A Yank on the Burma Road


1h 5m 1942
A Yank on the Burma Road

Brief Synopsis

The Pearl Harbor attack inspires a truck driver in the Far East to join the war effort.

Film Details

Also Known As
China Caravan, Yanks Over the Burma Road, Yanks on the Burma Road
Genre
Drama
Action
Adventure
War
Release Date
Feb 1942
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 29 Jan 1942
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
San Fernando, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 5m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,924ft (7 reels)

Synopsis

In the autumn of 1941, after cabbie Joe Tracey casually walks into a police station and delivers the Spinaldi brothers, killers whom he singlehandedly captured while the entire New York City police force was searching for them, he becomes an instant celebrity. His fame comes to the attention of the Five Brothers Society, a Chinese benevolent group who want to hire him for $25,000 to lead trucks filled with medical supplies across the Burma Road from Rangoon to Chungking. He at first declines, but is finally shamed by the many school children who make donations to the cause and accepts. On the day that Joe and his Chinese-American colleague, Kim How, arrive in Rangoon, American Gail Farwood is refused a passport to go to Chungking because the British authorities regard her German-born, American-educated husband Tom as a traitor because he has flown bombing raids with the Japanese. She is then ordered to leave the country within forty-eight hours. When Gail sees Joe at her hotel and hears about his mission, she hires a man to pretend to rob her so Joe can become her "hero." She flatters him, then says she is soon flying to Chungking to meet a friend. That night, Joe takes her out and suggests that she cancel her flight and come with him to Chungking. She enthusiastically agrees, and that night after Joe commandeers a transport train to carry the gasoline-lacking trucks, they leave Rangoon on the first leg of the journey. Joe makes a play for Gail on the train, but she rebuffs him, causing him to knock over a lamp that starts a small fire and burns his hands. By the convoy's first stop, their antagonism has waned and they begin to like each other. When they arrive at the Chinese border, he hints at deep feelings for her and agrees to cover for her when she hides in the back of the truck, not wanting the Chinese to know that she is there. While they are stopped, though, an official says that they are looking for an American without a passport who is the wife of an imprisoned traitor. After covering for her, he orders her out, but soon recants when he senses that she is sincere. Despite the hazards on the road, the convoy advances. While they continue their drive, she admits that Tom is both a "hero and a heel" and Joe is a lot like him. Soon a Japanese bomber squadron flies overhead, aiming at a bridge that the convoy must cross. The convoy is too late to cross before the bombing and they must go on an emergency road that is very dangerous. On the way, Joe admits that his motives at first were not pure, but now, inspired by Kim, the amiable driver Wing and others, he is proud to be part of the mercy mission. They soon come upon a bombed-out town in which the people are starving. When some villagers hear her name, an old man and woman identify Farwood as the name of a German who flew for the Japanese and mention that he is being held prisoner nearby. Gail then asks Joe to take her to Tom. Kim advises him against it, because they are going into enemy-held territory, but Joe drives Gail to the town where Tom is being held. Gail is disgusted to find that Tom has been a mercenary for the Japanese and begins to see him as he really is, but promises to stand by him through his current situation. Joe negotiates to take Tom to Chungking to stand trial, but just then the news arrives that the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, and Tom determines to help the Chinese hold the nearby town of Chien-ou. He and Kim then mobilize the surrounding villagers. After Wing volunteers to drive a backup truck, Joe drives toward the town, with Gail and Tom riding in the back. When they arrive at the town gates, though, Wing drives forward and draws enemy fire, so that Joe can get through. After Wing is killed, Joe realizes that the Japanese machine guns will butcher his men as they spill into town, so he crashes his truck into the building where the machine gun is set up. In the foray, Gail lets Tom loose to defend himself, but he attacks the Chinese, and Kim shoots him. Soon the Chinese overpower the Japanese and the road to Chungking is now open, allowing Gail and Joe to drive on with their supplies.

