67 user 56 critic

Shanghai Express (1932)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, Romance | 12 February 1932 (USA)
A notorious woman rides a train through a dangerous situation with a British captain she loved.


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




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


Many passengers on the Shanghai Express are more concerned that the notorious Shanghai Lily 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 Lily 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 guerrillas stop the train, Dr. Harvey is selected as the hostage. Lily 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


The warm, loving Dietrich in a mood you have never seen her portray before! A romantic adventuress holding close to the one man of 20 who want her! (Print Ad-Troy Times, ((Troy NY)) 4 March 1932) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


When Shanghai Lily and Harvey go into the final clinch, there is an advert for Guinness on the wall behind them. See more »


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 »


Hui Fei: I thought his face seemed familiar. The government has offered a price of 20,000 for his capture - alive or dead. It will be a great day for China when that price is paid.
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 »


Featured in Hollywood Mavericks (1990) See more »

User Reviews

A Movie of Shadows
2 February 2013 | by dane11See all my reviews

I saw this movie a long time ago and parts of it really stuck with me, but I couldn't even remember the name until I came across it recently. I think, part of the effect of the movie was the sultry Marlene Dietrich, but what I didn't realize is that this movie is so full of atmosphere and rich in texture that it stays with you no matter who is in it. To be honest, most of the acting in this film is pretty wooden. Dietrich rises above all others with her ability to convey her feelings through the camera. More than anything, this film's look and feel are what really make this film work; and to some degree the lighting and directing aid Dietrich's acting. Joseph Von Sternberg directed this film about a group of passengers traveling via train during a Chinese civil war. The passengers all have their own stories, but none is as interesting as the story of Shanghai Lilly (Dietrich) and her romance with the British officer Captain "Doc" Harvey (Clive Brook). Von Sternberg uses light and shadow to highlight different characters and the character's feelings long before anyone else used this technique to such a large degree. There are marvelous images of Dietrich, Anna May Wong and Warner Oland as a rather mysterious and possibly sinister train passenger that really make this movie click. Film students should be required to see this movie for the simplicity of the story and the complexity of the filming. I'd like to say no scene is wasted, but there are a couple scenes that seemed extraneous. Overall though, this is a classic movie that was way ahead of it's time. I wasn't really familiar with Von Sternberg until I went back and watched this movie again. Now I own the DVD and I watch it periodically to remind myself of Dietrich's allure and Von Sternberg's masterful direction.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 67 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.





English | French | Cantonese | German

Release Date:

12 February 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Shanghai Express See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed