General Dies at Dawn, The (1936): Oscar Nominated Adventure, Starring Gary Cooper

The Northern districts of China are being terrorized by the ruthless Chinese bandit chief General Yang (Akim Tamiroff).  He and his aides hope to rule the twelve provinces and subjugate China’s millions. 


Gary Cooper plays O’Hara, an American soldier of fortune, who sides with the suppressed peasants, accepting the job of carrying a large sum of money to Shanghai to buy guns for their defense.  His mission is to go to Pengwa, and then fly to Shanghai, where he is to meet with the loyal Mr. Wu and Mr. Chen, who are in contact with an American gunrunner named Brighton.


Lewis Milestone “(All Quiet on the Western Front”) directed with skill this popular political adventure, which was penned by playwright Clifford Odets (of the famed Group Theater), based on Charles G.  Booth’s novel.  Odets also played a bit part, alongside novelist John O’Hara and the Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky.


Oxford, General Yang’s chief aide, makes an attempt on O’Hara’s life at Penwa but fails.  He then enlists the services of a cowardly American, Peter Perrie, to help him.  Perrie plays on the sympathy of his daughter Judy, inducing her to lure O’Hara aboard a train, which is later intercepted by Yang’s troops.  O’Hara is captured and the money is given to Perrie to carry to Shanghai.  Perrie tries to double-cross the General and is about to leave when O’Hara, escaped from Yang, appears and kills him in self-defense.  All are again captured by Yang’s men and taken aboard his junk to be tortured until they reveal the location of the money, which Perrie hid in a false lining of a suitcase.  The money is found, but, at the same time, Yang is fatally stabbed.  As he dies, O’Hara uses the General’s love of publicity to persuade him to set the free.  He agrees, ordering his twelve aids to kill each other as he dies.


Oscar Alert


Oscar Nominations: 3


Supporting Actor: Akim Tamiroff

Cinematography: Victor Milner

Score: Werner Janssen


Oscar Awards: None


Another polished adventure, “Anthony Adverse,” starring Fredric March, won the Cinematography Oscar for Gaetano Gaudio and the Score Award for Erich Wolfgang.


Walter Brennan won the Supporting Actor Oscar for “Come and Get It,” in the dirst year in which the Academy distinguished between Oscars for leads and secondary roles.




Gary Cooper (O’Hara)

Madeleine Carroll (Judy Perrie)

Akim Tamiroff (General Yang)

Dudley Digges (Mr. Wu)

Porter Hall (Peter Perrie)

William Frawley (Brighton)

J.M. Kerrigan (Leach)

Philip Ahn (Oxford)

Lee Tung Foo (Mr. Chen)

Leonid Kinskey (Stewart)

Val Duran (Wong)

Willie Fung (Bartender)

Hans Fuerberg (Yang’s Military Advisor)

Sarah Edwards, Paul Harvey (American couple)

Spencer Chan (Killer)

Harold Tong, Charles Leong, Thomas Chan, Harry Yip, Swan yee, Kam Tong (House Boys)

Frank Young (Clerk)

Walter Wong (Bartender)

Carol de Castro (Clerk)

Barnett Parker (Englishman)

Hans Von Morhart (Mandarin)

Dudley Lee, Walter Lem, Thomas Lee, George Wong Wah (Waiters on Train)

Tom Ung (Steward on Train)

Taft Jung, Sam Laborador, Richard Young, Jung Kai, Harry Leong, Chan Suey, Paul Tom, Loo Loy, Quon Gong, Wong Fong, Leo Abbey, Bob Jowe (Guards)

George Chan (Porter)

Clifford Odets, John O’Hara, Sidney Skolsky, Lewis Milestone (Reporters)





Director: Lewis Milestone.

Producer: William Le Baron.

Screenplay, Clifford Odets, based on a novel by Charles G. Booth.

Photographer: Victor Milner.

Musical Score: Werner Janssen.

Art Directors: Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegto.

Editor: Eda Warren.

Costumer: Travis Banton.

Sound Recorder: Harry D. Mills.