High Road to China (1983)

PG | 99 mins | Adventure | 18 March 1983

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HISTORY

       The 6 Sep 1978 HR announced High Road to China, a $12 million joint effort from Paul Heller Productions and executive producer Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest Productions. Heller planned to open an office in London, England, in conjunction with the project. He and co-producer Eve Monley partnered with producer Fred Weintraub on five previous films. A news item in the 2 Oct 1978 HR reported that S. Lee Pogostin was hired to write the screenplay, and T. L. Davis was mentioned as “Heller’s associate.” According to the 9 Oct 1978 Box, principal photography was tentatively scheduled for May 1979. Another item in the 16 Oct 1978 HR included Fenton-Feinberg Casting as part of the production team, though no cast members were announced. On 30 Oct 1978, HR reported that director Sidney J. Furie was assigned to the film as part of a four-picture deal with Golden Harvest. Pre-production was currently underway. Five months later, on 27 Mar 1979, DV announced John Huston as the film’s new director, with photography to begin in Europe the following August. The budget was raised to $15 million, and Pogostin was replaced by Jonathan Hales as screenwriter. The 4 May 1979 DV added that Huston was tentatively planning to play a character in the film. The 6 Jul 1979 DV reported that the budget had increased to $18 million, $500,000 of which was spent on three replicas of World War I-era Bristol aircraft, specially built for the production by the Visionaire Company of Ypsilanti, ... More Less

       The 6 Sep 1978 HR announced High Road to China, a $12 million joint effort from Paul Heller Productions and executive producer Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest Productions. Heller planned to open an office in London, England, in conjunction with the project. He and co-producer Eve Monley partnered with producer Fred Weintraub on five previous films. A news item in the 2 Oct 1978 HR reported that S. Lee Pogostin was hired to write the screenplay, and T. L. Davis was mentioned as “Heller’s associate.” According to the 9 Oct 1978 Box, principal photography was tentatively scheduled for May 1979. Another item in the 16 Oct 1978 HR included Fenton-Feinberg Casting as part of the production team, though no cast members were announced. On 30 Oct 1978, HR reported that director Sidney J. Furie was assigned to the film as part of a four-picture deal with Golden Harvest. Pre-production was currently underway. Five months later, on 27 Mar 1979, DV announced John Huston as the film’s new director, with photography to begin in Europe the following August. The budget was raised to $15 million, and Pogostin was replaced by Jonathan Hales as screenwriter. The 4 May 1979 DV added that Huston was tentatively planning to play a character in the film. The 6 Jul 1979 DV reported that the budget had increased to $18 million, $500,000 of which was spent on three replicas of World War I-era Bristol aircraft, specially built for the production by the Visionaire Company of Ypsilanti, MI. Visionaire reportedly built the airplanes to original specifications, but with stronger frames and more powerful engines. Director of air operations and air advisor Jeffrey Hawke, a British test pilot, supervised the construction.
       Photography, scheduled to begin in Spain before moving to England, was postponed once again, until 8 Mar 1980, due in part to the departure of Huston as director, and to difficulties in assembling a suitable cast. However, the 1 Aug 1979 Var estimated the start of production as Jan 1980, with locations in “Germany and other European countries.” On 25 Oct 1979, HR announced Brian G. Hutton as the film’s new director, with actor Roger Moore in the leading male role. Heller opened an office in Spain to accommodate preproduction, and filming locations were to include multiple cities in Europe and Asia. The 13 Nov 1979 DV reported that actress Bo Derek had been assigned the female lead. The project was also undergoing revisions following a partnership deal between Chow, producer Albert S. Ruddy, and Germany’s Classic Films. Ruddy was replaced by Fred Weintraub, as stated in the 23 Feb 1983 Var. The 24 Mar 1983 DV revealed that a total of five screenwriters had been assigned to write the picture, the last of which was Weintraub’s daughter, Sandra Weintraub Roland. Her rewrite of Pogostin’s original screenplay included major changes to the scenario and the characterization of “Eve Tozer” as a liberated woman. Among Roland’s predecessors were Clarke Reynolds and Dennis Clark.
       According to the 27 Dec 1979 HR, Heller expected principal photography to be underway in Morocco during summer 1980. However, on 15 Feb 1980, DV announced that Derek withdrew from the film and would be sued by the producers. The outcome of the case has not been determined.
       The 14 Apr 1980 HR quoted Weintraub describing the project as “indefinitely postponed,” while Chow told the 26 Aug 1980 HR that he was continuing his search for an actress to replace Derek. There was no further mention of Heller or Monley in connection with the film.
