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 <email@example.com>
One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1931-1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution (and have been owned by Universal since).. Its television premiere took place Friday 2 January 1959 on KPIX (channel 5), launching the MCA/Paramount Film Library of San Francisco. It was released on DVD 6 February 2012 in tandem with Dishonored (1931) by Turner Classic Movies and Universal , and has also been occasionally aired on TCM. 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 »
Bonne nuit, monsieur, et dormez bien.
Someday, that sardine inspector's gonna go too far.
[Chang is blocking the door]
[He pokes Chang in the arm]
[Chang shoves Baum. Baum speaks to him in German and leaves]
What did he say to you?
Mr. Henry Chang:
Something he'll probably have occasion to regret.
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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 »
Pretty exciting stuff--and among Marlene Dietrich's best
SHANGHAI EXPRESS is an excellent film from 1932 that stars Marlene Dietrich but also benefits from a strong ensemble cast. In other words, while Dietrich is an important part of the film, she isn't THE film and supporting actors also help to make this a good film. I like this because too often in her early films all the weight of the movie rested on how sexy and alluring Dietrich's characters were supposed to be--and to me, this got very old after a while. It helped here, though, that Dietrich's usual angular and severe looks are a bit less pronounced (as was the case in her very early Hollywood films). Here, she plays "a woman of ill-repute" (a prostitute) but there are many others that give the film life as well--making this film a bit like GRAND HOTEL on the rails! This film has the distinct honor of being one of the only films in which Warner Oland plays an Asian yet this isn't necessarily insulting to real Asian actors. That's because Oland was Swedish-born and often played Asians (such as Charlie Chan)--while qualified Asians were relegated to supporting roles! However, in this film, his character is supposed to be half-Chinese and half-Western--so the casting wasn't a bad idea at all.
Apart from Oland and Dietrich, Anna May Wong, Clive Brook, Lawrence Grant and Eugene Palette, among others, are on hand to provide some color. Ms. Wong, in particular, had some excellent scenes playing a Chinese prostitute and defender of the Chinese Republic (a strange combination, I know).
As far as Grant goes, his was a truly unusual character. His Reverend Mr. Carmichael was odd because initially he came off as such a prudish and self-righteous jerk--so much so that the studio was forced to re-write his character and soften him up some as to avoid offending religious sensibilities of the audiences. However, by changing a few scenes, they made him one of the most unusual and three-dimensional minsters portrayed in film during the era. How he came to actually like and respect Dietrich (the prostitute) may seem a bit silly to some, but I actually liked the way they re-wrote the film. As a result, of all the passengers, Grant's came off as perhaps the most interesting.
As far as the film goes, in addition to good performances, the writing, direction and cinematography were all exceptional. A top-notch film that sure will keep your interest as you follow this train through rebel territory in China.
About the only negative about the film might be that it promotes the old film cliché of "the prostitute with a heart of gold"--in fact, it has this times two! Just once, I'd like to see a film where the prostitute isn't so glamorous (perhaps with a few herpes scabs) and isn't a nice person after all!! Imagine if PRETTY WOMAN had followed THAT formula!!
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