International Settlement (film)

International Settlement
Directed by Eugene Forde
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Sol M. Wurtzel
Written by Lou Breslow
Frank Fenton
Starring Dolores del Rio
George Sanders
June Lang
Music by Samuel Kaylin
Edited by Nick DeMaggio
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • February 4, 1938 (1938-02-04)
Running time
75 minutes
Country United States
Language English

International Settlement is a 1938 American drama film directed by Eugene Forde and starring Dolores del Rio, George Sanders and June Lang. It is set in the Shanghai International Settlement during the Sino-Japanese War. In the film, a gun runner falls in love with a beautiful French singer.[1]



1938's "International Settlement" refers to the heart of Shanghai China (the shooting title was "Shanghai Deadline"), where Western foreign powers had long controlled a protected enclave divided among 13 nations. The film opens as Japanese forces have successfully overrun Peiping (modern day Beijing) in the north and are now heading for Shanghai. Somewhat like Casablanca's famous opening, this conflict is introduced with a twirling globe leading us to China, interspersed with geniune newsreel footage of Japanese bombers attacking Peiping and Chinese refugees fleeing south, while a solemn voice intones the threat of oncoming war.

Future Academy-award-winner George Sanders in his first leading man role in Hollywood, plays Del Forbes, a vagabond adventurer with a dapper mustache, sailing for China, and broke enough to agree to impersonate a fellow passenger, ailing munitions dealer Zabellu (Pedro de Cordoba). Too ill to leave the ship, Zabellu pays Forbes to impersonate him in an illegal arms deal for which he's owed some 200,000 pounds ("That's a nearly a million dollars!!" Forbes exclaims helpfully). Since no one in Shanghai knows who either man is, Forbes agrees.

Forbes gets the last hotel room In a British sector crowded with frightened guests escaping from the Japanese invasion of Peiping in the north. Playing the suave, slightly condescending British cad that would become his trademark, Sander's Forbes ignores the annoying advances of a naive American girl Joyce,( June Lang), and instead falls hard for Lenore (Dolores Del Rio), a stunning nightclub singer he first meets when she breaks into his room and tries to kill him. As she not only misses but is far too beautiful to turn over to the police, Forbes promptly invites her to dinner. But first he rickshaws to the "native city" - the Chinese quarter outside the Settlement - to carry through the deal with shady Joseph Lang (Harold Huber) and his partner Murdock (John Carradine in another early role). He fights off an attack as he leaves with the money but when he delivers it to the ship, he learns Zabellu has died of natural causes.

Forbes is now walking around Shanghai with a million dollars in pounds around his waist—and love in his heart. A romantic dinner ensues; a night of passion promised. "An unusual thing is happening to me," he tells Lenore in his dulcet British murmur. "I'm beginning to care whether I'm alive."

Unaware that she's the wife of a shady American munitions dealer, Monte Silver (Leon Ames) who also wants the money, Forbes believes Lenore when she brings him to the Green Dragon, a bar in the Chinese quarter, where Monte Silver is waiting for him. Just when Sander's character realizes he's been set up by the woman he loves, Japanese bombers start attacking Shanghai; the two men struggle and Monte shoots Forbes in the arm. Lenore rushes into the room, where wounded Forbes has just enough time to congratulate her on her deception when the bar is hit by a bomb. Silver staggers off, leaving Lenore and Forbes unconscious in its wreckage.

As backlot explosions are intercut with actual 1937 newsreel footage of the bombing of Shanghai by the Japanese, Lenore wakens and braves the bombing in the streets to search for a doctor for the dying Forbes, and finds one bandaging wounded Chinese peasants. Doctor Wong Keye Luke is a rare Hollywood role of an educated, compassionate and bi-lingual Asian professional- in fact, he plays the only intelligent, decent man in the entire film. Dr. Wong frees the still-unconscious Forbes from the beam that's crushed him and explains - as bombs explode over them - that only a transfusion will save the man, risky to attempt outside a hospital. Lenore begs to donate her blood, so Dr. Wong tests her compatibility, then improvises a workable transfusion which saves Forbes's life. When Forbes wakes, though, unaware of what she's just done, he bitterly rejects Lenore again before collapsing. Lenore rushes off to get help and finds June Lang and her buddy, an equally ditzy newsreel cameraman (Dick Baldwin) in the Chinese quarter but they arrive too late: the building where Forbes lay has been destroyed.

With her husband executing everyone in his way, he and Lenore board a ship heading for America with the million dollars in pounds. But - surprise!- Forbes is there too, alive if not entirely happy until Joyce explains to the bitter man all Lenore has done to save him. He visits her cabin just in time to watch Lenore point her gun at her soon-to-be-ex-husband, and take the money and leave with Forbes. She doesn't actually kill the man, but conveniently someone else does, and everyone who deserves to lives happily ever after.


  1. "International Settlement (1938) | BFI". Retrieved 2016-10-17.

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