Many passengers on the Shanghai Express are more concerned that the notorious Shanghai Lil is on board than the fact that a civil war is going on that may make the trip take more than three... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Anna May Wong
A young woman, Poppy, out for excitement in Shanghai, enters a gambling house owned by "Mother" Gin Sling, a dragon-lady who worked herself up from poverty to buy the casino. Sir Guy ... See full summary »
Film told in flashbacks of an older man's obsession for a woman who can belong to no-one but can frustrate everyone. The backdrop is SternbergÍs surreal and fantastic Carnaval in Spain. In ... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Edward Everett Horton
Nan, a racketeer's daughter, is in love with The Kid, a shooting gallery showman. Despite Nan's prodding, The Kid has no ambitions about joining the rackets and making enough money to ... See full summary »
Young Princess Sophia of Germany is taken to Russia to marry the half-wit Grand Duke Peter, son of the Empress. The domineering Empress hopes to improve the royal blood line. Sophia doesn't... See full summary »
A criminal known as Thunderbolt is imprisoned and facing execution. Into the next cell is placed Bob Morgan, an innocent man who has been framed and who is in love with Thunderbolt's girl, ... See full summary »
Theodore Dreiser's novel was based on the actual 1906 murder case of Chester Gillette, convicted of drowning his girlfriend Grace Brown in Big Moose Lake in upstate New York. Gillette was executed in the electric chair on 30 March 1908. See more »
To think that it's the same actress who stole the show in the first version of the Dreiser novel,who shone in Lang,Hitchcock or Wyler works, and...landed in Tim Burton's "Mars attacks" where she played the "deus ex machina grandma who single-handedly saved our dear old planet! It's very interesting to compare her performance with that of the great Shelley Winters in Stevens's remake:they give diametrically opposite renditions:Winters' portrayal is that of a vulgar ,crude ,exasperating and even authoritarian woman,almost a shrew;Sidney's girl is exquisite with small eyes longing for happiness and love,a very delicate style of play.
If you've seen the remake before,you will notice big differences:the first one is the rich girl's part:whereas Elizabeth Taylor 's part was very important in "a place in the sun",here Frances Dee does her very short stint,hardly 10 minutes,then they talk about her as "Miss X ", the invisible woman,which prevents us from comparing her with her more famous successor.Philip Holmes was surpassed by Montgomery Clift who gave more intensity,more ambiguity and finally more credibility to a character who is primarily a coward :there's room at the top ,but he's bound to fall because perhaps of his education.From that point of view,"an American tragedy" is more detailed than "a place in the sun" :the hero's mother plays a prominent part and it's finally in his last scenes with her that Philip Holmes transcends a rather monotonous portrayal.The first accident which he was not responsible for is not included in Stevens' version.
If Sidney is the main asset of the movie,its main flaw is the very long trial ,one third of the running time is given over to it,and the defendant's attorney's and the prosecuting attorney's histrionics are sometimes ponderous and seem to come straight from the silent movies .(Sternberg was an important director before and after 1929,the year of the talkies).It's interesting to notice that between 1930 and 1935,it's his only film which does not feature Marlene Dietrich.
All in all, Stevens'"a place in the sun" is a better constructed movie,a better remake,which has become exceptional nowadays,but at least for Sidney, watch this one.
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