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Shanghai Express (1932)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, Romance | 12 February 1932 (USA)
A loose woman rediscovers a former lover during a dangerous train ride to Shanghai.

Writers:

Jules Furthman (screen play), Harry Hervey (based on the story by)
Reviews
Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Marlene Dietrich ... Shanghai Lily
Clive Brook ... Captain Donald Harvey
Anna May Wong ... Hui Fei
Warner Oland ... Henry Chang
Eugene Pallette ... Sam Salt
Lawrence Grant ... Mr. Carmichael
Louise Closser Hale ... Mrs. Haggerty
Gustav von Seyffertitz ... Eric Baum
Emile Chautard ... Major Lenard
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Storyline

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 <daleoc@interaccess.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French | Cantonese | German

Release Date:

12 February 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El expreso de Shanghai See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$3,700,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Reverend Mr. Carmichael: It's a shame allowing such women on a first-class train.
Sam Salt: What's the matter with them, parson?
Mr. Henry Chang: I imagine the Honorable Divine objects to their morals.
Sam Salt: Why, I thought they were pretty good-looking. At least Shanghai Lily is.
Reverend Mr. Carmichael: Do you mean to say that Shanghai Lily is on this train?
Chinese attendant with hot water: Hot water, sir.
Sam Salt: It's about time. Well, being a married man, I only knew her by sight and reputation. But I'll lay you a hundred to one in any currency you've got that the lady in the next compartment is Shanghai Lily.
Reverend Mr. Carmichael: ...
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

Comments in the AFI Catalogue suggest the credits were changed when re-released in 1935. According to the Catalogue, the original print referred to Harry Herveys work as a novel. In the viewed print on TCM, the onscreen credit was "story." The print was clearly a re-released print because of the PCA certificate number listed onscreen; such numbers were not issued until 1934. It is not known what other changes were made, if any, but the print ran only 82 minutes, suggesting some additional editing had been done. See more »

Connections

Featured in Without Regret (1935) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Unforgettable journey
6 October 2007 | by SpondonmanSee all my reviews

Over the decades I've managed to see nearly all of the films Sternberg directed and I've always considered that this one was his best work. It was pre Hays Code Paramount for starters, with a marvellous cast and an unusual and simple story full of romance and action gripping to the end. It was also lovingly photographed from beginning to end, everyone and everything gleaming in a by turns savage and erotic dreamlike world.

During the Chinese Civil War and travelling on the Peiping-Shanghai Express ("where time and life have no meaning") are a disparate band of Westerners plus a couple of enigmatic natives – all sadly lacking in moral fibre except Clive Brooks who has too much of it. This makes him less of a human being, along with the rest of them. He's still in love with Marlene Dietrich whom he ditched 5 years and 4 weeks before thus unwittingly turning her into Shanghai Lily the notorious coaster - a woman living on the coast of China by her "wits" – which is a bit of a serious problem to the upright Britisher even though she still loves him. Warner Oland plays a fundamentalist Chinaman with secrets and ashamed to have white blood in his veins while Eugene Palette is a gambling mad American capitalist. Inscrutable and sullen Anna May Wong is Dietrich's companion in vice, and 4 other international eccentrics make up the passenger list we're interested in. Favourite bits: Wong's dramatic announcement of her consummated revenge; the iconic image of Dietrich smoking in the dark; the all-too believable chaotic scenes of civil warfare. The interplay between the main characters is occasionally laboured but always fascinating and always thought provoking - there's plenty going on so attention is recommended! The only thing that gets in the way of this being an absolute masterpiece is Brooks' lousy stilted acting style – entertaining in its own way to study the forgotten technique, but it's often jarring in its unconvincingness.

An early talkie classic, mesmerising even after all these years.


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