Shanghai Express (1932)

Approved   |    |  Adventure, Drama, Romance


Shanghai Express (1932) Poster

A loose woman rediscovers a former lover during a dangerous train ride to Shanghai.

TIP
Add this title to your Watchlist
Save movies and shows to keep track of what you want to watch.

7.4/10
6,496

Photos

  • Marlene Dietrich and Emile Chautard in Shanghai Express (1932)
  • "Shanghai Express" Marlene Dietrich 1932 Paramount / **I.V.
  • Photo for "Shanghai Express" Marlene Dietrich. 1932/Paramount
  • "Shanghai Express" 1931. Marlene Dietrich.
  • "Shanghai Express" Marlene Dietrich 1932 Paramount **I.V.
  • "Shanghai Express" Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong 1932 Paramount / **I.V.

See all photos

More of What You Love

Find what you're looking for even quicker with the IMDb app on your smartphone or tablet.

Get the IMDb app

Reviews & Commentary

Add a Review


User Reviews


3 January 2003 | bmacv
10
| Sternberg, Dietrich reach their zenith in opulently photographed romantic intrigue as extraordinary today as it was 70 years ago
When Josef von Sternberg's Shanghai Express chugs out of Peking, squeezing through a teeming alleyway as it picks up steam, it marks the start of a momentous journey – not only for its motley of passengers but for Hollywood. In this fourth teaming of the Svengali-like director and his Trilby of a star – Marlene Dietrich – they reach the zenith of their legendary collaboration and strike a template for the kind of movies America would do best and like best: voluptuous hybrids of adventure and intrigue, romance and raffish fun.

Leaving for Shanghai to operate on the stricken British Consul-General, army physician Clive Brook climbs aboard only to find the woman he loved but lost five years ago (Dietrich). Now, however, she goes by another appellation; as she explains, in the script's most emblematic line, `It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.' Her presence on the train, and that of one of her sisters-in-sin (Anna May Wong) is cause for scandal and indignation among the other passengers: prim boarding-house proprietress Louise Closser Hale (with her pooch Waffles smuggled on board); sputtering man of the cloth Lawrence Grant; sardonic gambling man Eugene Pallette; a Frenchman; a German; and the inscrutable, pre-Charlie Chan Warner Oland.

Soon, China being embroiled in a civil war, they have more to worry about than Dietrich's morals. Rebel troops halt the journey lead the passengers, one by one, to be interrogated by their warlord, who turns out to be Oland. The various eccentricities, secrets and agendas of the passengers get brought into the open, affording Oland opportunity to avenge any number of racial and personal slights. But finally he finds what he's been looking for – a valuable hostage to serve as a bargaining chip – in Brook. And from then on Shanghai Express becomes a drama of reckoning, with all the characters scheming to save their own (and occasionally one anothers') skins.

None of the players can be faulted, except for Brook, who gives a dead-earnest impersonation of the stick that stirs the fire; that Dietrich should have fallen for him is like believing several impossible things before breakfast. (Cary Grant was around in 1932; too bad Sternberg didn't catch up with him until his next movie, Blonde Venus.) But in his handling of Dietrich, Sternberg all but patents what came to be called star treatment. Stunningly lighted, her feline face is caught in a breathtaking range of moods and attitudes. But she's more than a passive vessel for the director's intentions – her blend of worldly savvy and steely spine is hers and hers alone.

She isn't the only beneficiary of Sternberg's eye. He shoots the movie in a haunting, intense chiaroscuro (few movies from this early in the 1930s were so richly and handsomely photographed). He cuts from scene to scene teasingly, layering new shots on fading images, adding a little rubato to relate incidents of the story to one another. Shanghai Express may be the first masterpiece of the sound era, one that's still no less extraordinary today than it was 70 years ago.

Critic Reviews


Mireille Enos' Favorite Show Is Personal

The star of the apocalyptic "Good Omens" gives her summer movie recommendation, shares why she watches her husband's show to escape, and the sketch that always makes her laugh.

Watch Mireille Enos Take 5

Featured on IMDb

See what movies and TV series IMDb editors are excited about this month and check out our guide to superheroes, horror movies, and more.

Around The Web

 | 

Powered by ZergNet

More To Explore

Search on Amazon.com