Clive Brook, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Greer Garson, Ingrid Bergman, James Stewart, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Laurence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Monique classique, Ronald Colman, Vivien Leigh
One of the most talked-about films in history, “Shanghai Express” is a romantic drama, starring Marlene Dietrich in a memorable role, Clive Brook, and the famous Chinese-American vamp, Anna May Wong. The film was directed by Joseph von Sternberg and it contains many impressive shots of Dietrich – von Sternberg obviously succeeded in directing her very well, but Lee Garmes as a cameraman was excellent, too. He received an Oscar for Best Cinematography, in addition to the other two Oscar nominations of the film, for Best Picture and Best Director. It seems that in the 1930s there was a fascination of the producers to explore the stories related to China. Among the names on the list, I would mention “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” and “The Good Earth” – both superb productions, just like “Shanghai Express”. This film presents the true story of an express train from Shanghai to Beijing, during a serious incident from 1923, when hundreds of people were taken hostages by a Shengdong warlord. They were later set free. In the film, the story is set in 1931, during the Chinese civil war. On this exotic, but also tumultuous background blossoms again the romance of two former lovers, Captain Donald Harvey (Clive Brook) and Magdalen (Marlene Dietrich). The plot of the film is quite complicated, especially when it comes to the political problems, but the love story is also very important. All in all, you will certainly have a wonderful time watching this film, even more because of its artistic value. It was filmed in a stylistic black-and-white chiaroscuro cinematography, which is typical to the films noirs of the 1940s-1950s. It also bears some resemblance to the Expressionist movement, as von Sternberg is a German director who was inspired by the silent cinema of the 1920s from his Fatherland. Moreover, Marlene Dietrich, also a German, understood perfectly well her character and the mood of the film, as she is the most precious asset of “Shanghai Express”, truly a legend of the silver screen.