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The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)

Adventurer Marco Polo travels to China, where he finds the Emperor Kublai Khan, court intrigue, danger, and unexpected love.

Directors:

Archie Mayo, John Cromwell (uncredited)

Writers:

Robert E. Sherwood (screen play), N.A. Pogson (based on a story by)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Gary Cooper ... Marco Polo
Sigrid Gurie ... Princess Kukachin
Basil Rathbone ... Ahmed
George Barbier ... Kublai Khan
Binnie Barnes ... Nazama
Ernest Truex ... Binguccio
Alan Hale ... Kaidu
H.B. Warner ... Chen Tsu
Robert Greig ... Chamberlain (as Robert Grieg)
Ferdinand Gottschalk ... Persian Ambassador
Henry Kolker ... Nicolo Polo
Lotus Liu ... Visakha
Stanley Fields ... Bayan
Harold Huber ... Toctai
Lana Turner ... Maid
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Storyline

Marco Polo travels from Venice to Peking, where he quickly discovers spaghetti and gunpowder and falls in love with the Emperor's daughter. The Emperor Kublai Khan is a kindly fellow, but his evil aide Ahmed wants to get rid of Kublai Khan so he can be emperor, and to get rid of Marco Polo so he can marry the princess. Ahmed sends Marco Polo to the West to fight barbarians, but he returns just in time to save the day. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He penetrated the Secret Orient...to find love...danger...wealth! (original poster) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 April 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Marco Polo See more »

Filming Locations:

Santa Clarita, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(copyright length)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Color:

Black and White (Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Portions of the film were shot on location at Malibu Lake, where 200 yards of the Great Wall of China were reconstructed and the crew was put on a 24-hour-a-day schedule. See more »

Goofs

When Marco crosses a bridge, his party is attacked and his horse is driven over a cliff. A safety wire is clearly visible on the rider. See more »

Quotes

Chen Tsu: You have never seen food like this before?
Marco Polo: No. What is it? Snakes?
Chen Tsu: No! No, it has been eaten by the poor people in China for generations. We call it 'spah- get'.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: FOREWORD: Marco Polo lived in Venice seven hundred years ago. He was the first European to visit China and write the story of his adventures in that land of magic and mystery.

He was also the first traveling salesman. . . . . . . See more »

Connections

Referenced in Badlands (1973) See more »

Soundtracks

Charming Eyes
(uncredited)
Composer unknown
Sung by Ernest Truex twice
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Fictional History
1 August 2003 | by Ron OliverSee all my reviews

THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO take him from his home in Venice, across the wide expanse of Asia, to the palace of the great Kublai Khan.

Lavish and at times exciting, this adventure film never rises far above the level of a comic book and should not be relied on for much historical accuracy. Even so, it is nonetheless entertaining, with a sturdy hero and a villain worthy of scorn & hisses.

To his credit, Gary Cooper plays the title role with good grace and a straight face, doubtless well aware that a fat paycheck would be his reward for spending so much time running about in 13th century garments. His Marco is a perpetual student, always excited about finding something new and interesting. His romance with princess Sigrid Gurie is refreshingly low-key and charming, even if wholly implausible.

Basil Rathbone is the evil Saracen who controls the Khan's court, his lust for ultimate power having made him as rapacious as the vultures & lions he keeps in his private apartments to feed upon his enemies. Suave & sophisticated, Rathbone's soothing voice and sinister good looks made him the perfect intelligent villain.

A bevy of fine character actors keeps the fast paced story moving: little Ernest Truex as Marco's bookkeeper with bad feet - he spends much of the film perched on Cooper's back; H. B. Warner as the soft-spoken Chinese inventor who befriends Marco; chubby, dithering George Barbier as a less-than-awesome Khan; rotund Robert Greig, sporting enormous fingernails, as the Khan's majordomo, and diminutive Ferdinand Gottschalk as a most unfortunate emissary from the Khan of Persia.

Jolly Alan Hale appears as a rebel leader who blithely sends his prisoners off to be boiled in oil, but secretly lives in fear of his termagant wife, Binnie Barnes, while he secretly ogles slave girl Lana Turner.

***************************

Some of the true facts concerning Marco Polo (1254-1324) and omitted by the film should perhaps be relayed. Marco's father Niccolò and uncle Maffeo had already made the long trip to China and met the great Kublai Khan. They left Venice in 1260 and returned in 1269 with the Khan's request that they come back with Christian missionaries and teachers. The Polo brothers took 21-year old Marco when they began their return trip in 1271, with the blessings of the Doge, who secretly hoped for Venice's power to expand, and the new Pope, who assigned two priests to travel with them. Afraid of what might lie ahead, the priests abandoned the Polos in Muslim territory. The Polos would not reach the Khan's court until 1275. Marco immediately became a tremendous favorite of the monarch, who used and trusted him during his entire stay in China. Marco was able to travel and record many strange & wonderful sights, and for awhile was even made governor of the important city of Yangchow. Finally, in 1292, Marco was able to get the Khan's permission to return his elderly relatives to Venice, after escorting a Chinese princess and her immense entourage to the Persian Khan. (There was no romance between Marco and the princess; to attempt one would have been more than his life was worth.) Eventually, after seemingly endless travel, the three Polos arrived home in Venice, having been gone for 24 years. In 1298, while captaining a Venetian ship, Marco was captured and placed for a short time in a Genoese prison. While there, he dictated the story of his marvelous travels to a fellow inmate. When eventually published, it became one of the most famous books of the millennium.


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