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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1933)

A young American girl (Barbara Stanwyck) comes to war torn China, in the midst of a civil war, to marry a missionary (Gavin Gordon). When she is abducted by the Chinese war lord General Yen (the Swedish actor Nils Asther) and taken to his summer palace, she finds herself attracted to him. Both will learn from each other and their lives changed forever. For me, this is Frank Capra's best film. I've never been a fan of his CapraCorn brand of film products like MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and this dark adult examination of interracial sexual tension seems an anomaly in his career when matched against his best known films. Capra doesn't shy away in portraying the Christian "do gooders" as hypocrites. Ostensibly to save them but barely concealing their contempt for their race. Similarly, in a startling erotic dream sequence, Stanwyck finds herself both repulsed (she sees Asther as a stereotypical sexual barbarian) and attracted (her Caucasian rescuer morphs into Yen) by the Chinese general. The miscegenation angle proved too potent for the film was a failure upon its first release. The lovely discreet score is by W. Franke Harling. With Walter Connolly, Richard Loo and Toshia Mori.

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