“What’s better work for an American than helping fight for democracy — do you know?”
An American (Gary Cooper) in war-torn China meets a beautiful woman (Madeleine Carroll) whose father (Porter Hall) is in league with a vicious warlord (Akim Tamiroff) eager to steal the money Cooper is carrying on behalf of revolutionaries.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Akim Tamiroff Films
- Father and Child
- Gary Cooper Films
- Lewis Milestone Films
- Madeleine Carroll Films
Lewis Milestone directed this unusual early thriller, featuring several noteworthy sequences, creative cinematography (by Victor Milner), and fine performances by the ensemble cast. While Russian-American Tamiroff plays the lead Chinese villain, many of the supporting Asian roles appear to be played by Asian-Americans and there’s refreshing diversity in their portrayals. With that said, this is still primarily a film about White leads Cooper and Carroll, whose ill-fated love affair rings true — especially given the realistically oily performance by Hall as her worthless father. (Is he meant to be an opiate addict? That would make sense in this context, and would help to explain the desperation felt both by him and his enabling daughter.) Werner Janssen’s score at times feels intrusive, but is interesting enough to make one sit up and take notice.
Note: In looking over the Peary-listed films directed by Milestone — best known for the Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) — it seems he helmed several other unique and/or above-average titles, including Rain (1932), Of Mice and Men (1939), The Purple Heart (1944), and The Red Pony (1949).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine performances by the entire cast
- Victor Milner’s cinematography
- Werner Janssen’s eclectic score
Yes, once, as an unusual early thriller. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.