Ladies, Gentlemen, and Everyone Else! Roll up for a #BNoirDetour Double Feature that will amaze and astound you! In one short evening, we will take you from pre-WWII Shanghai to post-WWII America’s mean streets. Join us, beginning at 9p ET, for a wild ride!
THE SHANGHAI GESTURE (1941) – 9p ET
First, at the recommendation of @SkreetGil, we slide into the opulent decadence of Josef von Sternberg’s high expressionist noir, The Shanghai Gesture (1941).
From an original play that took place entirely in a Shanghai opium den, von Sternberg fashions a more Hays code-palatable but no less decadent film centered in an enormous and wildly corrupt gambling establishment.
And if you think the casino is over-the-top, take a look at its owner, the notorious Mother Gin Sling — perhaps the most excessive Dragon Lady (aka Orientalized femme fatale) ever to grace a Hollywood screen:
But yellow face isn’t the only masquerade in this vice-ridden movie. Both Victor Mature (as the slimy Doctor Omar) and Gene Tierney (as Victoria “Poppy” Charteris) play half-caste characters, what today we would call mixed-race or biracial.
The plot primarily involves duplicitous dealings and power plays, pitting Victoria’s wealthy father (Walter Huston) against Mother Gin Sling (reflective of colonization of the past) and Doctor Omar’s manipulation of Victoria deeper and deeper into drug addiction (reflective of the present day of the film’s production, arguably a critique of miscegenation). All of this is presented with von Sternberg’s penchant for ornate style and perhaps even an intentional excess that points to the artificiality of all that we see. Either this is the decadent Shanghai of the past, or it is a myth, perpetuated by Hollywood, preferable to the complex truth of this era when Jews fled Nazi Germany for Shanghai sanctuary and the native Chinese were not allowed within most of its establishments.
BEHIND GREEN LIGHTS (1946) – 10:45p ET
Guest host @MovieMovieBlogB offers us what will likely be some needed relief from the excesses of The Shanghai Gesture as he guest hosts Behind Green Lights, a police procedural starring Carole Landis and William Gargan.
Gargan plays police lieutenant Sam Carson, while Landis plays politician’s daughter and murder suspect Janet Bradley. Toss in a tabloid magnate, a shady police doctor, and a roomful of wise-cracking news reporters, add a few twists, turns, and surprises, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a fantastic B noir detour!
For more on the film and your guest host, visit MovieMovieBlogBlog.