter Tea of General Yen

The Bitter Tea of General Yen is a 1933 directed by Frank Capra and starring Barbara Stanwyck

via Youtube (although this movie comes and goes, never staying available long):

The New York Times has this from the time of its release:
The screen attraction, "The Bitter Tea of General Yen," is a handsomely mounted affair with conspicuously good portrayals by Nils Asther and Walter Connolly. It is a melodrama of China that has certain aspects of Edith M. Hull's "The Sheik." It is a story that is scarcely plausible but which has the saving grace of being fairly entertaining. Certain characters are called upon to be exceptionally credulous at times and those who can overlook this and other shortcomings will probably find the tale of missionaries, romance and civil war in China diverting.
Senses of Cinema says,
The Bitter Tea of General Yen seemed doomed to disgrace from the day of its release. Despite having the honour of being the first film to premiere at Radio City Music Hall, it was a resounding flop that altered the course of the career of its ambitious young director. Back then, audiences could not accept a film that showed a Chinese man and a white woman achieving unprecedented levels of intimacy. Today, audiences may regard the white characters’ stereotypical denunciations of Chinese culture, or the interracial love story with the Chinese romantic lead played by a Swedish actor in yellowface makeup, with either camp irreverence or a queasy sense of shame for Hollywood’s racist legacy. It is a film orphaned between historical and cultural norms.
DVD Talk opens a positive review with this:
Frank Capra's lush, sensual 1933 melodrama The Bitter Tea of General Yen explores what happens when an American woman gets seduced by a powerful Chinese warlord. Although it at first appears to be dated, pulp-magazine junk - replete with stereotypical "Chinamen" references and the old portrayals of Asians as exotic, alluring seducers - Capra and star Barbara Stanwyck elevate this tasty Pre-Code melodrama into something special.
Entertainment Weekly says, "Its credentials are legendary: Directed by Frank Capra and among his personal favorites, it’s also one of the first movies ever to deal openly with interracial sexual attraction." This film is included in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.


  1. I've never heard of this film but Frank Capra is a pretty good director, so I am really curious about it. its great to find these films you've never heard about. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Hugs-Erika

    1. That's why I love lists and books that name films to see. I'd never come across most of what I watch without suggestions from other folks. I do watch a lot of movies :)