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Shanghai Express

Directed by Josef von Sternberg

City Streets

Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Screening on Film
  • Shanghai Express

    Directed by Josef von Sternberg.
    With Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong.
    US, 1932, 35mm, black & white, 82 min.
    Print source: Universal

Josef von Sternberg’s pre-Code melodrama stars his frequent muse, the stunning Marlene Dietrich as a notorious prostitute who reunites with a former lover during a thrilling ride on the Shanghai Express. Hijacked by rebel Chinese, the train takes its medley of passengers on a dangerous trip through a stylized, dazzling mise-en-scène edged with clever dialogue. In this exotic dreamworld, glamorous appearances and pretense trick the senses, and morality is as incognito as the spies aboard. 

  • City Streets

    Directed by Rouben Mamoulian.
    With Gary Cooper, Sylvia Sidney, Paul Lukas.
    US, 1931, 35mm, black & white, 83 min.
    Print source: Universal

City Streets is a relatively early example from the gangster genre, but so imbued with poetry that it more closely resembles the rough beauty of Sternberg’s early crime films than the more violent works that would follow in the wake of Scarface’s success the following year. Paramount star Gary Cooper is the Kid, a sweet, roguish naïf working at a shooting gallery when he falls in love with a mobster’s daughter. Her ambivalence towards her father’s life of crime and the Kid’s resistance to becoming a gangster present the obstacles to the consummation of their love in this touching romance with exquisite cinematography by the great Lee Garmes.

Part of film series

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100 Years of Paramount Pictures

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Chronicles of Changing Times. The Cinema of Edward Yang