Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Shanghai Gesture

Uhkapeliä Shanghaissa / Hasard i Shanghai.US © 1941 Arnold Productions, Inc. Presenter: Arnold Pressburger; Associate P: Albert de Courville; Theo. W. Baumfeld; D: Josef von Sternberg; SC: Josef von Sternberg - collaborators: Geza Herczeg; Jules Furthman; [Kurt Vollmoeller] - based on the play The Shanghai Gesture by John Colton (New York, 1926). DP: Paul Ivano; AD: Boris Leven; ED: Sam Winston; [Interior Decorations Howard Bristol]; [Mural in Mother Gin Sling's apartment Keye Luke]; COST for Miss Munson Royer; for Miss Tierney Oleg Cassini; [Costume jewelry: Joseff]; M: Richard Hageman; S: C. A. Noyes; Wigs for Miss Munson Hazel Rodgers; Makeup Bob Stephanoff;
CAST: Gene Tierney ([Victoria Charteris, aka] Poppy Smith), Walter Huston (Sir Guy Charteris / "Mr. Dawson"), Victor Mature (Doctor Omar), Ona Munson ("Mother" Gin Sling), Phyllis Brooks (The Chorus Girl [Dixie Pomeroy]), Albert Bassermann (The Commissioner), Maria Ouspenskaya (The amah), Eric Blore (The bookkeeper [Caesar Hawkins]), Ivan Lebedeff (The gambler), Mike Mazurki (The coolie), Clyde Fillmore (The comprador), Grayce Hampton (The social leader), Rex Evans (The counselor), Mikhail Rasumni (The appraiser), Michael Delmatoff (The bartender), Marcel Dalio (The master of the spinning wheel). 99 min. A Stadkino Basel print mit deutschen Untertiteln. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 14 Oct 2009. - For the first time I saw the complete version of the film. However, the visual quality is highly variable, with a soft, duped quality, as if it were a dupe from a nitrate print which has started to degrade. - Revisited: a personal work by Sternberg after a series of assignments. - The setting is an immense casino, and the story climaxes during the Chinese New Year with a surprising settling of accounts at "Mother" Gin Sling's lavish dinner. Gin Sling knows the dark past of everybody. - The poet Omar recites verses from the Rubayat. - A vision of desolation, "cards, my fellow pilgrims", "the tower of Babel", the hall which "smells so incredibly evil", with dialogue lines such as "I have no country". - The teasing story ends with devastating tragedy: the daughter (the opium addict played by Gene Tierney) denies her mother (the brothel madam Gin Sling), who shoots her in cold blood.

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