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A young woman, Poppy, out for excitement in Shanghai, enters a gambling house owned by "Mother" Gin Sling, a dragon-lady who worked herself up from poverty to buy the casino. Sir Guy Charteris, wealthy entrepreneur, has purchased a large area of Shanghai, forcing Gin Sling to vacate by the coming Chinese New Year. Under orders from Gin Sling, who has found out Poppy is Charteris' daughter, the smarmy Doctor Omar leads Poppy deeper and deeper into an addiction to gambling and alcohol. Gin Sling, realizing that Charteris was her long-ago husband who she thinks abandoned her, plans her revenge by inviting Charteris to a Chinese New Year dinner party to expose his past indiscretions. Charteris, however, has a suprise of his own to spring on Gin Sling.Written by
Doug Sederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
'Mother' Gin Sling:
[of an ordinance that would outlaw her establishment]
I've lived by my own ordinances for a long time now, and I intend to disregard all others.
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[after the cast credits] ... And a large cast of "HOLLYWOOD EXTRAS" who without expecting credit or mention stand ready day and night to do their best - - and who at their best are more than good enough to deserve mention. See more »
A tragic story with quite the entertaining group of characters
'Mother' Gin Sling (Ona Munson) runs a very successful gambling house in Shanghai. Through her doors pass a wide variety of individuals from every exotic corner of the globe. One such individual is a spoiled young woman who goes by the name of "Smith" (Gene Tierney) with a penchant for gambling and drink. It's not long before "Smith" is up to her eyeballs in IOUs and well on her way to becoming a complete lush. Coinciding with these events, a wealthy man named Sir Charteris (Walter Huston) arrives in Shanghai. Part of his business deal involves the land that 'Mother' Gin Sling's establishment sits on. 'Mother' Gin Sling believes she may have previously met Sir Charteris, but under a different name and in far different circumstances. To save her business, 'Mother' Gin Sling puts two and two together to connect "Smith" with Sir Charteris and lets the chips fall where they may.
Many of the people who care about and enjoy older films like The Shanghai Gesture will no doubt pick-up the film because of Gene Tierney - the biggest "star" in the cast. But they'll quickly discover that The Shanghai Gesture is so much more than Tierney. The movie features a wonderful ensemble cast playing a group of highly eccentric characters. To begin with, there's Ona Munson as 'Mother' Gin Sling. Maybe it's the costuming and maybe it's the attitude, but I bought her performance. Next, there's Victor Mature as Dr. Omar the Arab gigolo. He's the kind of fellow best described as slimy. Two of my favorite characters in The Shanghai Gesture are Eric Blore as Ceasar the English bookkeeper to 'Mother' Gin Sling and Clyde Filmore as 'Mother' Gin Sling's flunky, Percival Montgomery Howe. Mix in an American showgirl, a Russian barkeeper, a rickshaw driver of questionable origin, and about a half-dozen others and you've got quite an eclectic and entertaining group of actors and characters.
As much fun as the people in the film are, at its core, The Shanghai Gesture is a terribly tragic and sad story. Most of the people who come to 'Mother' Gin Sling's place do so because they have to, not because they want to. Whether it's "Smith" looking for her next gambling fix or those who do her bidding like Dixe the American showgirl, they come because 'Mother' Gin Sling holds something over their heads. Nobody seems to really want to be there. Deep down, most of these people seem miserable. The ending of The Shanghai Gesture takes the bleakness from just beneath the surface and thrusts it into the light of day. I won't give it away, but I will say that there are no winners in The Shanghai Gesture. Everyone comes out a loser.
Finally, one of the most impressive aspects of The Shanghai Gesture is the set design. Instead of a seedy, back-alley sort of gambling joint, 'Mother' Gin Sling's place is like an Art Deco shrine. I'm continually amazed at the care and money that went into these sets found in films from the 30s and 40s. Today, much of it would be done with computer effects. So when I see something like the four-story, circular gambling house in The Shanghai Gesture, I can't help be amazed.
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