The Shanghai Gesture (1942)

98 or 100 mins | Melodrama | 15 January 1942

Cinematographer:

Paul Ivano

Editor:

Sam Winston

Production Designer:

Boris Leven

Production Company:

Arnold Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The opening credits include an acknowledgment for the "large cast of 'HOLLYWOOD EXTRAS' who without expecting credit or mention stand ready day and night to do their best--and who at their best are more than good enough to deserve mention."
       The MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information about the production: Beginning in Mar 1926, various studios expressed interest in producing a film based on John Colton's play, The Shanghai Gesture . Paramount made the first inquiries in 1926, United Artists in 1929, Universal in 1929, Columbia and Tiffany in 1930, and RKO, Mascot Productions and Warner Bros. in 1932. In 1929, Universal, which was searching for a "red-hot smash" to improve profits for the studio, pursued a long course of correspondence with the MPAA about the Colton play. In an Oct 1929 memo to Universal, Colonel Jason S. Joy, then director of the MPAA, noted that "the play deals with a bawdy house which at times is unusually attractive and at other times wretchedly sordid. Into this background is woven miscegenation, illegitimacy, white slavery, murder and an opportunity to incur the ill-will of other countries. If the story were re-written so as to avoid all of these difficulties, as it would have to be, it is my honest opinion that it would be...emasculated." Although Colton wrote numerous drafts and changed the setting from a "bawdy house" to a "gambling joint" and changed the title to Mother Satan , among other alterations, the screen story was repeatedly rejected. In 1932, Darryl F. Zanuck, on behalf of Warner Bros., submitted a treatment of the Colton play which included similar changes: ... More Less

The opening credits include an acknowledgment for the "large cast of 'HOLLYWOOD EXTRAS' who without expecting credit or mention stand ready day and night to do their best--and who at their best are more than good enough to deserve mention."
       The MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information about the production: Beginning in Mar 1926, various studios expressed interest in producing a film based on John Colton's play, The Shanghai Gesture . Paramount made the first inquiries in 1926, United Artists in 1929, Universal in 1929, Columbia and Tiffany in 1930, and RKO, Mascot Productions and Warner Bros. in 1932. In 1929, Universal, which was searching for a "red-hot smash" to improve profits for the studio, pursued a long course of correspondence with the MPAA about the Colton play. In an Oct 1929 memo to Universal, Colonel Jason S. Joy, then director of the MPAA, noted that "the play deals with a bawdy house which at times is unusually attractive and at other times wretchedly sordid. Into this background is woven miscegenation, illegitimacy, white slavery, murder and an opportunity to incur the ill-will of other countries. If the story were re-written so as to avoid all of these difficulties, as it would have to be, it is my honest opinion that it would be...emasculated." Although Colton wrote numerous drafts and changed the setting from a "bawdy house" to a "gambling joint" and changed the title to Mother Satan , among other alterations, the screen story was repeatedly rejected. In 1932, Darryl F. Zanuck, on behalf of Warner Bros., submitted a treatment of the Colton play which included similar changes: The principal character's name was changed from "Mother Goddam" to "Mother Satan"; she was sold into labor, not prostitution; she was married and the marriage was annulled, with the husband believing that he had arranged alimony; her daughter was "not a dope fiend and a nymphomaniac"; and "the story end[ed] on a note of tragic realization that revenge is futile and wrong." The treatment was rejected, however. In the late 1930s, Jay Sanford Tush of International Film Exchange submitted a script called Madame Chi , which was loosely based on The Shanghai Gesture but did not state its source. That, too, was dropped.
       The PCA continued to dissuade all filmmakers from producing a film based on the play, and even banned the use of the play's title. In Jan 1941, Geza Herczeg's first treatment for Arnold Pressburger was rejected by the PCA "for the reason that it is a story of gross sexual irregularities with insufficient compensating moral values." The PCA suggested that all illicit relationships be altered, and that neither "Madame Poison Ivy" nor "Poppy" be shown as a "mistress," in addition to other changes. Pressburger continued to submit revised drafts of the script to the PCA, and in Apr 1941, the PCA warned that "first, and most important, it is absolutely essential that you remove from the finished picture anything that might be interpreted as inflammatory anti-Japanese propaganda." Finally, by Aug 1941, the producers and the PCA agreed on the necessary alterations; however, T. K. Chang, of the Consulate of the Republic of China in Los Angeles, voiced concerns that the film might adversely affect public opinion with its portrayal of its Chinese characters, as China was then in the midst of war with Japan. The producers met with Chang and the PCA, but few alterations were made.
       Early HR production charts and news items list James M. Cain as the author of the screenplay, but his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. A Var news item reported that Loretta Young was sought for the role of "Mother Gin Sling," while a HR news item reported that Hans Eisler was to compose an original score. HR news items also noted that Luise Rainer was tested for the lead, as was J. Carrol Naish, who starred in the play. According to publicity material contained in the copyright records, the film's budget came to one million dollars. The Chinese New Year sequence was shot in Los Angeles' Chinatown community, according to press materials. This was Josef von Sternberg's first film in two years. It was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Art Direction (black and white); and Best Music (Scoring Dramatic or Comedy Picture). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Dec 1941.
---
Daily Variety
24 Dec 1941.
---
Film Daily
26 Dec 41
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 1941.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 41
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 41
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 41
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 41
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 41
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 41
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
26 Dec 1941.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Dec 41
p. 442.
New York Times
26 Dec 41
p. 21.
Variety
23 Apr 1941.
---
Variety
24 Dec 41
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Collaborator [on adpt]
Collaborator [on adpt]
Collaborator on adpt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Int dec
Mural in Mother Gin Sling's apartment
COSTUMES
Cost for Miss Munson
Cost for Miss Tierney
Costume jewelry
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond by
SOUND
MAKEUP
Wigs for Miss Munson
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Tech adv
STAND INS
Stand-in for Victor Mature
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Shanghai Gesture by John Colton (New York, 1926).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 January 1942
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 25 December 1941
Production Date:
late August--early October 1941 at Hal Roach Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Arnold Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 December 1941
Copyright Number:
LP11051
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
98 or 100
Length(in feet):
8,884
Country:
United States
PCA No:
7972
SYNOPSIS

