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Captain China
Adventure , Drama, Favorite

1950 | 4:3 | BLACK & WHITE | Quality: Excellent

John Payne

Gail Russell

Jeffrey Lynn


John Payne is Captain Charles Chinnough, nicknamed Captain China, who is found floating adrift in the sea after a shipwreck and is disgraced - accused of being too drunk to navigate a safe course and being responsible for the loss of his ship. China knows, however, he's been framed and he's not about to take it lying down. He hatches a scheme to get revenge and becomes a passenger aboard a vessel captained by his former first mate (Jeffrey Lynn), whose false testimony months earlier resulted in China being convicted of drunken negligence. Also on board is Red Lynch (Lon Chaney), another former crewmate of China's who has betrayed him. Both men quickly wind up at each other's throats in a fantastic fight scene - the burly, brawling Chaney one of the few actors in Hollywood who could hold his own against the handsome Payne (they later worked together again in 1953's "Raiders of the Seven Seas"). The other passengers include husband and wife missionaries Edgar Bergen and Ilka Gruning, spinster mystery novelist Ellen Corby, and the beautiful Gail Russell heading home. The first three provide comedy relief and Russell is a romantic bone of contention between Payne and Lynn. The only thing flying faster than their fists and insults is the howling wind as a deadly typhoon approaches.

John Payne had enjoyed a comfortable career in the 1940s playing light roles in musicals and comedies, but something inside him changed after his 35th birthday and he wanted to shift into action and adventure films. "Captain China" marked the beginnings of this change and fit his needs nicely. Exemplifying his metamorphosis into action hero beefcake is a scene in which his bare chest is no longer the boyishly smooth chest he showed off in, say, "To the Shores of Tripoli," he now sported a patch of black hair across his pecs. So thick was this patch that, in a profile shot, it appeared to add an inch or two to his chest measurement. Pine & Thomas studio were very impressed with Payne's work and happily signed him to a long contract, pumping out plenty of action films and westerns with Payne in the lead role. Payne was a shrewd and forward-thinking man, as he wisely negotiated for his following films to be in color and to have their rights revert to him a few years after release. In this way, he later made a fortune renting his films to television stations.

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