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slaytonf

China Seas (1935), fine flick

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Aside from The Misfits (1961), I can't think of another movie I like Clark Gable better in.  Tay Garnett sure knows how to keep the pace moving.  And the snappy dialogue partners with the mercurial characters and the tumultuous, menacing world they live in.  I have to admit, I don't care for Clark Gable greatly.  I don't deny his appeal.  And he does very well in some movies, and parts of others.  Very much so in this movie, which is designed around his strengths, and to show him to his greatest advantage, naturally.  But fine as he is as the masculine iron task master with a good heart, and villainous as Wallace Beery is in one of his best heavy roles, I have to give the ribbon to Jean Harlow in this movie.  While the others follow along in their character without much deviation, she whipsaws from puppy dog to Medea, with satirist and repentant girl added for spice.  The script gives her the opportunity, but she makes it happen.  

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Last night's follow-up  WIFE versus SECRETARY  displayed Harlow's ability to play multi-faceted characters also. 

 

A typical Gable role I thought( for the time), but he's another I have trouble singling out a movie I like him better in.  For me, there's a LOT to choose from.

 

But I enjoyed seing CHINA SEAS again.  It's been TOO long between viewings.

 

 

Sepiatone

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China Seas is a fun film.

 

But then I happen to be a sucker for any film set in the Orient involving intrigue and possible civil war activity. The two greatest of that nature that '30s Hollywood produced, in my opinion, were a pair of moody, atmospheric treats, both from Paramount, Josef Von Sternberg's Shanghai Express and Lewis Milestone's The General Died At Dawn, a less well remembered film but every bit as exciting.

 

MGM's China Seas is far different from the two Paramount productions. Rather than the emphasis being upon moody photography and atmospherics, this is a brightly lit all-star production, almost a sea going Grand Hotel.

 

I agree with the OP that the fiesty, enjoyably vulgar Jean Harlow stands out with her characterization as "China Doll." Once again the screen play has Gable all dreamy eyed and trying to act gentlemanly with lady like Roz Russell but you know in his heart of hearts its old boozy pal Harlow with whom he would most be at home. This bit had been done before with Red Dust and would again in its Mogambo remake.

 

I'm not much of a fan of Wallace Beery but I have to say that his duplicitous take on two faced villainy in this film is quite effective. In particular take a look at the scene in which the pirates are applying the "Malay Boot" torture device to Gable's foot.

 

Beery plays up to Gable, pleading for him to spill the beans on the money or jewels hidden on the boat (whatever it is, I forget) but when Gable passes out from the pain you see the real Beery as a sneer passes across his face and he kicks Gable's body. Beery's star was never higher than when he played sloppy sentimental "nice" guys, but, for me, it's films like a Dinner at Eight (even though it is largely comedic) or China Seas in which he plays characters with a ruthless streak in them that he was at his best. Viva Villa is probably the best illustration of this.

 

china-seas-still.jpg

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Beery shows that side of his ability in GRAND HOTEL as well.

 

 

Sepiatone

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I love this fun film, with its great cast. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see it last night.

 

My favorite line in the movie is when Harlow gives Hattie McDaniel a tight-fitting evening (night?) gown, and Hattie says, "I might have to take it in a smidge". Her delivery is perfect.

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could Gable have handled bruce bennett's role of driscoll in king kong? 

 

 

Maybe, since Bruce Bennett wasn't in King Kong.

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Big thanks to Slayton F for starting this thread, normally I would be all over it. Normally. But at the present I vacillate between the Internet, CNN and MSNBC. Same place I was last night, and believe me in any other circumstance I would've watched CHINA SEAS last night and been all over this thread.

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I love this film.  China Seas often gets overlooked, Gable made so many big movies, and MGM made so many big movies, that this one seems to get lost in the shuffle sometimes.  But this is one of those movies that shows why MGM knew how to entertain in the 1930's....great adventure story, cool leads, and a good group of support /character actors.  

 

Gable has always been my favorite of the old-school Hollywood leading man types, and this is a great film as to why.  Really good chemistry with Harlow and Beery.  

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