In Shanghai, China, destitute Brooklyn chorus girl Dixie Pomeroy is picked up on the street by Doctor Omar, a mystic and opportunist, as she is being taken to jail for vagrancy. Omar and his friend make a deal with the police and bring Dixie to "Mother" Gin Sling's casino, where they expect Mother Gin Sling to provide her with work. That night, Victoria Charteris, a sophisticated British boarding school graduate, comes with an escort to the casino, which draws an international collection of gamblers and other desperate characters, and is intoxicated by the atmosphere of the place. When Victoria spots the handsome Omar, she demands an introduction, and Omar allows himself to be seduced by the beautiful young woman, who calls herself "Poppy Smith." Mother Gin Sling, meanwhile, learns that a wealthy Briton has bought her property and that she will be forced to close her casino by the Chinese New Year. Mother Gin Sling plots revenge against the man, whom she believes is ruthlessly driving her out of business, and learns from Dixie that he is Sir Guy Charteris, Victoria's father, and Mother Gin Sling's husband from her youth. Over a period of several weeks, Victoria degenerates into a drunken, desperate gambler and loses thousands of pounds and property while clinging to an indifferent Omar. When someone sells Poppy's valuable necklace back to Charteris, he realizes that his daughter is in dire straits and insists that she return to England. He later accepts an invitation to a Chinese New Year dinner from Mother Gin Sling, whose identity is unknown to him. At the dinner he soon learns that Mother Gin Sling has brought together some of ... +


In Shanghai, China, destitute Brooklyn chorus girl Dixie Pomeroy is picked up on the street by Doctor Omar, a mystic and opportunist, as she is being taken to jail for vagrancy. Omar and his friend make a deal with the police and bring Dixie to "Mother" Gin Sling's casino, where they expect Mother Gin Sling to provide her with work. That night, Victoria Charteris, a sophisticated British boarding school graduate, comes with an escort to the casino, which draws an international collection of gamblers and other desperate characters, and is intoxicated by the atmosphere of the place. When Victoria spots the handsome Omar, she demands an introduction, and Omar allows himself to be seduced by the beautiful young woman, who calls herself "Poppy Smith." Mother Gin Sling, meanwhile, learns that a wealthy Briton has bought her property and that she will be forced to close her casino by the Chinese New Year. Mother Gin Sling plots revenge against the man, whom she believes is ruthlessly driving her out of business, and learns from Dixie that he is Sir Guy Charteris, Victoria's father, and Mother Gin Sling's husband from her youth. Over a period of several weeks, Victoria degenerates into a drunken, desperate gambler and loses thousands of pounds and property while clinging to an indifferent Omar. When someone sells Poppy's valuable necklace back to Charteris, he realizes that his daughter is in dire straits and insists that she return to England. He later accepts an invitation to a Chinese New Year dinner from Mother Gin Sling, whose identity is unknown to him. At the dinner he soon learns that Mother Gin Sling has brought together some of her arch enemies, including himself. Charteris is highly suspicious until Mother Gin Sling calls him by the pseudonym he used in China when he was a young man, and finally recognizes her as his former wife. Mother Gin Sling now accuses Charteris of having robbed her of her money and child, abandoned her and sold her into labor. Charteris denies any wrongdoing and maintains that although he did divorce her, he deposited her money in her name in a still-active bank account. He further claims to have rescued the infant Victoria from a hospital where she had been abandoned. Victoria, who never boarded the plane to England and has no idea she is of mixed heritage, now appears at the dinner party, and, completely rebellious, refuses to leave the casino at Charteris' command. Mother Gin Sling, realizing that Victoria is her daughter, asks to quell Victoria's outburst on her own, but when Victoria insults her, Mother Gin Sling denounces her daughter and shoots her. Charteris, who has been waiting outside the door, hears the report, which mixes in with the sound of firecrackers from the passing Chinese New Year Parade. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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