Lost in the Movies: The Shanghai Gesture (LOST IN THE MOVIES podcast #46)

The Shanghai Gesture (LOST IN THE MOVIES podcast #46)

In an interlude between two omnibus film capsule episodes, I'm focusing on a single film for my October podcast: Josef von Sternberg's The Shanghai Gesture. Recommended by a patron back in 2018, in part for its Twin Peaks connections (which I touch on briefly), the film is an odd, fascinating fusion of Sternberg's precise, even ponderous direction and an eclectic, bustling scenario similar to Casablanca. Based on a scandalous play and set in a brothel barely disguised as a casino and featuring a tangled web of interracial romances, the film presented a challenge for the censors - contributing to the film's messy feel. Starring Gene Tierney, Victor Mature, Walter Huston, and Ona Munson, with scene-stealing supporting work by Phyllis Brooks and Maria Ouspenskaya, the ensemble offers so much to discuss that I didn't even find time to mention Eric Blore, one of my favorites from the Astaire/Rogers stable. This review forms a bridge between the prior and upcoming podcasts, as has been a consistent pattern all season. September's anthology ended with a discussion of The Angel Wore Red, about a prostitute in a tumultuous early twentieth century society, and November's round-up will begin by covering The Bitter Tea of General Yen (sampled at the end of this episode) which sets a disoriented Westerner against a Chinese culture she's both at home and at odds in, just as in The Shanghai Gesture.

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The Shanghai Gesture (1941) by Sheila O'Malley (Film Noir of the Month)

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