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China Doll (1958)

Victor Mature , Frank Borzage  |  NR |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Victor Mature
  • Directors: Frank Borzage
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: April 24, 2007
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000MTFFR2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,464 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "China Doll" on IMDb

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Victor Mature's long-suffering, bloodhound visage is the central image in Frank Borzage's wartime romance drama China Doll, a perfect example of what critic Andrew Sarris once referred to as Borzage's films about war as an intrusion on the emotional privacy of lovers. Mature plays Air Force Captain Cliff Brandon, stationed in China and training elite pilots by day during World War II. At night, Brandon becomes a drunken loner shunning the company of his men, Red Cross nurses, and local women who try to sell him comfort. Things change when Brandon, stumbling home from a bar, agrees to buy an old Chinese man's daughter, Shu-Jen (Li Hua Li), for three months, a decision the officer instantly regrets in the cold light of day. Convinced by his sole confidante--a priest (Ward Bond) running an orphanage--that the only honorable way out is to let Shu-Jen fulfill her three-month obligation, Brandon soon finds himself falling for her and re-embracing life. With the world on a collision course with itself, however, Brandon and Shu-Jen's shared destiny departs from the life of mutual salvation and closeness they've earned. Borzage's delicacy with the love story finds echoes in parallel relationships between other characters. In fact, struggling for a clear path to intimacy in the midst of battle seems very much on the minds of everyone in this movie. Action sequences are reasonably crisp, though they’re not designed to thrill so much as devastate viewers. A climactic scene set at an Air Force base under attack by Japanese pilots is one of the most powerful and poignant wartime visions in American cinema. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wartime romance with Victor Mature and Li Li Hua May 29, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
CHINA DOLL is a finely-pitched wartime drama. Victor Mature plays Capt. Cliff Brandon, a disillusioned airman fighting against the Japanese. One morning he wakes up to discover he has purchased the services of a beautiful Chinese housekeeper, Shu-Jen (played by the celebrated Asian actress Li Li Hua in one of her rare American film appearances).

This is one of the better films produced by Frank Borzage around this period. Just like the similarly-themed "Sayonara" and "The World of Suzie Wong", CHINA DOLL explores the problems and prejudices involved in a cross-cultural relationship.

Victor Mature is fine playing Captain Brandon; but it's Li Li Hua who really owns this picture. She only made a handful of movies in America, but here she is truly magnificent. The cast also includes Ward Bond, Bob Mathias, Johnny Desmond and Elaine Devry.

It's great to see CHINA DOLL finally on DVD. The disc offers no extras but the anamorphic transfer looks a treat. (Single-sided, single-layer disc).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Movie February 8, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I have not seen this movie since I was a young teenager and have been looking for it for so long. I was so excited when I found it on Amazon, I bought it straight away. On recieving, I cleared my afternoon, took the phone of the hook so not to be disurbed, sat down and enjoyed every minute of it. It's not Academy Award stuff, just a lovely romantic romp,something to get lost in for an hour and a half. Victor Mature may not have been one of the greatest actors, but I do enjoy anything he's in, there is just something about him and I thank god he graced the silver screen with his presence. Do yourself a favour, and just enjoy.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ........The China-Burma Campaign [ 1941-1945] May 29, 2007
This movie [now a DVD] was made in 1958 and it covers the pilots who flew over the Himalayan mountains from Burma-Tibet-China...this movie lacks genuine art/direction for the various tableaus look so flimsy throughout the entire film...every GI was spit-shined and plenty of booze for all hands [is there a war going on??]...Victor Mature is almost in every scene as a hard-bitten Commanding Officer but shows hardly any emotion even when annoyed...the cast around him is second string all the way except for Ward Bond...and as for singer Johnny Desmond, he is totally forgettable in the role of a pilot...on the bright side the Chinese actress LiLi Hua is perfect in her virginal/traditional role and very easy on the eyes, too...the story/line is good with a tearful ending for the only survivor to arrive in the USA...I think it is over/priced for the final product...this here movie could have been Vic Mature's sayonara to his long and wonderful film career......SSGT CHRIS SARNO-USMC FMF
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Whoever wrote the product description for Amazon for this movie apparently never saw the movie. Not to give the ending away but what this describes as what happens at the end is absolutely wrong and needs to be changed as it is misleading. Victor Mature was never a great actor but there isn't now and never has been a face like that on the movie screen. It is unique. I saw him once many years ago in New Orleans and recognized him instantly. He fits this part perfectly as it is an older rather jaded character boozing his way through his spare time in a war zone. I was not impressed with the beauty of the Chinese girl and she was waaaaaay too made up, hair too Americanized, but she did a very good job in the role. For a while it seemed like they were playing it mostly for humor then the story turned and it became all drama. For a movie about that time made during that time I thought it was well done. Once I started looking at it I couldn't stop.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Classic black & White WWII Movie! August 9, 2013
Format:Amazon Instant Video
This movie will make you laugh, cheer and cry because of all the situation and action that took place during that period of time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Move February 27, 2013
Format:Amazon Instant Video
This is an overlooked movie by many. I is a very touching story of love and how it can change one's life. A must see.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About China Doll May 22, 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a movie that i've wanted for over 20 yrs. is my hero!!!! This movie made me cry when i watched it after i had seen it with my dad, who died in 1990. This is a movie that makes me feel closer to him.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not authentic, not convincing, degrades everybody August 3, 2014
For a movie set in the China-Burma Theater of WWII in 1943, this could have been one of the best classic war films of all time. General Chennault (of "Flying Tigers") did in fact marry a Chinese woman after the war, and this theme could have been handled in a classy way. Instead, I would not even put this film on the list of the top 50 or 100. The scriptwriting was terrible and many of the lines are either ludicrous or jarringly out of place (nonsequiturs). Did Mature's character (the Captain) really just say "I'd marry you in pigeon English"? During a bombing scene, we are told that a person "ran to the tower." Rather than to the ditches and bomb shelters like everybody else in that war was trained and ordered to do?

Since Li Li Hua's character cannot speak more than 3 words of English, there is no real on-screen chemistry or action between the two leading roles that reveals a budding romance or love. It seemed pretty impersonal, then, suddenly, the Captain says almost in passing to a local priest that "something happened." In just a few more film minutes, one of the American WAC's blurts out that Li Li Hua's character "is pregnant." (How did the WAC know and before the Captain who was living with the Chinese girl as housekeeper?)

There is apparently no war on. There is virtually no flying in the first 90 percent of the film, and the Captain has a remarkably unhurried, relaxed lifestyle of mainly home-priest-bar. There are no Japanese enemy seen until the very ending of the film. I don't think they are even mentioned earlier, either. This is far removed from the reality of the real tempo of constant flight operations (and Japanese bombings) at that time in China.
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