Dragon Seed

Overview

This lavish, 145-minute cinemadaptation of the Pearl Buck best-seller Dragon Seed was intended by MGM as a followup to the studio's successful film version of Buck's The Good Earth. In true Hollywood fashion, the Chinese protagonists are all played by Caucasian actors, with fascinating if not always convincing results. When a peaceful Chinese village is invaded by the Japanese prior to WW2, the men elect to adopt a peaceful, don't-rock-the-boat attitude towards their conquerors-and it is understood that the women...
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Overview

This lavish, 145-minute cinemadaptation of the Pearl Buck best-seller Dragon Seed was intended by MGM as a followup to the studio's successful film version of Buck's The Good Earth. In true Hollywood fashion, the Chinese protagonists are all played by Caucasian actors, with fascinating if not always convincing results. When a peaceful Chinese village is invaded by the Japanese prior to WW2, the men elect to adopt a peaceful, don't-rock-the-boat attitude towards their conquerors-and it is understood that the women will stoically acquiesce as well. But Jade Katharine Hepburn, a headstrong young woman, intends to stand up to the Japanese whether her husband Lao Er Turhan Bey approves or not. She even goes so far as to learn to read and to handle a weapon, so that she may properly equipped for both psychological and physical combat. Jade's attitude spreads to the rest of the village, convincing even the staunchest of male traditional that the Japanese can be defeated only by offering a strong united front-male and female. Alas, there are a few Quislings in their midst, notably avaricious merchant Wu Lien Akim Tamiroff, who learns all too late the terrible cost of collaboration. While it seems odd to see so many non-Orientals-Walter Huston, Agnes Moorehead, Hurd Hatfield, J. Carroll Naish-in the major roles, Dragon Seed manages to retain its power and entertainment value even 50 years after the fact Incidentally, there are a few genuine Chinese in the cast-most of them playing Japanese!
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Dragon Seed is criticized today for the fact that every major role is played by a Western actor, despite the fact that all of the characters are Asian, common practice for the time in Hollywood. For many modern viewers, the mere fact of this kind of casting will be too off-putting to allow them to watch the film. But even those who accept the "East by West" casting as a product of its time will most likely find much of the film miscast. There are so many and different accents tossed about that it's impossible to establish a feeling of place and of a common culture, which is crucial to the story. And Katharine Hepburn, an abundantly talented and resourceful actress, simply seems out of place. Her New England air shines through her attempts to de-Occidentalize herself, and her work is self-conscious and showy. The rest of the cast work out better, but only Aline MacMahon really turns in a performance that is satisfying and dramatically pleasing. The problems are compounded by an inconsistency in direction (due in part to the fact that the original director was replaced halfway through filming) and pacing, with the film at least 20 minutes too long. More damagingly, the screenplay is fairly faithful to the plot of the Pearl S. Buck novel that is its source, but it doesn't find a cinematic equivalent for the author's voice; without that, the story seems forced and melodramatic. While not a bad film, Dragon is a missed opportunity that could -- and should -- have been much better.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/19/2000
  • UPC: 012569533431
  • Original Release: 1944
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Katharine Hepburn Jade
Walter Huston Ling Tan
Aline MacMahon Mrs. Ling Tan
Akim Tamiroff Wu Lien
Turhan Bey Lao Er
J. Carrol Naish Japanese Kitchen Overseer
Hurd Hatfield Lao San
Agnes Moorehead Third Cousin's Wife
Henry Travers Third Cousin
Robert Bice Lao Ta
Robert Lewis Capt. Sato
Frances Rafferty Orchid
Jacqueline De Wit Mrs. Wu Lien
Clarence Lung Fourth Cousin
Paul E. Burns Neighbor Shen
Anna Demetrio Wu Sao
Philip Ahn Leader of City People
Lionel Barrymore Voice Only
Abner Biberman Capt. Yasuda
Claire Du Brey Hysterical Woman
Benson Fong Student
Lee Tung Foo Innkeeper
Roland Got Speaker with Movies
Alex Havier Japanese Soldier
Ted Hecht Maj. Yohagi
Al Hill Japanese Officer
Robbie Lee Young Farmer
Charles Lung Japanese Diplomat
Leonard Mudie Old Peddler
Jay Novello Japanese Soldier
Frank Puglia Old Clerk
Leonard Strong Japanese Official
Philip Van Zandt Japanese Guard
Keye Luke
Technical Credits
Harold S. Bucquet Director
Jack Conway Director
Pandro S. Berman Producer
Jack Dawn Makeup
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Hugh Hunt Set Decoration/Design
Harold Kress Editor
Jane Murfin Screenwriter
Warren Newcombe Special Effects
Marguerite Roberts Screenwriter
Herbert Stothart Score Composer
Irene Valles Costumes/Costume Designer
Sidney Wagner Cinematographer
Lyle Wheeler Art Director
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design
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