The Shanghai Gesture (1942)

The Shanghai Gesture


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Movie Info

In this melodrama, English businessman Sir Guy Charteris threatens to close down the seedy gambling establishment owned by Mother Gin Sling. However, when Sling discovers that Guy's daughter is one of their more frequent and more indebted customers, she uses her new-found information to keep her casino open.

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: John Colton, Josef von Sternberg, Karl Vollmoeller, Geza Herczeg, Jules Furthman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 31, 1999
United Artists



as Mother Gin Sling

as Poppy Charteris

as Sir Guy Charteris

as Dr. Omar

as Dixie Pomeroy

as Van Alst, the Commi...

as Caesar Hawkins, the...

as Coolie

as Comprador

as Counselor Brooks

as Lady Blessington

as Croupier

as Escort
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Shanghai Gesture

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | August 8, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A delirious masterpiece of decadence and sexual depravity.

Full Review… | February 18, 2005
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Compromised Sternberg, but visually and thematically compelling.

January 9, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

July 23, 2005

August 25, 2004

Audience Reviews for The Shanghai Gesture

Film Noir at its Best.

Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer


could you imagine rhet butler's favored blonde prostitute belle walting in "gone with the wind" impersonating a chinese dragon lady? that would happen under the directional trademark of josef von sternberg.

ona munson plays the casino-owner mother "gin sling" in shaghai of china, and she schemes to claim her retribution upon her primary past fued from the new-arriving official sir guy charter. meanwhile she ensnares a young beautiful dame who calls herself poppy smith(a still burgeoning gene tierney) into the allure of the arabian giglo-poet omar(victor mature)....maliciously she intends to corrupt the girl into further deprivity by the thrills of gambling and sexual slavery. gin sling proceeds her conspiracy with resourceful levels to settle her so-called former debts.

gene tierny luminates with brightful glamour in the outset with her flighty manners, and you could forsee a future major star then while ona munson endeavors herself at her perverse chineseness with her stuck-out cheekbones and the twisted slanted eyes contorted by her straight-lined raising eyebrows. the cosmetics of mother gin sling is literarily a grostesque from caucasion's stereotyped image upon a dragon lady magnified over a thousands times to create an imaginary monstress. maybe it's really histrionic but it's certainly attention-grappling and definitely not dull to watch. a ultimate realization of the best camp!

the background sceneries appear engrossingly campy with all the absurd chinese exotica as if von sternberg collects all the eccentric antics of china to dispatch them together to conjure up an aura of lush nightmarish foreign land with creeps and living wax figures of "caucasian chinese"....and the script is written upon the occidental concepts of some incomprehensible chinese conventions as if it's strutting its enormous knowledge on chineseness, such as the elder china-man with five wives who flaunts his acquired conceptions upon women(another white chinese imatation with types on his eyelids) or gin sling's remark of filial piety....and gin sling likes to speak with her sentence began as "we chinese...."

but is "shanghai gesture" derogatory to chinese? apparently not. how could it form any harm to the china image since it's so obviously fake? just like the mythical theme of arabian nights, you could gallope wild in your most wanton fantasies of exoticism. contrarily, it's well-depicted pulp fiction of the raging sound of minority races in a very idiocyncratic way since it's a getting-even tale of a grudgy chinese woman who battles her conscienceless caucasian lover who tramps her with severe exploitations. some might criticize the asiastic villainy in early hollywood cinema was uglifying those oriental races, but under another spectacle, it's more aloofly characteristic to be raw and untamed....the contemporary asian castings as user-friendly adapters to the occident is lackluster and characterless in comparasion with the ancient edginess of recalcitrants since asiastic races were still considered mean, insidious people in 18th century novels....on the other hand, what's so cool about chineses (or asiastic) being dosmeticated as the meek ones like nowaday trends of globalization?

Veronique Kwak

Super Reviewer

awesome another one of those movies think black narcississ or "the letter" that takes u to an exotic location even though all shot on hollywood studio backlot!

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