China Seas (1935)

87, 89 or 90 mins | Adventure | 16 August 1935

Director:

Tay Garnett

Cinematographer:

Ray June

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Carol Ann Beery, the daughter of actor Wallace Beery, is credited onscreen and in reviews with the role of "Carol Ann." A 29 Mar 1935 news item in HR noted that this was to be her screen debut, however, she was not in the viewed print, her character was not mentioned in the cutting continuity, nor was there reference to a child in either the film or continuity. According to contemporary news items and information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, M-G-M first planned to make China Seas in late 1931 or early 1932, with Clark Gable as the star and Tod Browning as the director. When M-G-M submitted the Crosbie Garston novel to the Hays Office at that time, it was rejected. Objectionable aspects of the novel included the interracial love affair that was central to the original story; the resultant illegitimate child; and references to opium use. In Garston's novel, the character "China Doll," who was Chinese and had had a love affair with the character "Alan Gaskell" that produced a child. (It is possible that the character of the child may have been in the final shooting script and that this was the character "Carol Ann" credited, but not seen in the released film).
       According to news items in HR from Aug through Oct 1932, the picture was to begin filming in mid-Nov 1932, with Edward McWade set in addition to Gable. In Sep 1933, M-G-M producer Edward J. Mannix submitted a new script to the Hays Office, with several changes made to conform to Production ... More Less

Carol Ann Beery, the daughter of actor Wallace Beery, is credited onscreen and in reviews with the role of "Carol Ann." A 29 Mar 1935 news item in HR noted that this was to be her screen debut, however, she was not in the viewed print, her character was not mentioned in the cutting continuity, nor was there reference to a child in either the film or continuity. According to contemporary news items and information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, M-G-M first planned to make China Seas in late 1931 or early 1932, with Clark Gable as the star and Tod Browning as the director. When M-G-M submitted the Crosbie Garston novel to the Hays Office at that time, it was rejected. Objectionable aspects of the novel included the interracial love affair that was central to the original story; the resultant illegitimate child; and references to opium use. In Garston's novel, the character "China Doll," who was Chinese and had had a love affair with the character "Alan Gaskell" that produced a child. (It is possible that the character of the child may have been in the final shooting script and that this was the character "Carol Ann" credited, but not seen in the released film).
       According to news items in HR from Aug through Oct 1932, the picture was to begin filming in mid-Nov 1932, with Edward McWade set in addition to Gable. In Sep 1933, M-G-M producer Edward J. Mannix submitted a new script to the Hays Office, with several changes made to conform to Production Code standards. According to news items, however, M-G-M decided to put the picture, which was now to star Gable and Myrna Loy and be directed by Jack Conway, aside. Conway was eventually replaced by Tay Garnett, and Albert Lewin, rather than Mannix was credited as associate producer onscreen. In late Dec 1934, two additional scripts were submitted to the Hays Office with additional changes. Although one was written by Maurice Revnes, it is unclear whether the other was written by him or by Monckton Hoffe, who was mentioned in a 23 Oct 1934 news item as having prepared the "final script" for the picture. The same news item noted that Jean Harlow was to appear in the film and had enacted a scene from Hoffe's script on the Hollywood Hotel radio program on 19 Oct 1934. Onscreen credits list only Jules Furthman and James Kevin McGuinness for screenplay. The SAB additionally credits John Lee Mahin with contributions to the screenplay and Paul Hervey Fox with contributions to the dialogue. The extent to which the work of writers assigned to the project from 1931 through 1934 is reflected in the released film has not been determined.
       Additional news items in late 1934 indicate that William Powell had been considered for one of the leads in the film but was too busy to appear, and that Charles Butterworth was to be in a principal role. Several news items in HR and DV in early 1935 noted that the picture was to start in early, then mid-Feb, but it did not begin until 16 Mar 1935. Cast members mentioned in HR news items or production charts who were not in the released film include Charles Coleman, Daisy Belmore and Harry C. Bradley. The appearances of Malcolm McGregor, Tom Gubbins and James Wang, who were mentioned in news items during production have not been confirmed.
       According to an early Apr 1935 news item in HR , Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed were working on a "theme melody" for the picture, however, neither Brown or Freed or any specific song are credited on the film or in reviews. According to a news item in DV on 23 Mar 1935, executive producer Irving Thalberg wanted to change the characterization of "Jamesy MacArdle," played by Wallace Beery in the picture, and not have him obviously Irish. According to the article, because the studio had received considerable protests from Irish groups over characterizations in the 1927 M-G-M film The Callahans and the Murphys (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0728), Thalberg feared similar protests over China Seas . Beery, the article noted, was insistent that the character remain Irish, protested that his contract gave him a say over his roles and planned to "walk" if he could not play the part as written. Beery apparently did not leave the picture at any time, and in the viewed print, his character has a distinct Irish brogue in some scenes, but the accent is not discernable in most. Additional DV news items note that the length and complexity of the production schedule caused the company to be split into various units. James McKay was assigned to direct night water scenes in mid-Mar, while Tay Garnett directed daytime scenes, then, in early Apr William Wellman was required to direct the "pirate scene" while Garnett filmed scenes involving the principals. Finally, in mid to late Apr, Harry Bucquet began directing mob and stunt segments of the film while Garnett worked on the dramatic scenes. Gable, Harlow and Beery had previously co-starred in the 1931 M-G-M film The Secret Six . According to an undated, but contemporary news item in LAT , the picture was "an enormous hit." Additional information in the MPAA/PCA file notes that the film was banned in Malaya and Singapore. Modern sources include Ferdinand Munier ( Police superintendent ) and Chester Gan ( Rickshaw boy ) in the cast. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Feb 35
p. 3.
Daily Variety
18 Mar 35
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Mar 35
p. 7.
Daily Variety
9 Apr 35
p. 3.
Daily Variety
19 Apr 35
p. 3.
Film Daily
25 Jul 35
p. 6.
HF
23 Jan 32
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 31
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 32
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 32
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 32
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 33
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 33
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 34
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 35
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 35
p. 3, 6
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 35
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 35
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Apr 35
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 35
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 35
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 35
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
23 Jul 35
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
25 May 35
p. 51.
Motion Picture Herald
3 Aug 35
p. 59.
MPSI
May 35
p. 37.
New York Times
Aug 35
p. 16.
Variety
Aug 35
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Pirate scenes dir
Mob scenes dir
Night water scenes dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Contr to dial
Contr to scr const
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Cam crew
Cam crew
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
Art dir assoc
Art dir assoc
Spec asst to art dir
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel China Seas by Crosbie Garston (New York, 1931).
DETAILS
Release Date:
16 August 1935
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 9 August 1935
Production Date:
16 March--mid May 1935
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Copyright Date:
6 August 1935
Copyright Number:
LP 5770
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
87, 89 or 90
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
899
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Alan Gaskell, the hard-living captain of a China Seas steamer, is starting another voyage to Shanghai with a large shipment of gold and a colorful assortment of passengers. He finds China Doll, his brassy girlfriend, in his cabin and reluctantly lets her sail with him, but soon regrets the decision when Sybil Barclay, an English widow whom he once loved, arrives. China Doll makes a jealous fool of herself, then, when she hears that Alan and Sybil are going to marry, she takes up with her old friend Jamesy MacArdle. One night, after a drinking game, she learns that Jamesy is plotting to steal the gold shipment. She becomes his accomplice, out of fear, but when she tries to warn Alan, he calls her a tramp, and she willingly steals the arsenal key for Jamesy. During a storm Alan refuses to throw a steamroller over the side, despite the danger. Later, when pirates try to steal the gold, they only find sand because Alan had hidden the gold in the steamroller. Jamesy orders the men to torture Alan for information with a device known as the "Malay Boot," but pretends not to be part of the plot. The pirates are overthrown through the brave action of Tom Davids, a disgraced former captain. China Doll and Jamesy try to talk their way out of Alan's accusations, but he knows that they are guilty . Jamesy, who loves China Doll, tries to save her by confessing, but soon after his admission of guilt, he dies, having secretly swallowed poison. As the ship docks in Shanghai, Sybil realizes that Alan is in love with China Doll ... +


