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The Bitter Tea of General Yen, tonight 10 pm E 10-5-13


FredCDobbs
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IN MY OPINION... this is the best Barbara Stanwyck movie ever. Very unusual, exciting, thrilling, romantic in an odd way, great cast, wonderful action. Incredible pre-code story, wonderful music, and fantastic ending.

 

Directed by Frank Capra.

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I agree fred, it's an excellent film. I watch it each time it's shown and have a copy of the film.What's very interesting is that at the time this film was released it was very controversial. Many walked out while watching the film. Even though Nils Asther who plays Gen Yen was a Caucasian and not Asian, many felt at that time that the relationship beteween him and Stanwyck was distrurbing. You're correct, it is a romantic film.

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That'sright, lavenderblue. This was one of the earliest Hollywood attempts to seriously and romantically deal with the taboo topic of miscegenation. This same film couldn't have been made after the code was enforced.

 

If I remember correctly, too, Stanwyck has a dream sequence in which Yen is portrayed as both a dashing romantic figure as well as a long toothed monster. The dream captures her romantic feelings about him, battling at the same time with the old "Yellow Peril" stereotype upon which her character was presumably raised.

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The film was scheduled to run at Radio City Music Hall in NY for 2 weeks and was pulled after eight days. The audiences couldn't handle the thought of a Chinese warlord making love to a white woman. (Asther was a Swedish actor, btw) . This is such a different film for Capra. It's a sexually charged film. Very different from his Mr. Deeds or Mr. Smith. Capra was very proud of this film, even if it wasn't well received.

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Capra was very bold making the guy a Chinese war lord and Barbara a religious missionary lady from the US. Very unlike the Tyrone Power Indian guy in THE RAINS CAME (1939) and the American playgirl he was in love with.

 

FILM_Tea.jpg

 

 

RainsCame1939_FF_188x141_121720080738.jp

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Can anyone think of the first Hollywood film in which a racially mixed couple lived "happily ever after?"

 

It wasn't in General Yen or The Rains Came or Bird of Paradise, and a couple of those were in the "freer" pre-code period, too.

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Speaking of code period Capra films, it's very convenient, of course, that when Ronald Colman fell in love in Shangri-La that he was able to do so with the one caucasian woman there. Would anyone know if that is reflective of James Hilton's novel? And if it is, it again only shows the taboo aspect of miscegenation as a subject, in literature, as well as the movies.

 

I'm genuinely interested in the question I earlier posed: Off hand I can't think of a film prior to the '60s and Sidney Poitier that had a happy ending for a racially mixed couple.

 

Can anyone think of any film earlier than that that featured it? Obviously, there must be something prior to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, but my mind has drawn a blank as to what it is.

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1962 - *A Majority of One* - Roz Russell as the Jewish housewife and Alec Guinness, as the Japanese businessman comes to mind as one that pre-dates Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. They have their rocky relationship but in the end they decide they will have a relationship and see where it goes and the audience is left with the feeling that it will end in marriage between the two.

 

It's interesting that in *Love Is A Many Splendored Thing*, where again you have a white American ( Bill Holden) in love with an Eurasian (Jennifer Jones) they kill off Bill in the end because had his character lived they would have wound up together.

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lavenderblue, thanks for thinking of A Majority of One. I'm really not very familiar with the film but I recall seeing the ending once and I my memory tells me that it was rather ambiguous as far the future of the two was concerned. Am I wrong?

 

Nevertheless, it certainly didn't have one of them getting knocked off, as Hollywood always loved to do before hand, and, even if ambigious, it was a progressive step forward. Still, though, not really the kind of happily ever after ending to which I was referring.

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I don't think they get married at the end of A Majority of One. He moves to New York so they can sit around and talk, after she had to go home from Japan.

 

I can't think of any movie, offhand, where two different races marry. Even in Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner, they aren't married by the end of the movie, are they?

 

In Lady of the Tropics (1939), set in Vietnam, the half-French, half-Vietnamese girl dies.

 

Doesn't the girl die in The World of Susie Wong?

 

I can think of a few marriages between American men and Native American or Mexican women, but I think some of them died too.

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That's ironic, since although next to Eugenia H, I may be Stanwyck's biggest fan around here, General Yen is one of her *very* few movies I don't like at all, and I've seen over 60 of them. I've tried to watch it all the way through twice now, but I can't overcome my distaste for the casting of whites in "Oriental" parts, at a time when cross-casting of racial minorities in white roles would have resulted in the mass closing of theaters. It's the racist double standard in cross-casting that fuels my disgust, not cross-casting per se.

 

And since in for a dime, in for a dollar, I also think that A Majority of One is the most embarrassingly miscast movie ever made, and I say this in spite of my eternal love of Rosalind Russell and my overall admiration for Alec Guinness. I doubt if an all-star cast of parodists taken from Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, The Daily Show and The Onion could ever have come up with anything worse.

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>I can't think of any movie, offhand, where two different races marry.

 

THE LONG, LONG TRAILER is a film where two from different races have married and go off on their honeymoon. They almost break up, but they decide to stay married and live happily ever after.

 

Lucy and Desi were also married (on screen and off screen) in FOREVER, DARLING.

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I think Top Billed made a very valid observation. After all, Desi was Hispanic.

 

Isn't it fascinating, though. There you have audiences accepting the fact that a popular show business couple are racially mixed, and are watching them in a couple of films together, as well as their television series.

 

At the same time, however, if The Long Long Trailer is the first film to portray a racially mixed couple with a "happy ending," why did it take so darned long for another Hollywood production to come along and do the same?

 

I suppose that Lucy and Desi broke a taboo barrier at the movies at the time regarding miscegenation without any big commotion being made about it because, after all, they were already a well known real life couple. They also broke that barrier in a "light entertainment" which, I suppose, made it easier to deal with. And, let's not forget, these two stars were very, VERY popular.

