The Sand Pebbles is a lengthy but engaging mix of romance, historical epic, political commentary, and adventure. Three years after his star-making turn in The Great Escape, Steve McQueen delivers what many consider his most complete performance, as the antisocial crewmember of an American ship docked in China during the civil war of 1926. Though it presents a rather generalized view of imperialism, Sand Pebbles makes obvious parallels between America's presence in China and its presence in Vietnam four decades later. Director Robert Wise struggled to get backing for the film, succeeding only when he agreed to direct the film version of The Sound of Music. It was not a major hit, though its cachet increased when it received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor.