The Bitter Tea of General Yen. 1933. USA. Directed by Frank Capra. Screenplay by Edward Paramore, based on the novel by Grace Zaring Stone. With Barbara Stanwyck, Nils Asther, Walter Connolly, Toshia Mori. DCP. 87 min.
Kyoto-born, US–raised Toshia Mori was cast as Mah-Li shortly after she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star, the only non-Caucasian actress ever to gain this publicity distinction from the trade group. Mori is third-billed in Bitter Tea, and she made a distinctive impression. The fan magazines reported that she had been signed to a long-term contract as a result of her “sensational” work, and at times she even steals scenes from the great Barbara Stanwyck. Unfortunately, Mah-Li would be the most significant role Mori ever got. For her, as for other Asian actors of the era, no matter how talented, lead roles in A-list productions did not materialize. She finished the decade in girlfriend parts in the Charlie Chan series, and vanished from screens by 1937.