Film Details

Also Known As
China Caravan, Yanks Over the Burma Road, Yanks on the Burma Road
Genre
Drama
Action
Adventure
War
Release Date
Feb 1942
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 29 Jan 1942
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
San Fernando, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 5m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,924ft (7 reels)

Articles

A Yank on the Burma Road -


MGM may not have been as heavily involved as other Hollywood studios in making anti-Axis films before the U.S. entered World War II, but they more than made up for it with this low-budget action film. Or they would have had they gotten it out before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Instead, this tale of a New York cabbie (Barry Nelson, in his first leading role) shepherding supply trucks up the Burma Road to bring supplies to the Chinese Army in Chungking had some new scenes mentioning Pearl Harbor added before release. Nelson's odyssey includes fighting off Japanese attacks, negotiating landslides and wrecked bridges, and coping with female stowaway Larraine Day, out to clear her name when her estranged husband goes over to the enemy's side. Although some critics complained that the Chinese were shown as childlike creatures who had no fight in them until the American showed them how, the film should get some kind of credit for showcasing Asian-American actors like Keye Luke, Victor Sen Yung and Philip Ahn, in positive roles, a rarity during the war years when most Asians were typed as villains.

By Frank Miller
A Yank On The Burma Road -

A Yank on the Burma Road -

MGM may not have been as heavily involved as other Hollywood studios in making anti-Axis films before the U.S. entered World War II, but they more than made up for it with this low-budget action film. Or they would have had they gotten it out before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Instead, this tale of a New York cabbie (Barry Nelson, in his first leading role) shepherding supply trucks up the Burma Road to bring supplies to the Chinese Army in Chungking had some new scenes mentioning Pearl Harbor added before release. Nelson's odyssey includes fighting off Japanese attacks, negotiating landslides and wrecked bridges, and coping with female stowaway Larraine Day, out to clear her name when her estranged husband goes over to the enemy's side. Although some critics complained that the Chinese were shown as childlike creatures who had no fight in them until the American showed them how, the film should get some kind of credit for showcasing Asian-American actors like Keye Luke, Victor Sen Yung and Philip Ahn, in positive roles, a rarity during the war years when most Asians were typed as villains. By Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The film's working titles were China Caravan and Yanks on the Burma Road. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, M-G-M had also considered using the title Yanks Over the Burma Road, which Republic Pictures had registered first with the Hays Office for the film that was released late in 1942 as Flying Tigers. A January 21, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Universal Pictures had announced plans to shoot a film entitled Yanks Over Burma "shortly after the war started." No Universal film with that or similar title was released after America's entry into the war, although Universal did release a similarly themed picture, Burma Convoy, in mid-October 1942. A Hollywood Reporter news item in late January 1942 noted that henceforth, any title that dealt with the names of people, places or events in the news would belong to whomever got the project to the screen first, regardless of who registered the title first with the Hays Office.
       The film's written prologue reads: "On December 7th, 1941, Japan attacked the United States of America and engaged in War. This is a story of one American who tackled Japan a little before the rest of us-and what he started the rest of the Yanks will finish!" Although Matthew Boulton's onscreen credit reads "Rangoon Aide de camp," an inter-title in the film identifies the city as "Rangune."
       Hollywood Reporter news items noted that Clyde DeVinna replaced Lester White as the director of photography on the film during the last week of production because White had to shoot added scenes for Babes on Broadway. Although production on A Yank on the Burma Road was completed in mid-November 1941, in one scene, late in the film, Chinese soldiers inform "Joe Tracey" and "Kim How" that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor, indicating that retakes must have been shot after December 7, 1941. Some actors listed on the CBCS who were not in the released film May have been in scenes that were reshot to update the picture to reflect the American entry into the war. These actors include: Edward Ashley, Miles Mander, Ottola Nesmith, Turhan Bey and Selmer Jackson. Actors listed in news items whose appearance in the released film has not been confirmed are Dick French and Gayne Whitman. Other news items mentioned that portions of the film were shot in the San Fernando Hills, CA, and that the picture had received the approval of the Chinese consul in Los Angeles after added scenes were shot to clarify that the Chinese-Japanese battle in the picture was not actually held on the Burma Road.