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Oil for the Lamps of China

Oil for the Lamps of China(1935)


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Film Daily lists a preview running time of 110 minutes and Daily Variety notes a preview running time of 120 minutes. Shorter release times listed by other sources indicate that some cuts were made before the film's general release. Contemporary sources note that in contrast to the best-selling novel on which it was based, the film does not indict the oil business for the impersonal tyranny with which it treats its employees. An early Motion Picture Herald article includes Olive Jones in the cast, but her participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Franchot Tone was originally assigned the Pat O'Brien role. A news item in Daily Variety notes that Henry O'Neill replaced Robert Barrat when he was assigned to The Farrell Case which was later entitled G-Men. A news item in Film Daily states that scenes for the film were shot in the Mojave Desert. A news item indicates that Robert Florey was sent to China to obtain background shots for this film and others with a Chinese setting which the studio planned to produce. According to modern sources, Florey spent three weeks in China shooting backgrounds for a number of projects of which only Oil for the Lamps of China was actually produced. The production chief advised Florey and his cameramen, Fred Jackman and George Krainukov, to work secretly. In this way, they were able to smuggle 20,000 ft. of film out of China without submitting it for censorship or paying official fees. Modern sources note that Florey was paid nothing for his work, which was judged too realistic to be used. According to Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. was looking for a script writer with a Chinese background. According to Daily Variety, the treatment was looked over by Yi-seng S. Kiang, the motion picture representative of the Chinese government in Los Angeles. The main objections of the Chinese government were said to be "civil war sequences, the bound feet of women, the wearing of queues, concubinage, opium smoking, superstitious beliefs and the use of the words 'Chinaman' and 'Chink'." Background shots were also carefully scrutinized. Hobart's novel was the basis of the 1941 Warner Bros. film Law of the Tropics directed by Ray Enright and starring Jeffrey Lynn and Constance Bennett.