Sunday, September 18, 2011

Guilty Pleasures Movie Blogathon: The Shanghai Gesture(1941).

Gene Tierney's best known roles are, as the murder victim in the film, Laura (1944). She was also Oscar-nominated for my favorite film, Leave Her to Heaven (1945).

After being spotted by Darryl F. Zanuck, during a stage performance of, The Male Animal (1940), Gene was signed to a contract with 20th Century-Fox. Her first role was in the film, Hudson's Bay (1941), which began her wonderful career.

Later, that year she performed in, The Return of Frank James (1940).

The next year, was a good one for Gene, as she performed in several films, the first being, The Shanghai Gesture (1941). A film noir starring Gene Tierney and Walter Huston, with Victor Mature and Ona Munson.

The Shanghai Gesture received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction (Boris Leven) and Best Original Music Score.

In Shanghai, China, destitute American Dixie Pomeroy, meets Doctor Omar, a shady mystic, as she is being arrested for vagrancy. Omar makes a deal with the police, to take Dixie, to Gin Sling's casino, where Mother Gin Sling might find her employment.

That night, Victoria Charteris, comes with an escort to the casino, which draws all kinds of characters, from all walks of life and she soon falls under the spell of atmosphere of the casino.

When Victoria sees Omar, she wants to meet him and Omar becomes seduced by the beautiful young woman, who now calls herself "Poppy Smith."

Mother Gin Sling, learns that someone has bought her property and that she will have to close her casino by the Chinese New Year. Now, blaming Sir Guy Charteris, Mother Gin Sling, wants revenge against, Victoria's father, and her ex-husband .

Over time, Victoria turns into a drunk and loses thousands of pounds and a valuable necklace while trying to have a relationship with a shady Omar. When someone, tries to sell the necklace back to Charteris, he realizes that his daughter is in serious trouble and wants her to return to England.

He accepts an invitation to a Chinese New Year party from Mother Gin Sling, who he does not know is his ex -wife.. At the dinner, he soon learns that Mother Gin Sling, has brought together all her enemies. When Mother Gin Sling, calls him by the name he used in China, he finally recognizes her as his ex- wife and the trouble begins.

The Shanghai Gesture's characters are deeply involved in, drugs and revenge. In 1941, The film Shanghai Gesture,(32 rejections, before it was finally released), was considered too daring to be made. The Chinese government objected to the film 's depiction of China as immoral. The films heavy censorship causes some of the plot to be very hard to follow. But.. the film is still amazing.

Ona Munson (June 16, 1910 – February 11, 1955) was an actress best known for her performance as prostitute Belle Watling in the film, Gone with the Wind (1939).

Her first starring role was in a talkie called, Going Wild (1930).

Munson appeared the next year in a musical comedy called, Hot Heiress in which she sings several songs along with her co-star Ben Lyon.

She also starred in Broadminded (1931) and Five Star Final (1931).

She briefly retired from the screen, only to return in 1938.

When David O. Selznick was casting his production Gone with the Wind, he first announced that Mae West was to play Belle, but this was a publicity stunt.

Munson skills as an actress electrified her screen test. For the remainder of her career, she was typecast in similar roles.

Two years later, she played another madam, in the film noir, The Shanghai Gesture.


  1. *happy sigh* and another one I have to add to my to-watch-list..

    Have a nice Sunday, Dawn!

  2. Wow, Dawn! Mother Gin Sling has got to be one of the most apropos names for a saloon proprietress.

    I've never heard of this film!

    Doesn't that 2nd photo - with Gene Tierney's tussled hair - look like it's straight out of the 1980s? When people kept saying the '80s fashions were a throwback to the '40s I saw no resemblance except for the shoulder pads... until now.

    Thanks, Dawn.

  3. Dawn, first I need to thank you for the incredible photos of the luminous Gene Tierney! As I read your entertaining review, I couldn't help but ponder the differences if SHANGHAI GESTURE had been made in the Pre-Code era. That would have been interesting! Too bad Oma Munson got typecast, a problem faced by many a fine performer. SHANGHAI GESTURE was perfect choice for the Guilty Pleasures Movie Blogathon.

  4. Nice job Dawn! I will look out for this one. I love Gene Tierney and Ona Munson was another gem from the Golden Age who was underutilized.

  5. Dawn,
    Imagining this film without the 32 edits. I agree with Rick that this film would have been something special if it had been Pre-Code. I love Tierney but I didn't find this film all that interesting and it's most likely as you stated, so much of it was edited out.

    I always enjoy your glamour shots, actor backgrounds (not familiar with Munson) and your passion for film so this review was another great read as well as an interesting addition to the Blogathon.

