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  • TBC
  • Adventure, Drama
  • 1932
  • 84 mins

Shanghai Express

Shanghai Express


Marlene Dietrich's call girl Shanghai Lil is caught up in a web of intrigue in this exotic, train-set adventure


Train journeys are only ever exciting in the movies, and they rarely come better than this Dietrich classic (which picked up a slew of Oscar nominations, including Best Film and Best Director for Sternberg, but ultimately only won for Garmes' stunning cinematography).

This time the train in question is travelling from Shanghai to Peking during the Chinese Civil War, playing host to the usual array of problematic characters. All manner of disasters occur, mainly as a result of the train being stormed by government troops, but the romantic sub-plot involves the shenanigans of high-class prostitute Shanghai Lily (Dietrich) and her ex-lover (Brook) who also happens to be travelling first-class. You can see where the big budget, starry 1970s disaster flicks got their inspiration from but, with its classy acting and scenery, this is a hundred times better, while Dietrich commands the screen as the hooker with a past

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Warner Oland, Marlene Dietrich, Eugene Pallette, Clive Brook, Lawrence Grant, Anna May Wong
  • Director: Josef Von Sternberg
  • Writer: Jules Furthman
  • Producer: Adolph Zukor
  • Photographer: Lee Garmes

In a nutshell

Dietrich illuminates this stylish adventure, and it remains a high point among her many collaborations with director Von Sternberg.

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