The General Died At Dawn (1936)

LEWIS MILESTONE

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 1936.  Screenplay by , based on a story by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1936.

Thrilling adventure set in Red China, with Gary Cooper at his hokiest as a mercenary who has undertaken the task of helping the people suffering under the oppression of a tyrannous general (Akim Tamiroff).  Cooper is assigned to transfer a great sum of money that will help the revolutionaries buy the arms they need to fight the general, but on the train ride towards his rendez-vous point, he is distracted by a beautiful woman (, who really is stunning) whom he doesn’t know is working for the general. When he realizes the trick, the two of them resist their natural attraction for each other in a game of chance that involves all sorts of tactical manoeuvres with each turn of the page. Clifford Odets has written a wonderfully clever screenplay for this memorable adventure, and the solid acting and beautiful cinematography bring it to life marvelously. Tamiroff is excellent as the general, though it is incredibly annoying to have someone obviously not Asian slanting his eyes and putting on a phony pidgin-English accent (particularly when the actors in the film who are actually Asian speak English better than Cooper does).

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