       More than a year later, the 23 Oct 1981 DV announced Bess Armstrong as the female lead. Principal photography began 15 Feb 1982 in Yugoslavia, with actor Tom Selleck replacing Moore, as reported in the 16 Feb 1982 HR. According to the 15 Apr 1982 DV, the production encountered numerous difficulties while on location, including a broken ankle for stunt coordinator Tony Smart, a case of conjunctivitis for Bess Armstrong, and the destruction of an Afghan village set by a strong wind, valued at several hundred thousand dollars. Filming was two weeks behind schedule, and costs rose an estimated $4 million over the $15 million budget. Though no distributor had been confirmed, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation was the most likely candidate. Yadran Films of Yugoslavia also became a partner in the production, providing assorted facilities, horses and riders, and reportedly 35,000 background actors. The film crew was comprised of British and Italian citizens, including a costume department manned by a group of Italian clothing designers. According to the article, the Bristol airplanes used in the film originated in England, rather than the U.S. Weintraub later told the 17-23 Mar 1983 Drama-Logue that the background cast totaled 1,000, and included actors from Yugoslavia and Vietnam.
       The 26 May 1982 Var reported the deaths of crewmembers David Perrin, Jaron Anderson, and Nigel Thornton on 22 May 1982, resulting from a helicopter crash. Location photography was postponed four days, and was scheduled for completion on 29 May 1982. Weintraub told the 7 Jun 1982 DV that additional photography would take place in Los Angeles, CA, to accommodate Selleck, who had impending obligations to CBS Television. The 23 Feb 1983 Var placed the completion of photography at sometime in Jul 1982.
       The 13 Mar 1982 HR announced Twentieth Century-Fox as the film’s distributor, and the scheduled release date of 10 Jun 1983. However, the 20 Oct 1982 DV revealed that the deal was “never consummated,” and Warner Bros. Pictures acquired domestic distribution rights. Release was planned for early 1983.
       According to a Warner Bros. press release dated 12 Jan 1983, High Road to China premiered in Los Angeles on 13 Mar 1983. Attendees included Hutton, Weintraub, cast members Selleck, Armstrong, and Jack Weston, and actors Ernest Borgnine, Wayne Rogers, Carol Burnett, Bob Hope, Shirley Jones, and Dina Merrill. Tickets sold for $175 to $250, and benefitted the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. A news item in the 3 Mar 1983 HR added that the event would include the auction of “a life-size portrait” of Selleck, in character as “Patrick O’Malley.” The 15 Mar 1983 LAHExam estimated the proceeds at $100,000. An item in the 20 Dec 1982 HR stated that subsequent screenings of the film, to be held in “several key cities,” would also benefit the foundation. Sneak previews were held during Jan 1983 in San Jose, CA, and Dallas, TX, as reported in the 1 Feb 1983 DV.
       High Road to China opened 18 Mar 1983, approximately three months ahead of schedule, according to the 23 Feb 1983 Var, Warner Bros. cancelled its original plans for a summer release to avoid competition from four major franchise sequels, including two “James Bond” films. The 16 Mar 1983 HR announced a nationwide promotional campaign, which included sponsored television interviews, a paperback edition of the source novel, and a partnership with the Miller Brewing Company for the sponsorship of college campus screenings. “Tom Selleck look-alike contests” were held as part of a sweepstakes competition, offering 250 free trips to Hollywood, CA, hundreds of free passes for the film, and as the grand prize, a vacation in Hawaii and Hong Kong.
       The 23 Mar 1983 LAT reported that the film earned $6,156,149 its opening weekend in 1,508 theaters, attributing a portion of its success to lack of competition. Reviews were mixed, several of which cited the predictable plotline as its greatest weakness.
      End credits include the following statement: "Filmed on location in Yugoslavia and England."
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
9 Oct 1978.
---
Daily Variety
27 Mar 1979
p. 1, 13.
Daily Variety
4 May 1979.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jul 1979.
---
Daily Variety
13 Nov 1979.
---
Daily Variety
15 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1981.
---
Daily Variety
15 Apr 1982.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1982.
---
Daily Variety
20 Oct 1982
pp. 1-2.
Daily Variety
26 Jan 1983.
---
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1983.
---
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1983.
---
Drama-Logue
17-23 Mar 1983
p. 1, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 1978
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Oct 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 1980
p. 32.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 1983
pp. 5-6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 1983.
