China Seas (1935)
Release Date: August 16,1935
Directed by: Tay Garnett
Gable is Alan Gaskell, a roguish captain of a ship that sails between Hong Kong and Shanghai. It’s established pretty early on that he’s been having some adult fun ashore with a Shanghai harlot, Dolly, who goes by the name China Doll (Harlow). So imagine his surprise when setting his ship off to sea that she is on board as a passenger! She confesses she is madly in love with him; he is weary of her and rejects her advances. She is green with jealousy upon the arrival onboard of Sybil,(Russell), a distinguished former paramour of Alan’s from England. Lily sets out to win her man back but ends up embarrassing herself in front of him and the lady by telling of Alan’s seedy behavior. Rejected by him once again, she decides to get even and is persuaded to be in cahoots with Jamesy (Beery), a crooked first mate who is collaborating with Malaysian pirates to loot the ship.
Movie Mirror magazine, April 1935:
You’ll See: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, Rosalind Russell, Dudley Digges, C. Aubrey Smith, others.
It’s About: A hardboiled girl, gold-smuggling, mutiny, love and treachery.
If that outline above sounds to you as though “China Seas” were loaded with plot, you’re right. Every exciting moment you’ve seen in a dozen films is packed into this one, none of the moments very new, but so slickly contrived into one pattern that it’s all a thrill. It’s Clark Gable who plays the captain and Jean Harlow who plays the girl, with Wally Beery as the guy who sells them both short when all three of the pit out into the China seas and Beery tries to get the gold on board away from Gable. There’s a sub-plot about Gable’s fancied love for Rosalind Russell, but you’ll need only half a guess to decide whether it’s Jean or Rosalind who gets Clark in the final reel.
Your Reviewer Says: You’ll certainly want to see this because it’s both melodramatic and romantic, with Beery, Gable and Harlow back in those roles they do so perfectly.
Silver Screen magazine, November 1935:
Good. When that grand he-man, Clark Gable, sails the China seas he’s terrific! Don’t miss him, girls. Especially with Jean Harlow and Rosalind Russell to worry him on his way. Men will like this rip-roaring drama of the sea also.
Photoplay magazine, April 1936:
The combination you must enjoy (Gable, Harlow and Beery) in a fast moving story crammed with thrilling adventures and exciting situations of modern pirates in Oriental waters. Lewis Stone and Robert Benchley are not to be overlooked.
Watch the trailer:
“Hello kid, what are you doing out in broad daylight?” first line
“You don’t like my behavior ashore or aboard ship, you can get a new boy! In fact I wish you would!”
“It’s bad enough to have a ship that looks like this and a captain that looks like me without having a cheap officer that looks like you!”
“How many hours do we have to spend saying good-bye before it takes?”
“You and I are friends. We’ve had a lot of fun together and as far as I’m concerned you’re a number one girl in the archipelago. But I don’t remember making any vows to you nor do I recall asking for any.”
“As a man said when they were about to hang him: this will be a lesson to me.”
“You saved me a lot of trouble. You painted the whole dirty story for her with a nice truthful brush! Thanks!”
“Someday you’ll say something nice and never forgive yourself.”
“Let’s quit good friends instead of like a couple of cab drivers after a drunken brawl.”
“You’ve always got a good reason for anything you do. In fact I don’t know anybody who can think of more remarkable good reasons than you can on short notice!”
“What a dirty little sneak you are!”
“In this madhouse there’s always a million things to do before you can do what you want!”
“Yes I love her–not the way I do you!”
“Change the hose and change your shoes, Mr. Kingston!” last line
Behind the Scenes:
It was reportedly while Gable was filming China Seas that Loretta Young told him she was pregnant with his child. Additionally, Gable was receiving heat from studio head Louis B. Mayer about being seen in public romancing British actress Elizabeth Allan.
Gable and Beery did not get along during filming. During the scene where Beery hits Gable while he’s passed out, Beery reportedly smacked Gable hard instead of faking it. Gable jumped out of the chair and threatened to break his neck and the crew had to separate them and continue filming the scene the next day after they had cooled off.
Gable volunteered to do his own stunts during the storm scene, including harnessing a loose steamroller.