Review: ‘The Sand Pebbles’

Out of the 1926 political and military turmoil in China, producer-director Robert Wise has created a sensitive, personal drama, set against a background of old style US Navy gunboat diplomacy. The Sand Pebbles, based on the novel by Richard McKenna, is a handsome production, boasting some excellent acting characterizations.

Out of the 1926 political and military turmoil in China, producer-director Robert Wise has created a sensitive, personal drama, set against a background of old style US Navy gunboat diplomacy. The Sand Pebbles, based on the novel by Richard McKenna, is a handsome production, boasting some excellent acting characterizations.

Steve McQueen looks and acts the part he plays so well – that of a machinist’s mate with nine years of navy service. Richard Crenna likewise is authentic as the gunboat captain, a young lieutenant who speaks the platitudes of leadership with a slight catch in his throat, due to lack of practical experience.

The title derives from a language perversion of San Pablo, formal name of the gunboat on Yangtze river patrol. Among the crew is Richard Attenborough, very believable in his role as a sailor who falls in love with newcomer Marayat Andriane in a tragic bi-racial romance. Her performance is sensitive.

The major drawback to the film as a whole is a surfeit of exposition, mainly in the second half. Every scene is in itself excellent, but unfortunately the overall dramatic flow of the pic suffers in the end.

1966: Nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Steve McQueen), Supp. Actor (Mako), Color Cinematography, Color Art Direction, Editing, Original Music Score, Sound

The Sand Pebbles

Production

Argyle/Solar/20th Century-Fox. Director Robert Wise; Producer Robert Wise; Screenplay Robert Anderson; Camera Joseph MacDonald; Editor William Reynolds; Music Jerry Goldsmith; Art Director Boris Leven

Crew

(Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1966. Running time: 193 MIN.

With

Steve McQueen Richard Attenborough Richard Crenna Candice Bergen Marayat Andriane Mako

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