The Sand Pebbles | Eastern North Carolina Now

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There Was a Time When China Awoke

    Years ago in the day of big movies shot with a majestic country and big social movements behind them, Steve McQueen starred in "The Sand Pebbles." It is set in 1926 as China awoke from its slumber. The Red Chinese were coming to power with great slaughter of the people. 1966 Twentieth Century Fox is the marker if you want to get it in CD.

    The San Pablo, a river boat derelict from the Spanish-American War era, was cruising the American flag on the South China Sea. Candice Bergen plays a lovely young teacher going to the China Light Mission with stars in her eyes. Steve McQueen plays Jake Holeman, a derelict non-conformist from the Mid-West who joined the Navy in preference for a prison sentence over a fight with an abusive school administrator. You might say, "The man and the machine were made for one another."

    Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, the movie is about life, love, and courage. For me, it bespeaks the essence of INTEGRITY.

    A man who cared for little more than making a steam engine function is drawn from his angst into a world of caring and teaching a Chinese cooly how to run that engine. It has all the features of what life is really about.

    It features Richard Crenna of "The Real McCoys" TV fame as the Captain of the boat. He is a man who failed to achieve rank66 in the regular Navy and is now "biding his time" on a remote assignment far from the maddening crowd of Navy brass and bull in the Pacific.
In nearly every Steve McQueen film, he operates a highly functioning piece of machinery where it becomes an extension of his character. In "The Sand Pebbles", it is the Browning Automatic Rifle: Above.

    Among the big movies popular in the 60's this one stands out for me as equal to "Dr. Zhivago". Robert Wise directed it and does a masterful job of combining story and scenery into a motion picture well worth the time to view and think on it. No matter how old it gets, it is a "must see" for those valuing high quality we seldom see today.

    Not Rated, 182 minutes of runtime, released in theaters in 1966.

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( November 22nd, 2014 @ 2:18 pm )
Thanks, Stan, for the help in making this come alive!

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