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796 Ratings

Shanghai Express

Directed by Josef von Sternberg
United States, 1932
Drama, Romance, Adventure


While traveling on a train from Peking to Shanghai, a notorious prostitute named Shanghai Lily runs into her former flame who is held hostage and whom she could intervene to save.

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Shanghai Express Directed by Josef von Sternberg

Awards & Festivals

Academy Awards

1932 | Winner: Best Cinematography

1932 | 2 nominations including: Best Picture

Critics reviews

Dressed in decadence, awash in chiaroscuro, Dietrich is unforgettable, and while much is made of her image itself, there’s more to it than an early auteur’s obsessive gaze. Dietrich’s presence is palpable, which goes hand-in-hand with the abundant confidence required to pull off Sternberg’s increasingly larger than life heroines, and as it turns out here, she can deliver one-liners with the best of them.
May 18, 2012
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The Chinese Civil War serves as the backdrop for this 1932 von Sternberg agent-thriller, but it’s the titular express train bound for Shanghai that will represent the main stage; viewed from more than seventy years in the future, the parallax is still dizzying. A sensual and threatening interplay between light, shadow, and layer upon layer of gauze circumfixes as ever the great director’s gaze, the focal object of which is none other than the incomparable Marlene Dietrich.
January 11, 2007
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More action oriented than the other Dietrich-Sternberg films, this 1932 production is nevertheless one of the most elegantly styled. The setting, a broken-down train commandeered by revolutionaries on its way to Shanghai, becomes a maze of soft shadows and shifting textures, through which the characters wander in a philosophical quest for something—anything—solid. The screenplay, by Jules Furthman and an uncredited Howard Hawks, has a quality of wisecracking wit unusual in Sternberg’s films.
January 01, 1980
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