The General Died at Dawn (1936)


“I like people too much to shoot. But it’s a dark year and a hard night.” – O’Hara

Number of Times Seen – 1 (10 Jan 2019)

Brief Synopsis – A mercenary tries to get smuggled weapons to a far off province of China that is rules by a merciless warlord.

My Take on it – This is yet another film that I had never heard of before seeing that one of its cast was nominated for an Oscar for their perfromance here.

The premise of the film is a bit intriguing but overall is all comes across as being quite average.

This film was directed by Lewis Milestone who was a visionary director and he does some nice things with the way he tells this story yet they don’t manage to enhance things enough.

Gary Cooper is fine in the lead and has ok chemistry with his leading lady Madeleine Carroll yet something still feels missing from the way they give their performances.

Akim Tamiroff is quite good as the Chinese warlord and managed to get an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in this film largely due to the fact that he does some nice and risky things with the role.

This film has some interesting cinematic decisions along the way, but unfortunately even those don’t manage to make this film that memorable.

Bottom Line – Intriguing premise that comes across as being quite average.  They do some nice things with the way this story is filmed yet still doesn’t find a way to enhance the story itself.  Cooper is fine in the lead and he has nice chemistry with Carroll but something is still missing from the performances shown. Tamiroff was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Chinese warlord and does a some nice things with the character. Milestone was a groundbreaking director and used some interesting ideas with this film but even they can’t make this film even more memorable.

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – The main character, O’Hara, is based on the real-life adventurer Morris “Two-Gun” Cohen (1887-1970). Born in Poland to a Jewish family, Cohen grew up in the tough streets of London’s East End. As a teenager, he moved to western Canada and became a ranch hand and gambler in Saskatchewan, and later a highly successful real-estate agent in Alberta. During World War I he fought in Europe with the Canadian Railway Troops. His friendship with Chinese workers on the Canadian-Pacific Railroad prompted him to go to China in the 1920s. After negotiating a railroad deal with Dr. Yat-sen Sun, Cohen became a personal bodyguard to Sun and a trainer of Sun’s private army. After Sun’s death in 1925, Cohen ran guns for various Chinese warlords throughout the 1930s. When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, Cohen continued to supply Chinese resistance forces with arms and served with the British SOE. In 1941, following the fall of Hong Kong, he was captured by the Japanese and put in a prison camp, but was traded to the English in 1943 in a rare prisoner exchange. After the war, Cohen continued to operate in China as an agent for various British firms, including Rolls-Royce and Decca Radar. His former dealings with Chinese warlords kept him in good standing with Chinese Communist officials until his death in 1970. (From IMDB)

Rating – BAFTA Worthy (6/10)

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One thought on “The General Died at Dawn (1936)

  1. Pingback: Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actor – Oscars 1936 | MovieRob

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