China Girl (1943)

95 mins | Drama | 1 January 1943

Director:

Henry Hathaway

Writer:

Ben Hecht

Producer:

Ben Hecht

Cinematographer:

Lee Garmes

Editor:

James B. Clark

Production Designers:

Richard Day, Wiard B. Ihnen

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were A Yank in China , Burma Road and Over the Burma Road . Ben Hecht's onscreen credit reads "Produced and Written by Ben Hecht." Melville Crossman, who is credited as the film's story writer, was the pseudonym of Twentieth Century-Fox production head Darryl F. Zanuck. According to HR news items and information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the film, as originally conceived in 1941, was to be produced by Bryan Foy and concentrate on the actual building of the Burma Road. The story was to be partially based on the experiences of Daniel G. Arnstein, the American commissioner to the Burma Road, and Danny Ryan, "the first American engineer" arriving on the scene after Arnstein completed his survey of the area. The writers at this point were Steve Fisher and Jack Andrews, although the extent of their contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed.
       Actors originally suggested by Zanuck for the leading roles were Pat O'Brien and John Payne . The story files contain a 1942 memo to Zanuck from Henry King about the script, in which it appears that King was scheduled to be the film's director. Also in early 1942, Zanuck told the writers to pattern the protagonist "somewhat after the boy [portrayed by Tyrone Power] in A Yank in the R.A.F. ," a popular Twentieth Century-Fox film (see below). Feb 1942 HR news items then reported that Power would be starring in the Burma Road picture, with Robert Bassler acting as associate producer. ... More Less

The working titles of this film were A Yank in China , Burma Road and Over the Burma Road . Ben Hecht's onscreen credit reads "Produced and Written by Ben Hecht." Melville Crossman, who is credited as the film's story writer, was the pseudonym of Twentieth Century-Fox production head Darryl F. Zanuck. According to HR news items and information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the film, as originally conceived in 1941, was to be produced by Bryan Foy and concentrate on the actual building of the Burma Road. The story was to be partially based on the experiences of Daniel G. Arnstein, the American commissioner to the Burma Road, and Danny Ryan, "the first American engineer" arriving on the scene after Arnstein completed his survey of the area. The writers at this point were Steve Fisher and Jack Andrews, although the extent of their contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed.
       Actors originally suggested by Zanuck for the leading roles were Pat O'Brien and John Payne . The story files contain a 1942 memo to Zanuck from Henry King about the script, in which it appears that King was scheduled to be the film's director. Also in early 1942, Zanuck told the writers to pattern the protagonist "somewhat after the boy [portrayed by Tyrone Power] in A Yank in the R.A.F. ," a popular Twentieth Century-Fox film (see below). Feb 1942 HR news items then reported that Power would be starring in the Burma Road picture, with Robert Bassler acting as associate producer. Zanuck changed his mind, however, and in notes on a 30 Jan 1942 story outline, stated, "In reviewing this story outline, I am sure we made one mistake initially, in endeavoring to conceive Tyrone Power in the lead. We must forget Power, because no matter what changes in characterization we made, the audience would inevitably associate the line with A Yank in the RAF and this story would therefore be bound to lose its originality."
       Zanuck then suggested starring Victor Mature in the picture . Subsequent scripts were written for either Mature or Payne in the lead, and with Marlene Dietrich as "Captain Fifi." In Apr 1942, some versions of the script had "Johnny" rescuing "Haoli," then joining the Flying Tigers, and others had "Johnny" dying at the end. A 21 May 1942 news item stated that the studio was seeking to borrow Albert Dekker from Paramount for a top role, while in Jun 1942, it was announced that Phil Silvers would be included in the cast. Osa Massen was cast in the picture as "Captain Fifi," but was replaced by Lynn Bari after seventeen days of filming. HR also stated that Bobby Blake was borrowed from M-G-M for the production, and that some scenes were shot on location at the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. According to studio publicity, a permanent airfield was built on the lot for filming because real airfields could no longer be photographed due to wartime restrictions. The picture marked the final screen appearance of former Ziegfeld Follies performer Ann Pennington. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Feb 1943 p. 55.
---
Box Office
5 Dec 1942.
---
Daily Variety
7 Dec 42
p. 3, 10
Film Daily
9 Dec 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 41
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Feb 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 42
p. 2, 9
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 42
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 42
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 1942.
---
Motion Picture Daily
7 Dec 1942.
---
Motion Picture Herald
5-Dec-42
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Aug 42
p. 872.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
5 Dec 42
p. 1041.
New York Times
21 Jan 43
p. 27.
Variety
9 Dec 42
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Prod
WRITERS
Wrt
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Burma Road
Over the Burma Road
A Yank in China
Release Date:
1 January 1943
Production Date:
12 June--early August 1943
retakes began 31 August 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
3 December 1942
Copyright Number:
LP11770
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95
Length(in feet):
8,615
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
8575
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In November 1941, cynical American Johnny Williams, a newsreel cameraman, is detained by Japanese military officials in Luichow, a Japanese-occupied part of China. The interviewing officer tells Johnny that the Japanese will pay him twenty thousand dollars to photograph the building of the Burma Road, then gives him the night to reconsider after he declines. As they are talking, Johnny steals what he thinks are his press credentials, after which he is returned to his cell. There he finds Major Bull Weed, a captured Canadian who was fighting with the Chinese irregulars. Weed is visited by his girl friend, "Captain" Fifi, who slips him a pistol. Johnny helps Weed escape to a pre-arranged meeting place, where they find Fifi waiting. She takes them to an abandoned airplane she has located, and Johnny then flies them to safety in Mandalay. There Johnny meets his old pal, Captain Shorty Maguire, who now serves in the American Volunteer Group, popularly known as "The Flying Tigers." Maguire asks Johnny to join the Tigers, but Johnny callously replies that he won't die for China, only for himself. Johnny then discovers that he grabbed some Japanese military orders rather than his press credentials. Weed translates the words "pearl" and "seven," but Johnny loses interest when he spots a beautiful woman in the lobby. Johnny pursues the woman, named Haoli Young, who is picking up some vases that she intends to sell. Johnny escorts Haoli home, where he is shocked to learn that in addition to being cosmopolitan and Vassar-educated, Haoli is Chinese. After Johnny forces a kiss on her, the couple part bitterly, despite their attraction to ... +