  6. I haven't seen this one, which is sad because I adore Gene Tierney! I really must add it to my must-see list.

  7. Dawn - I, too, really do like this film. Von Sternberg always seems to be looking for Marlene to round out his depravity, so Gene had big shoes to fill. But, she looks so exotically beautiful in this and all of the supporting players are from the depths of Von Sternberg's nutty bag of tricks - so - yes - great fun for sure and a real guilty pleasure!

  8. Nicely done. Haven't seen it but am a fan of Tierney. She always found it amusing to be cast in such exotic films as an exotic beauty when she was born and raised in Brooklyn!

  9. This movie is so fun to watch, if only for Tierney and Mother Gin Sling. Gene is so miscast, though, at lesat to me. She was just so young and beautiful, and I don't think her acting talents were quite matured enough at this point to carry it off. And yet, I loved her in it! The story is so sleazy and low -- and so fun -- that is what makes it a guilty pleasure! Great post, Dawn.

  10. Dawn, I haven't seen this, but it sure does sound juicy. I think this is a Must-see. Gene looks like she's high as a kite in that picture with the cigarette dangling from her mouth. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  11. I know of the movie, but have yet to see it. You certainly whetted my appetite. Interesting background info as well.

  12. I love love love this movie. No guilt in loving a film as stunning and as ahead of its time as Shanghai Gesture. Great review.

  13. "The Shanghai Gesture" is irresistible - wild and over-the-top as it is. No one can create an atmosphere like Josef von Sternberg and he did so in spades with this tale of depravity and revenge. I do miss Marlene, but this was no part for her (who was about 40 at the time) and Gene Tierney turned out to have not only the beauty but also the presence to pull off being a von Sternberg leading lady. Somewhere I read that in the book or play that the film was based on, the Ona Munson character was named "Mother Goddam" and her establishment was a brothel not a casino. Most definitely pre-code material. Marvelous choice, Dawn, and that color still of Tierney on the set is stunning.

  14. Irene Palfy, I also hope you had a great weekend. If you are a Gene Tierney fan, I think you will love this movie.

    Java Bean Rush, Mother Gin Sling, is a great name for a woman who owns a casino/saloon. Gene Tierney's wardrobe, in this film were amazing.. even when she hit bottom.

    Rick29, It is too bad this film was under such heavy censorship. I wonder, if there is some lost footage locked away somewhere..

    I was shocked when I found out that Oma Munson, played the part of, Mother Gin Sling. I did not recognize her at all.

    Gilby37, Thank you. It really good to see you posting again on your awesome blog.

    Page, Thank you.. for me, Gene Tierney, can not do a bad performance. I will never forget the end of this film, which really got to me..

    Brandie, When you see the film, The Shanghai Gesture. I hope you love this film as much as I did..

    FlickChick, I agree.. Gene Tierney, is exotically beautiful in this film.. Just amazing. I'm so glad that she won the part over Marlene.

    Classicfilmboy, I love this film so much, it is part of my DVD collection. If you are a Gene Tierney fan, I think you will also love this movie..

    KimWilson, Even when Gene Tierney's character hits bottom in this film, she still is beautiful.

    It is good to see you blogging again. I'm looking forward to reading your future posts.

    ClassicBecky, Gene Tierney, is so wonderful playing the bad girl in this film.. My gosh! she was so young.. maybe that is why, I was rooting for her until the very end..

    Caftan Woman, I hope that you get a chance to see this film very soon. Please come back after seeing it and tell me what you think.

    Kevyn Knox, I agree.. this film is ahead of it's time I think that is what makes it so interesting to me.. Thank you for your kind words and thank for stopping by.

    The Lady Eve, Thank you and thank you for adding some very interesting facts. I also feel under the spell of atmosphere of this film. Josef von Sternberg, did an amazing job.

  15. The Lady Eve.. I Mean.. I also fell under the spell of the atmosphere of this film.

  16. This is about the fifth glowing recommendation I've seen for this film. I guess I'll finally have to get cracking and see it.

    Great review, Dawn.

  17. Rachel, Thank you.. I hope you will come back after seeing the film, Shanghai Gesture and share your thoughts.

  18. THE SHANGHAI GESTURE creates such a marvelous, heady atmosphere of sleaze and sin, that you wonder how Sternberg manage to get away with that much (in spite of his already-noted censorship problems). Ona Munson is fantastic in this film--I especially love her loop-the-loop hairpieces (that could *not* have been a comfortable wig to wear!). Thanks for your informative post!

  19. I grabbed this when TCM ran it last time and it will get watched--it's just slowly making it way upward through the DVD-R pile. Great review, Dawn!

  20. Yes, Dawn I am a fan of Miss Tierney.. and now I am anxious to watch this film.. :")

  21. Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. Thank you and thank you for stopping by.


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