---
LAHExam
15 Mar 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Mar 1983
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
23 Mar 1983.
---
Marquee
Feb 1983
p. 4.
New York Times
18 Mar 1983
p. 4.
Playgirl
Jul 1980.
---
Variety
1 Aug 1979.
---
Variety
5 Sep 1979.
---
Variety
2 Apr 1980.
---
Variety
26 May 1982.
---
Variety
27 Oct 1982.
---
Variety
23 Feb 1983
p. 7, 31.
Variety
9 Mar 1983
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Golden Harvest & Jadran Film present
A Fred Weintraub Production
For City Films
A Brian G. Hutton Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr, U.S.A
Prod mgr, U.K.
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Aerial unit mgr
Aerial unit asst dir
1st asst dir, Yugoslav unit
2d asst dir, Yugoslav unit
Asst prod mgr, Yugoslav unit
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog of aerial sequences
Cam op
Focus
2d unit photog
Stills photog
Cam grip
Generator op
Gaffer
Aerial unit cam asst
Stills processing
2d cam op, Yugoslav unit
2d cam focus, Yugoslav unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
2d art dir, Yugoslav unit
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Prop master
Floor propman
Armorer
Period vehicles
Arms & ammunition
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
Ward supv, Yugoslav unit
MUSIC
Mus scoring mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Head makeup artiste
Head hair stylist
Make-up, Tom Selleck
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod controller
Loc mgr
Continuity
Prod secy
Prod secy
Asst loc mgr
Loc accountant
Prod asst
Prod asst
Unit pub
Tech supv/Pilot
Pilot
Pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Aircraft suppliers
Prod supv, Yugoslav unit
Prod secy, Yugoslav unit
Mechanic
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Asst stunt coord, Yugoslav unit
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel High Road to China by Jon Cleary (New York, 1977).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"The Charleston," music by James P. Johnson and lyrics by Cecil Mack
""I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier," music by Al Piantadosi and lyrics by Alfred Bryan, performed by Tom Selleck and Wilford Brimley.
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 March 1983
Premiere Information:
Premiered 13 March 1983 in Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 March 1983
Production Date:
15 February--July 1982 in Yugoslavia and Los Angeles, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Pan Pacific Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 May 1983
Copyright Number:
PA173981
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Cameras by Technovision®
Duration(in mins):
99
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Hong Kong, Yugoslavia, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26861
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1920s Cairo, Egypt, British attorney Charlie Shea kills an assassin in self-defense, then searches a nightclub for his client, Eve Tozer, the boisterous daughter of American industrialist Bradley Tozer. When he inquires about her father’s whereabouts, Eve states that she has had no contact with him in three years, but assumes that he is in Afghanistan. Charlie explains that her father’s business partner, Bentik, intends to have Bradley declared legally dead and seize all of the company’s assets, relegating Eve to a life of poverty. She must find Bradley and return him to London within twelve days to challenge the declaration. Acting on the advice of a friend, Eve seeks American aviator Patrick O’Malley at a local saloon, where she finds him in an advanced state of inebriation. The next morning, Eve offers O’Malley £10,000 to rent both of his airplanes, one of which she intends to pilot. O’Malley demands a demonstration of her skills, and she accommodates him by performing a series of elaborate stunts. Afterward, she identifies her destination as the Waziristan region of Afghanistan, which is currently at war with England. Aware that the expedition will be fraught with danger, O’Malley refuses Eve until she increases her offer to £100,000. He then instructs his mechanic, Struts, to arm the planes with machine guns. Later, as Eve bids farewell to Charlie, they are accosted by Ginger, another assassin, who stabs the attorney as he runs to his client’s defense. Eve drives to O’Malley’s airfield with Ginger in pursuit, and insists that they begin their journey immediately. As the planes become airborne, Ginger arrives at ... +


