Skip to Main Content

AFI Silver Classic Film Weekend: SHANGHAI EXPRESS + Introduction by film historian Katie Gee Salisbury

Category:  Event Calendar

Date and Time for this Past Event


visit website

Event Category



"Pre-Code: Sex and Censorship" electrifies the first AFI Silver Classic Film Weekend. Immerse yourself in the thrilling era of pre-Code cinema, a fleeting moment from the late 1920s to 1934 when films defied convention before the Hays Code stifled Hollywood's boldness. These movies, lighthearted or dramatic, showcased complex women and flawed heroes struggling against social injustice, and unflinching explorations of sex, ambition and crime. Witness legendary stars ignite the screen: Clara Bow, James Cagney, Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant, Jean Harlow, Joan Blondell, Spencer Tracy, Warren William, Anna May Wong and Josephine Baker. Festival guests, including film historians Richard Koszarski, Steven C. Smith, Farran Smith Nehme, Katie Gee Salisbury and David Stenn, will introduce each film.

Introduction by film historian Katie Gee Salisbury, author of “Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong”

"It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily." The befeathered courtesan (Marlene Dietrich) meets a stoic Army man and ex-lover (Clive Brook) on the titular Shanghai Express traveling across war-torn China, but their wistful reminiscing is interrupted when a bandit (Warner Oland) demands an unscheduled stop. While the real Sino-Japanese war was in the headlines and revolution in the air, director Josef von Sternberg chose to portray a dreamscape of atmosphere, threat and sexual tension. Legendary cinematographer Lee Garmes won an Oscar® for his striking cinematography and Anna May Wong shines as a reformed courtesan trying to leave her past behind. The motley crew of characters share a train compartment as well as murky pasts and uncertain morals, yet it is ultimately Wong's character who exerts control over her destiny.