Steve McQueen received his only Academy Award nomination for his performance in this epic-scale war drama, based on the novel by Richard McKenna. In 1926, as China teeters on the edge of political revolution in the midst of a civil war, the USS San Pablo , is ordered to patrol the Yangtze River to represent and protect American interests. While ...Read MoreSteve McQueen received his only Academy Award nomination for his performance in this epic-scale war drama, based on the novel by Richard McKenna. In 1926, as China teeters on the edge of political revolution in the midst of a civil war, the USS San Pablo , is ordered to patrol the Yangtze River to represent and protect American interests. While the San Pablo may be an American ship, much of the labor is actually performed by Chinese locals willing to work for American money, while stern but inexperienced commanding officer Captain Collins (Richard Crenna) frequently drills his charges, unsure what else to do. A machinist's mate with just under a decade of navy service behind him, Jake Holman (Steve McQueen) is assigned to the San Pablo and immediately makes enemies among the crew -- he prefers to do his own work rather than farm it out to others, and the one Chinese man who works by his side, Po Han (Mako), is treated as an apprentice rather than a servant. Holman also falls in love with an idealistic American missionary (Candice Bergen), while his shipmate Frenchy (Richard Attenborough) falls for a Chinese girl and - with marriage plans in mind - kidnaps her to prevent her from being auctioned off. As Holman's methods and attitudes continue to anger his comrades, they find themselves increasingly at odds with the Chinese, especially after Frenchy's girlfriend becomes pregnant and Po Han is captured by revolutionary forces and branded a traitor. Mark Deming, RoviRead Less
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Brand New 6. One of the most exciting and heart-wrenching epics ever made, THE SAND PEBBLES is a masterpiece of storytelling, with exceptional performances by a stellar cast. The complex tale begins simply enough in 1926 China, where a group of American soldiers are patrolling the Yangtze River on a gunboat called the San Pablo. The crew members, who call themselves Sand Pebbles, includes Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), a dispassionate but capable navy machinist, and his only friend, Frenchy (Richard Attenborough), a sailor in love with an English-educated Chinese girl, Maily (Marayat Andriane), who has been sold into prostitution. Strong feelings of nationalism have been sweeping through China, however, and when Chiang Kai-shek moves against the feudal warlords, the United States decides to treat the upheaval as a civil war, and the San Pablo is ordered to confine its function to protection of American civilians in the area. Included among them are Mr. Jameson (Larry Gates), a missionary, and Shirley Eckert (Candice Bergen), a schoolteacher with whom Jake falls in love. Soon Jake finds himself in the middle of an international military crisis when his native assistant, Po-han (Mako), is brutally tortured in an attempt to draw the San Pablo's fire, and the boat's inexperienced and prideful captain (Richard Crenna) wants to give his humiliated ship and disgraced crew a chance for glory. THE SAND PEBBLES--with its expert cinematography, moving score, and riveting locations--is a memorable viewing experience brought to life by the multitalented director Robert Wise.
The Sand Pebbles is an excellent historical drama that captures the atmosphere of the US gunboat Navy in China at the start of the Boxer Rebellion. Steve McQueen and Richard Attenbourough are outstanding. An absorbing film. Highly recommended.