 

Assuming that The Long Long Trailer was, indeed, the first to break the barrier, why did it take so long before a non-Lucy and Desi film would followup on it. (To me, it sort of indicates that no one gave it all that much thought at the time).

 

I'm not certain, since I'm vague on the movie, whether A Majority of One was the next film to break the barrier. Again, I have the impression that the ending of the film was rather vague as for the future of the racially mixed couple.

 

If Majority of One does NOT qualify, can anyone think of another film before Guess Who's Coming to Dinner that does?

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A film that might answer your question is the 1957 *Sayonara* Brando and Miiko Taka make it clear in the end that they will be married, regardless of what others may think.

 

If you want to explore love relationships in films that involve an Hispanic man and an American Causasan woman, there is always the Esther Williams,Ricardo Montalban film *Neptunes's Daughter* It's made CLEAR that a wedding is going to take place between the two in the end of the film. There is also *Latin Lovers* another Ricardo Montalban film starring Lana Turner.

 

Edited by: lavenderblue19 on Oct 6, 2013 10:14 AM

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>A film that might answer your question is the 1957 Sayonara Brando and Miiko Taka make it clear in the end that they will be married, regardless of what others may think.

 

Thanks very much, lavenderblue. Maybe you just got the answer. I'm not familiar with the two Ricardo Montalban films but Neptune's Daughter was a 1949 release, considerably earlier than The Long Long Trailer. It's also interesting that they are both "light" entertainments. I assume, therefore, that there is little reference to race in the screenplays.

 

I don't recall Sayonara particularly well. But perhaps it was the first serious Hollywood production to have a happy ending for a racially mixed couple.

 

I guess it wasn't until Guess Who's Coming to Dinner that a Hollywood production did address the highly flammable issue of relations between blacks and whites, and provide a happy resolution for the couple at the end.

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Yes, the Ricardo Montalban films are light entertainment. In those films, though, his character is not yet married to a white woman, even if it is heavily implied that he will soon be. In the Ball-Arnaz films, the marriage has already occurred, and much of the narrative is about making the relationship work.

 

As you said, Tom, the public was able to accept it because of the success of their television series, and probably also because in real life, they had been married for well over a decade and had two children.

 

Going back to the Montalban films-- in the one with Lana Turner, in particular, race is not emphasized as much as cultural difference. Lana is trying to learn the customs of his people and seeing how she can fit into his world. I do not remember race really being mentioned at all. I will have to go back and look more closely at the film the next time LATIN LOVERS airs on TCM.

 

Also, if we are mentioning Esther Williams-- she does pair up with Fernando Lamas in DANGEROUS WHEN WET, and though the two stars became romantically involved off-screen they would not actually marry until 1969. In fact, Lamas always seems to be paired with Caucasian women in his MGM film vehicles. His love interest was Greer Garson in THE LAW AND THE LADY. Does this suggest that hispanics were considered more acceptable than other races when it came to the subject of intimate relationships and intermarriage with whites?

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Continuing with what I just wrote...in LATIN LOVERS, Louis Calhern is cast as Montalban's grandfather. This would suggest that MGM saw white and hispanic roles as somewhat interchangeable.

 

I wanted to mention something like RAINBOW ISLAND, from 1944. It is purely escapist fluff. But in the picture, Dorothy Lamour is a native island girl who is romanced by Barry Sullivan and Eddie Bracken. Sullivan and Bracken are playing Caucasian American soldiers. This is a departure from ALOMA OF THE SOUTH SEAS, made a few years earlier, where Lamour plays a similar role and her love interest is Jon Hall, who is cast as a fellow islander.

 

And let us not forget to mention RAINTREE COUNTY, where Liz Taylor learns that she is part-black, after pursuing a romance with Montgomery Clift's purely Caucasian male. RAINTREE COUNTY goes one step further than PINKY did in terms of depicting a sexual relationship between a Negro female and a Caucasian male. And this is repeated in BAND OF ANGELS, where Yvonne de Carlo is a partially black woman involved with Clark Gable.

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>Does this suggest that hispanics were considered more acceptable than other races when it came to the subject of intimate relationships and intermarriage with whites?

 

I think the answer to that question is a screamingly affirmative YES!!!

 

Thanks very much for the interesting historical perspective on the subject, TopBilled. Obviously having Caucasian actresses like Elizabeth Taylor and Yvonne de Carlo playing half castes in relationships with Caucasians was Hollywood's way of gingerly, incrementally approaching and dealing with miscegenation.

 

When it came to the then screamingly touchy subject of relations between a black man played by a black actor and a white girl played by a Caucasian, it looks like it wasn't until Guess Who's Coming in 1967 that that huge barrier was finally broken down.

 

Even then there were obvious compromises to make it more palatable for some white audiences by making Sidney Poitier's character pretty well perfect.

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When it came to the then screamingly touchy subject of relations between a black man played by a black actor and a white girl played by a Caucasian, it looks like it wasn't until Guess Who's Coming in 1967 that that huge barrier was finally broken down.

 

That's true only if you restrict yourself to Hollywood blockbusters. One Potato, Two Potato, a far more realistic movie about a marriage between a black man and a white woman, was released in 1964, three years before the Poitier film. And while it didn't deal with interracial marriage, don't forget the French movie Zou Zou, co-starring Jean Gabin and Josephine Baker, which dates from all the way back in 1934.

 

http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/17716%7C0/Zou-Zou.html

 

And then there was the relationship between a white man and a black woman portrayed in John Cassavettes' Shadows, a 1959 release. Both Shadows and One Potato, Two Potato have shown on TCM.

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