Tasked by Paramount bosses to find ‘the next big thing’, Austrian-born director Josef von Sternberg lighted upon German silent star Marlene Dietrich, bringing her to Hollywood following the success of their landmark film The Blue Angel (1930). There the two had a seismic impact with a series of striking feature films marked by sensuous cinematography, beautiful design, and elaborate camerawork. These visually intoxicating films redefined the visual style of filmmaking of the time, while Dietrich’s sexually ambiguous on-screen personas caused a sensation, and turned her from actor to superstar and icon. Shanghai Express marks their commercial peak, with Dietrich at her wicked best as Shanghai Lily, a courtesan whose reputation brings a hint of scandal to a three-day train ride through war-torn China.
A 4K restoration courtesy of Park Circus.
Screening as part of our When Europe Made Hollywood season, August 10th to 22nd.