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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 <email@example.com>
Nine first-class passengers board a train to travel the 3-day trip from Peiping, China, to Shanghai. Nine souls with widely varying backgrounds & uncertain futures. For they are traveling into countryside racked by civil war and one of their number may not be all he seems. What dangers await & who will survive the journey on the SHANGHAI EXPRESS?
Marlene Dietrich is mysteriously beautiful as Shanghai Lilly, a `coaster' (a woman living by her wits on the coast of China) whom all men - and most viewers- find fascinating. Clive Brook, a silent film star little remembered now, is very effective as the British Army doctor who was once Lilly's lover. Anna May Wong plays an exotic Chinese prostitute who is used to taking care of herself.
The supporting cast is equally good: Warner Oland as a sly Eurasian; Eugene Pallette as a jovial American gambler; Lawrence Grant as a grumpy old English missionary; Gustav von Seyffertitz as an invalid German with a dangerous secret; Emile Chautard as an elderly French Major with a hidden past; and wonderful old Louise Closser Hale as a feisty American widow who runs `the best boarding house in Shanghai.'
Paramount put a lot of money into this pre-Production Code adventure drama, which has an exciting plot, good acting & plenty of romance. The Peiping scenes, with the crowded tenements squeezing right down to the very railroad tracks, are especially well done.
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