Von Sternberg, who was forever looking for new kinds of stylisation, said that he intended everything in Shanghai Express to have the rhythm of a train. He clearly meant it: the bizarre stop-go cadences of the dialogue delivery are the most blatantly non-naturalistic element, but the overall design and dramatic pacing are equally extraordinary. The plot concerns an evacuation from Peking to Shanghai, but it's in every sense a vehicle for something else: a parade of deceptive appearances and identities, centering on the Boule de Suif notion of a prostitute with more honour than those around her. Dietrich's Shanghai Lily hasn't aged a day, but Clive Brook's stiff-upper-lip British officer (her former lover) now looks like a virtual caricature of the type. None the less, the sincerity and emotional depth with which Sternberg invests their relationship is quite enough to transcend mere style or fashion.
Cast and crew
|Director:||Josef von Sternberg|
Anna May Wong
Gustav von Seyffertitz
Louise Closser Hale