Shanghai Express

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"Many Men Had Loved Her -- but only one had been loved in return!"
  • Approved
  • 1932
  • 1 hr 22 min
  • 7.3  (10,266)
  • 83

Shanghai Express is a 1932 American film that tells the story of a group of passengers traveling on the Shanghai Express train during China's civil war in the 1930s. The film stars Marlene Dietrich as the seductive, enigmatic Shanghai Lily, Clive Brook as the British army captain Donald 'Doc' Harvey, and Anna May Wong as Hui Fei, an Asian woman shrouded in mystery.

The movie opens with a train departing from Beiping, with a group of passengers boarding it. Among them is Shanghai Lily, who is seeking to recollect the past, and Hui Fei, a young Asian woman who is traveling alone. As the train begins its journey, it is revealed that many of the passengers have their own secrets and motivations for traveling on the train. Shanghai Lily's affair with a warlord named General Cheng results in the hostility of Captain Harvey, who is also traveling on the train. However, their hostility turns into attraction throughout the course of the train ride, providing an element of romance in the plot.

As the train travels, it is captured by rebel soldiers who are searching for rebel leader Henry Chang. The rebels are led by Major Lenard, the villainous antagonist of the film. Major Lenard suspects that one of the passengers on the train is Henry Chang and takes them all hostage. The hostages then attempt to deduce which of them might be Henry Chang so that they can inform the rebels and possibly save their lives. However, tensions mount and internal conflicts arise, adding suspense and drama to the film.

Throughout the film, the characters fight with their own internal demons, which increases the intensity and complexity of the plot. Shanghai Lily is revealed to have a dark past, which she is trying to put behind her. As the film progresses, she reveals more of her past and the motivations behind her actions. Captain Harvey struggles with his love for Shanghai Lily, as it conflicts with his duties as a British army captain. Hui Fei also reveals herself to have a secret past that unfolds as the journey progresses.

One of the most striking features of the movie is its portrayal of the Chinese culture and setting. The movie was made in 1932, and China was in the midst of a civil war. The chaos and uncertainty of the time are reflected in the film's portrayal of the Chinese people and culture. The ambiance of the streets of Shanghai, the rickshaws, the traditional Chinese dresses, and hairstyles all contribute to the film's authenticity.

Another significant aspect of the movie is the performance of Marlene Dietrich. She gives an impressive performance as Shanghai Lily, simultaneously portraying the character's sensuality, vulnerability, and tragic backstory. Her stunning costume design, with her signature top hat and decadent attire, is an iconic feature of the movie.

Additionally, Anna May Wong's performance as Hui Fei is noteworthy for being one of the few Asian portrayals in a Hollywood movie at that time. Her nuanced and subtle portrayal of her character challenges the typical stereotypes depicted in Hollywood films of the era.

Overall, Shanghai Express is a gripping drama with elements of romance, betrayal, and suspense. The cast's performances combined with the rich cultural setting and captivating direction make it an unforgettable film from Hollywood's golden age.

Shanghai Express
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 22 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.3  (10,266)
  • Metascore