China Doll (1958)
He man Victor Mature stars here as a tough as nails flight leader during WW2 who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. While stationed in China Mature is known to hit the bottle kind of hard when he and his flight group which includes up and comer Stuart Whitman are not in the skies delivering supplies to the soldiers on the front lines. While intoxicated and stumbling his way to his quarters he makes the mistake of buying a Chinese girl played by Li Li Hua. At first this doesn’t sit to well with missionary/priest Ward Bond who enjoys a good game of chess with Mature.
After a little soul searching Bond thinks it best that she stay and become Mature’s house maid for the agreed upon time of 3 months to save her honor and keep her from drifting into prostitution. That word does not appear on screen but the implication is plainly made. Could it be that our house girl melts the heart of the stern taskmaster? You figure it out.
Long on soap opera and short on action this film meanders along with Mature softening up and accepting responsibilities beyond that of whipping a crew into shape. When we do get to some war time heroics Vic answers the call of duty along with his stand in. If anyone can take on the Japanese air force all alone, look no further than the screen’s first muscle man. Joining Mature in the fight besides Whitman we have Donald “Red” Barry and in a role a little bit different, Denver Pyle. This time out Denver is Mature’s commanding officer instead of a country hick that he usually played so well.
Produced by Victor’s own company Romina Productions, the film had long time director Frank Borzage behind the camera. Borzage had done silents as well as the Dietrich-Cooper hit Desire among others. For our battle scenes it’s more than obvious we have stock footage creeping in keeping our hero alert and behind an anti aircraft gun. I have always liked Mature’s on screen presence but quite often find some of his later films beneath him. While not a bad film there isn’t much to discuss here unless you need to see all things Vic like me or Ward Bond in Bing Crosby mode . Sadly this would be Bond’s second last film before passing away in 1960 after a lengthy career most notably in John Ford and or John Wayne films