"You’re a social disease..."
Description: Gary Cooper as American mercenary O’Hara (Gary Cooper) spouts his disapproval of evil Asian warlord General Yang (Akim Tamiroff) in the motion picture The General Died at Dawn (1936).
O'Hara's full tirade: “You’re a social disease. I don’t like your disposition. I don’t like your friends. I don’t like your politics, and I don’t like your hat. Your faithful denizens may stick to you but you’re still a small noise at the end of a parade.”
O'Hara is a soldier-of-fortune hired by Mr. Wu (Dudley Digges) to smuggle money donated by Chinese peasants to buy weapons to support an insurrection against warlord General Yang who has oppressed the residents of one province and now wants to expand his ruthless reach to more of China so he can control the silk, rice and opium markets.
"You ask me why I'm for oppressed people? Because I've got a background of oppression myself, and O'Haras and elephants never forget." - O'Hara
Scheduled to take an airplane flight to Shanghai to buy weapons from a gunrunner named Brighton (William Frawley), O'Hara is instead lured to a train where Peter Perrie (Porter Hall) and his daughter, Judy (Madeleine Carroll) try to discover the whereabouts of the money.
Perrie, who only has six months to live, plans to hand over O'Hara to General Yang and then steal some of the money to return to America with his daughter. Soon, he manages to procure the money from General Yang, then hides it in a suitcase and purchases two tickets on a steamer to America.
Unaware the money is missing, General Yang takes his hostage to Shanghai by boat to force O'Hara to reveal the location of the funds he needs to continue his campaign of terror.
"I like people too much to shoot. But it's a dark year and a hard night." - O'Hara
Luckily, O'Hara manages to escape and meets Mr. Wu at the Mansion House, a hotel in Shanghai where his wounds are bandaged. O'Hara then confronts Perrie who shoots O'Hara in the hand. O'Hara shoots Perrie dead. Unfortunately, Yang appears with his bodyguards and takes Mr. Wu, Judy and O'Hara into custody.
Judy offers to reveal the money in exchange for Wu and O'Hara. Yang agrees but then refuses when he realizes that Judy is in love with O'Hara who tells her "We could've made wonderful music together." Earlier, in a different frame of mind, O'Hara told Judy, "Let me tell you, dreamboat. Don't think I fell for you. A tree with a flower on: I'd have fallen for that, the way I was feeling. A fish on a dish would-a got me."
Meanwhile, Brighton discovers the suitcase with the money and while in a drunken haze stabs Yang while trying to get away. O'Hara uses the incident to mock Yang. He tells the dying general that when he dies all of China will laugh at the notion that he was a powerful warlord whose minions would do anything he commanded. After all, they couldn't even protect the warlord from a knife attack.
To prove his minion's loyalty, the megalomaniacal Yang orders his soldiers to face each other and shoot. The soldiers die to prove Yang's honor, and then so does Yang.