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>
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 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 »
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 »
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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