The Bitter Tea of General Yen

Frank Capra’s very atypical drama about an American missionary (Barbara Stanwyck) being taken prisoner by a Chinese warlord (Nils Asther) is not only his masterpiece, but one of the great love stories to come out of Hollywood in the 30s–subtle, delicate, moody, mystical, and passionate. Joseph Walker shot it through filters and with textured shadows that suggest Sternberg; Edward Paramore wrote the script, adapted from a story by Grace Zaring Stone. Oddly enough, this perverse and beautiful film was chosen to open Radio City Music Hall in 1933; it was not one of Capra’s commercial successes, but it beats the rest of his oeuvre by miles. With Walter Connolly and Lucien Littlefield; Stanwyck and Asther, both extraordinary, have perhaps never been better. A newly struck 35-millimeter print will be shown. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday and Sunday, March 10 and 11, 4:15, 443-3737)

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