High Road to China

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High Road to China
High Road to China.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Produced by Fred Weintraub
Screenplay by Sandra Weintraub
S. Lee Pogostin
Based on High Road to China
by Jon Cleary
Music by John Barry
Cinematography Ronnie Taylor
Edited by John Jympson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Umbrella Entertainment
Release dates
  • March 18, 1983 (1983-03-18)
Running time
105 minutes
Country Yugoslavia
United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $28,445,927

High Road to China is a 1983 adventure-romance film, set in the 1920s, starring Tom Selleck as a hard-drinking biplane pilot hired by society heiress Eve "Evie" Tozer (Bess Armstrong) to find her missing father (Wilford Brimley). The supporting cast includes Robert Morley and Brian Blessed. The Golden Harvest film (released by Warner Bros.) was directed by Brian G. Hutton, loosely based on a novel of the same name by Australian author Jon Cleary. Little beyond character names and the basic premise of an aerial race to China survived the translation to film. The musical score was composed by John Barry. It was the 27th highest grossing film of 1983, bringing in $28,445,927 at the domestic box office.[1]


Eve Tozer (Bess Armstrong) is a society heiress and flapper living the high-life in 1920s Istanbul. She needs to find her father (Wilford Brimley) before he is officially declared dead or risk losing her inheritance to his scheming business partner Bentik (Robert Morley). She hires WWI ace-pilot Patrick O'Malley (Tom Selleck) and his planes to locate her father. O'Malley is eager to take the job as he needs to leave town rather urgently himself. However, Eve, also an accomplished pilot, is determined to accompany him in his other aircraft, which causes the first of many arguments between Istanbul and China.

Their journey in two biplanes (named Dorothy and Lillian) through six countries leads them to finally find the eccentric Bradley Tozer in China, where he is helping a small village defend against a local warlord. O'Malley and Eve help them win the final battle; however, their one remaining plane is damaged in the process, leaving their immediate future actions uncertain.



The film is regarded as one of the better imitators that populated movie theaters in the years following Raiders of the Lost Ark.[citation needed] Rumor has it that it was "given" to Selleck as a sort of consolation prize for having to pass on Raiders of the Lost Ark due to scheduling conflicts with Magnum, P.I.[citation needed]

In early development, this film was slated to star Roger Moore and Jacqueline Bisset under the direction of John Huston.[2]

Filming took place in Yugoslavia with a crew of 231 (145 Yugoslavs, 60 British, 15 Italians, 10 Americans, and one Frenchman). They also added 50 Yugoslavian actors to the speaking cast and hired 4,000 extras.

Headquarters for the film company was in the small Adriatic coastal town of Opatija, Croatia, located on the northwest coast of the Gulf of Rijeka at the foot of Mt. Ucka. The town's population was only 8,000, but was just two kilometers from the city of Rijeka which had a population of 150,000.

Filming locations: town of Opatija and Istria, Croatia. Scenes from Afghanistan, were filmed at mountain Kamenjak near Rijeka, scenes from Turkey were filmed at Volosko and the final battle in China was filmed in Boljun.

Two planes—named Dorothy and Lillian, after the famous silent screen Gish sisters—were two vintage Belgian-designed, French-built Stampe biplanes. Each had two doubles that were used in situations where actual flying was not involved.


The film grossed over $28 million at the box office.[3]

Tom Selleck later recalled:

Patrick O’Malley I’m very fond of... There were actors at that point who had left a series and started a feature career, but there was no one at that point who was trying to do both at the same time. So that was unique. It also made the jury rather tough, because a lot of people didn’t see it that way, so I was walking into an arena where that wasn’t accepted. But it’s a good movie. It holds up.[4]

Home Media[edit]

High Road to China was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in February 2012.[5]

In February 2013 Umbrella Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray.[6]


  1. ^ 1983 box office results at Movies.com
  2. ^ Wayne Warga, "Author! Author!: Upwardly Prolific Down Under", Los Angeles Times 4 July 1980: e2.
  3. ^ SELLECK: A RUNAWAY MALE SEX SYMBOL: SELLECK: A RUNAWAY MALE SEX SYMBOL Champlin, Charles. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 07 Dec 1984: l1.
  4. ^ http://www.avclub.com/article/tom-selleck-jesse-stone-friends-and-fighting-magnu-226560
  5. ^ "Umbrella Entertainment - DVD". Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "Umbrella Entertainment - Blu-ray". Retrieved 10 May 2013. 

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