Alan Gaskell, the hard-living captain of a China Seas steamer, is starting another voyage to Shanghai with a large shipment of gold and a colorful assortment of passengers. He finds China Doll, his brassy girlfriend, in his cabin and reluctantly lets her sail with him, but soon regrets the decision when Sybil Barclay, an English widow whom he once loved, arrives. China Doll makes a jealous fool of herself, then, when she hears that Alan and Sybil are going to marry, she takes up with her old friend Jamesy MacArdle. One night, after a drinking game, she learns that Jamesy is plotting to steal the gold shipment. She becomes his accomplice, out of fear, but when she tries to warn Alan, he calls her a tramp, and she willingly steals the arsenal key for Jamesy. During a storm Alan refuses to throw a steamroller over the side, despite the danger. Later, when pirates try to steal the gold, they only find sand because Alan had hidden the gold in the steamroller. Jamesy orders the men to torture Alan for information with a device known as the "Malay Boot," but pretends not to be part of the plot. The pirates are overthrown through the brave action of Tom Davids, a disgraced former captain. China Doll and Jamesy try to talk their way out of Alan's accusations, but he knows that they are guilty . Jamesy, who loves China Doll, tries to save her by confessing, but soon after his admission of guilt, he dies, having secretly swallowed poison. As the ship docks in Shanghai, Sybil realizes that Alan is in love with China Doll and leaves. China Doll still faces charges, but she is not afraid after Alan confesses his love. As she jovially leaves with the police, Alan prepares for another voyage. +

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

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