In November 1941, cynical American Johnny Williams, a newsreel cameraman, is detained by Japanese military officials in Luichow, a Japanese-occupied part of China. The interviewing officer tells Johnny that the Japanese will pay him twenty thousand dollars to photograph the building of the Burma Road, then gives him the night to reconsider after he declines. As they are talking, Johnny steals what he thinks are his press credentials, after which he is returned to his cell. There he finds Major Bull Weed, a captured Canadian who was fighting with the Chinese irregulars. Weed is visited by his girl friend, "Captain" Fifi, who slips him a pistol. Johnny helps Weed escape to a pre-arranged meeting place, where they find Fifi waiting. She takes them to an abandoned airplane she has located, and Johnny then flies them to safety in Mandalay. There Johnny meets his old pal, Captain Shorty Maguire, who now serves in the American Volunteer Group, popularly known as "The Flying Tigers." Maguire asks Johnny to join the Tigers, but Johnny callously replies that he won't die for China, only for himself. Johnny then discovers that he grabbed some Japanese military orders rather than his press credentials. Weed translates the words "pearl" and "seven," but Johnny loses interest when he spots a beautiful woman in the lobby. Johnny pursues the woman, named Haoli Young, who is picking up some vases that she intends to sell. Johnny escorts Haoli home, where he is shocked to learn that in addition to being cosmopolitan and Vassar-educated, Haoli is Chinese. After Johnny forces a kiss on her, the couple part bitterly, despite their attraction to each other. Johnny returns to his hotel, where he flirts with Fifi in order to forget Haoli. He takes her to his room and is surprised to find Haoli, who has come to tell him that her father, Dr. Kai Young, warned her that Fifi and Weed are Japanese agents, and that Johnny is now suspected as well because of his association with them. Johnny tells her to leave, but soon realizes that he is being used as a pawn by Weed and Fifi. After tricking them into providing him with money to buy new camera equipment, Johnny tells Weed and Fifi to leave Mandalay before he tells the Tigers that they are spies. As a week passes, Johnny waits for Shorty to take him over the Burma Road to film a newsreel for an American company. He also becomes more involved with Haoli, and the pair fall deeply in love. Meanwhile, Weed reports back to the Japanese major, who orders him to retrieve the document that Johnny stole. One afternoon, Johnny goes to Haoli's house and learns that she has abruptly left with her father for Kunming, the site of his school for orphans. Bereft, Johnny gets drunk before returning to his hotel, where Fifi meets him the next morning. She warns him that Weed intends to kill him but offers to escape with him, as she has fallen in love with him. When she mentions that the Japanese are about to bomb Kunming, however, Johnny decides that he must find Haoli. First he fights Weed, and after he bests the big man, he rushes to the airfield and goes up with Shorty. Upon his arrival at Kunming, Johnny finds Haoli, but her father has already been killed in the bombing. Johnny helps her to rescue the trapped children, but before they can reach safety, Haoli is also killed. The enraged Johnny dashes to the top of a nearby building, on which is located a machine gun. Johnny then shoots down a Japanese plane and dedicates his actions to his "China girl" as he continues to fire at the planes. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.