Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

They Made Wonderful Films In Those Days - The General Died At Dawn


Recommended Posts

It's unlikely that that many reading this will be familiar with this moody, highly atmospheric adventure film produced by Paramount in 1936. Directed by Lewis Milestone, THE GENERAL DIED AT DAWN is set in the civil war torn China of the 1930s, reminiscent in some respects of the better known SHANGHAI EXPRESS, released four years earlier by the same studio.

Gary Cooper stars as O'Hara, an American adventurer fighting for democracy abroad, this time against the oppression of a Chinese warlord, General Yang (Akim Tamiroff in an Oscar nominated performance). The beauteous Madeleine Carroll, in a sympathetic role, plays a woman who, against her better judgment, is talked into luring Cooper into a trap so that he can be captured by Yang for the funds he carries intended for the purchase of guns for oppressed Chinese villagers.

Unlike other big budget "A" adventure films, THE GENERAL DIED AT DAWN jettisons the usual big action scenes in favour of character interplay, all amidst an almost overwhelmingly atmospheric backdrop, thanks to superior art direction, the at times stunning black and white photography of Victor Milner and Werner Janssen's moody, Oriental-tinged musical score. If the story has more than a slight pulp fiction quality to it (screenplay by Clifford Odets of Charles Booth's novel), this is still movie pulp fiction of an exceedingly handsome, stylish quality.

Here are the screen credits. Please note the creativity of the presentation of the credits on the sails of Chinese junks, accompanied by Janssen's wonderful score.

And here is a brief clip to give you an idea of this production's outstanding cinematography. As you will see by the close ups of Cooper and Carroll here, this film was from the era of movies which presented their stars like Gods and Goddesses. It's too bad they didn't use Janssen's music here (including his sensitive love theme), rather than the piano accompaniment selected which has nothing to do with the actual film.

If anyone else is familiar with this film, I hope you'll offer an opinion on it. 

For any who have yet to see THE GENERAL DIED AT DAWN, as it is a Paramount production, it's not likely, unfortunately, that it will receive a TCM broadcast. In fact, I don't know if the film has ever been shown by the channel. However, it is available on both DVD and Blu Ray. I haven't seen the Blu Ray but apparently the imagery is impressive.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Clifford Odets didn't write a lot for films, seven credited screenplays according to IMDB, but this General Died at Dawn, Deadline at Dawn, Humoresque, and Sweet Smell of Success (cowriter with Ernest Lehman from Lehman's novelette) are exceptionally well done. Sharp dialogue without being too stagy-talky, interesting characters.  I remember especially the ending of General, didactic but eloquent. His last credited screenplays was the Elvis Presley movie Wild in the Country, and he wrote three teleplays for the Richard Boone Show before he died.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, JohnA said:

Clifford Odets didn't write a lot for films, seven credited screenplays according to IMDB, but this General Died at Dawn, Deadline at Dawn, Humoresque, and Sweet Smell of Success (cowriter with Ernest Lehman from Lehman's novelette) are exceptionally well done. Sharp dialogue without being too stagy-talky, interesting characters.  I remember especially the ending of General, didactic but eloquent. His last credited screenplays was the Elvis Presley movie Wild in the Country, and he wrote three teleplays for the Richard Boone Show before he died.

The ending of The General Died At Dawn is quite unlike that of any other film I've seen. And its stays with me, right to the last haunting image.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2021 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...