The General Died at Dawn

The General Died at Dawn

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Produced by William LeBaron
Written by Charles G. Booth
Clifford Odets
Starring Gary Cooper
Madeleine Carroll
Akim Tamiroff
Music by Werner Janssen
Cinematography Victor Milner
Edited by Eda Warren
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
September 2, 1936 (1936-09-02)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The General Died at Dawn is a 1936 American drama film that tells the story of a mercenary who meets a beautiful girl while trying to keep arms from getting to a vicious warlord in war-torn China. The movie was written by Charles G. Booth and Clifford Odets, and directed by Lewis Milestone.

It stars Gary Cooper, Madeleine Carroll, Akim Tamiroff, and Dudley Digges. Director Milestone has a cameo role.

The movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Akim Tamiroff), Best Cinematography, and Best Music, Score. There are several scenes in the film that show startling originality at the time. At one point, the camera focuses on a white door knob, and then dissolves to a white billiard ball to connect disparate scenes. In another scene, two characters have a conversation in which they speculate about the fates of other characters in the drama. The answers to their questions appear in screen segments in the corners of the screen, marking an unusual use of split screen to join narrative.

The main character, O'Hara, is based on the real-life Anglo-Canadian Jewish adventurer Morris Abraham "Two-Gun" Cohen. During the early 1930s, Cohen ran guns for various warlords in mainland China.

This is reported to be the first film to use foam latex prosthetics. Makeup artist Charles Gemora applied sponge rubber eyelids for one of the actors.

John Howard Reid called it one of the fifty finest films Hollywood ever made.[1]


In 1938 an animated cartoon, called The Major Lied Till Dawn, was produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions. In it, a major tells tall tales about his hunting adventures to a boy who resembles Freddie Bartholomew. The character of the major may have been influenced by Colonel Heeza Liar.

A third-season episode of the TV show M*A*S*H was entitled "The General Flipped at Dawn" (broadcast September 10, 1974). In the episode Harry Morgan appears as Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele, a batty general who is convinced that the 4077th needs to move closer to the front lines, to be near the action. (Morgan formally joined the cast of M*A*S*H in Season Four as the much-saner Colonel Sherman T. Potter.)


  1. Reid, John Howard (2012). 50 of the Finest Films Hollywood Ever Made. Raleigh, NC: pp. 38–39. ISBN 9781105758966. OCLC 934849010.
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