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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film is set in northern China (Peking to Shanghai). The government and warlord soldiers are speaking Taishanese, which is a southern Chinese dialect not generally spoken in northern China. The northern dialects of Mandarin Chinese (a Beijing dialect) and/or Shanghainese would be spoken instead. See more »
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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