Shanghai Express (1932)

Passed  |   |  Adventure, Drama, Romance  |  12 February 1932 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 4,615 users  
Reviews: 47 user | 35 critic

A loose woman rediscovers a former lover during a dangerous train ride to Shanghai.


(screen play by), (based on the story by)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Captain 'Doc' Harvey
Hui Fei
Mr. Henry Chang
Sam Salt
Reverend Mr. Carmichael
Louise Closser Hale ...
Mrs. Haggerty
Gustav von Seyffertitz ...
Eric Baum
Emile Chautard ...
Major Lenard


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 days. The British Army doctor, Donald Harvey, knew Lil before she became a famous "coaster." A fellow passenger defines a coaster as "a woman who lives by her wits along the China coast." When Chinese guerillas stop the train, Dr. Harvey is selected as the hostage. Lil saves him, but can she make him believe that she really hasn't changed from the woman he loved five years before? Written by Dale O'Connor <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Many Men Had Loved Her -- but only one had been loved in return !


Passed | See all certifications »




| | |

Release Date:

12 February 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El expreso de Shanghai  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(DVD release)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In her autobiography, Marlene Dietrich claimed that von Sternberg directed most of the cinematography, instead of Lee Garmes (who actually won an Oscar for his work on the film). See more »


The telegraph forms shown on screen are filled out in Chinese and meant to be Chinese, but in fact are in English and therefore American. See more »


Mr. Henry Chang: You're in China now, sir, where time and life have no value.
See more »


Featured in Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

A very good movie.
24 October 1999 | by (Lisbon, Portugal) – See all my reviews

Many consider "The Shanghai Express" the best von Sternberg/ Dietrich film. Perhaps. I certainly agree that it is a very good movie. The story is a bit trivial: two lovers meet again after five years. They were separated due to the lack of faith he had in her. This film is a journey. In fact, two kinds of journeys: a physical one, since the set is a moving train, and a psychological one, since during this journey Captain Harvey (Clive Brook) gains fate, essential to a love relationship. The train movements seem to indicate the attraction Captain Harvey and Shanghai Lily (Marlene Dietrich) feel for each other. This movie gives us one of the most beautiful images in movie history: Dietrich in the dark, smoking a cigarette, with the famous light that gave her that famous "butterfly shadow".

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