In 1920s Cairo, Egypt, British attorney Charlie Shea kills an assassin in self-defense, then searches a nightclub for his client, Eve Tozer, the boisterous daughter of American industrialist Bradley Tozer. When he inquires about her father’s whereabouts, Eve states that she has had no contact with him in three years, but assumes that he is in Afghanistan. Charlie explains that her father’s business partner, Bentik, intends to have Bradley declared legally dead and seize all of the company’s assets, relegating Eve to a life of poverty. She must find Bradley and return him to London within twelve days to challenge the declaration. Acting on the advice of a friend, Eve seeks American aviator Patrick O’Malley at a local saloon, where she finds him in an advanced state of inebriation. The next morning, Eve offers O’Malley £10,000 to rent both of his airplanes, one of which she intends to pilot. O’Malley demands a demonstration of her skills, and she accommodates him by performing a series of elaborate stunts. Afterward, she identifies her destination as the Waziristan region of Afghanistan, which is currently at war with England. Aware that the expedition will be fraught with danger, O’Malley refuses Eve until she increases her offer to £100,000. He then instructs his mechanic, Struts, to arm the planes with machine guns. Later, as Eve bids farewell to Charlie, they are accosted by Ginger, another assassin, who stabs the attorney as he runs to his client’s defense. Eve drives to O’Malley’s airfield with Ginger in pursuit, and insists that they begin their journey immediately. As the planes become airborne, Ginger arrives at the airfield firing a pistol at them, and O’Malley assumes he is escaping a jealous husband he has wronged. Days later, Eve, O’Malley, and Struts land at Fort Kipling, a British outpost in Afghanistan, where they are invited to spend the night. After dinner, O’Malley drinks heavily, admitting that he is still haunted by the faces of the young German aviators he killed during World War I. Eve disapproves of his inebriation and the two exchange angry words before she retires for the night. The next day, the group lands in Waziristan and they encounter the army of Suleman Khan. The chauvinistic Suleman is offended by Eve’s outspokenness, and O’Malley slaps her, hoping to appease the warlord. They are invited to dinner, during which Eve inquires about her father. Suleman casually mentions that Bradley was killed in an explosion, then orders O’Malley to assist the Waziris in defeating the British, or he will be killed. Later that night, Suleman’s youngest brother, Franjten Khan, enters the Americans’ tent, accompanied by Alessa, a Nepalese slave girl. Franjten proposes buying Eve for a box of jewels, and O’Malley feigns interest, saying he will consider the offer. Later, Alessa informs Eve that Bradley is living in Nepal, and collaborates with the group on an escape plan. The next day, O’Malley’s plane is loaded with grenades, which he is to drop on the British, with the help of Suleman’s nephew. However, once they are airborne, O’Malley flips the plane upside down, dropping the nephew to his death, then uses the Waziris’ own grenades against them, allowing himself and his comrades to escape. Although O’Malley insists on returning to Cairo, Eve defies him and steers her plane eastward toward Nepal, leaving the aviator no choice but to follow. Meanwhile, Bentik hires German fighter pilot Major Von Hess, now living in India, to intercept the party. In Nepal, the group lands in Alessa’s village to an enthusiastic welcome. Eve faints from exhaustion and is taken to the home of Alessa’s mother. Upon learning that Bradley has left Nepal, O’Malley and Struts consult Alessa’s grandfather, Zura, who informs them that the industrialist now resides in the Sin Kian province of China, on the other side of the Himalaya Mountains. O’Malley spends the night nursing Eve through a fever, but she is outraged when she wakes in his arms the next morning and orders him from the house. She regains her composure, then loses it again when the aviator announces that she will remain in the village while he and Struts retrieve Bradley from China. Eve argues with the men as they prepare for their trip, but is interrupted by Von Hess, who destroys one of O’Malley’s airplanes. O’Malley mans the remaining plane and shoots Von Hess out of the sky. Upon landing, he demands to know what provoked the attack, and Eve admits that Bentik is trying to kill her. O’Malley is furious over the loss of his plane, but accepts Eve’s apology for her deception and allows her to join the expedition. Struts remains in Nepal while Eve and O’Malley fly over the Himalayas and land in China near a hilltop fortress, where Eve is reunited with her father. Bradley explains that he is assisting the villagers in their fight against an oppressive warlord named General Wong, and though he is happy to see his daughter, Bradley advises her to leave the village before Wong’s impending invasion. When O’Malley explains the purpose of their visit, Bradley says that Bentik can have the failing company, as all of its valuable formulas and patents are the property of the Tozer family. Though Eve insists on staying with her father, O’Malley intends to leave, with or without her. Eve declares her hatred for O’Malley, but runs to his side when he appears to be injured by a collapsing wall. He reveals his feelings for Eve by kissing her, and she responds by kicking him, but then agrees to leave with him in the morning. However, O’Malley wakes the next day to finds Eve flying over the raging battle, dropping grenades on Wong’s army. She is forced to land when the plane is struck by gunfire, and O’Malley races to her aid, fighting off her attackers with a machine gun. Meanwhile, Bradley and his peasant army defeat Wong with homemade explosives and landmines. As the few surviving invaders retreat, O’Malley embraces Eve and they kiss. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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