Josef von Sternberg made his first return to exotic Shanghai since 1932's Shanghai Express in this baroque conflagration, based on a 1925 play by John Colton that required 30 revisions before it was sufficiently sanitized to pass muster with Hays Office censors. The film takes place in the gambling den of Mother Gin Sling (Ona Munson), who finds her casino threatened with closing by stuffed shirt English financier Sir Guy Charteris (Walter Huston). Gin Sling knows that the key to keeping her casino open is to dig up some dirt on Sir Guy, and it's quick in coming. She finds that Sir Guy was compelled to leave China in a hurry some time in the past, stealing his wife's money and plotting to kill her. Sir Guy ended up abandoning his wife in China and leaving her with an infant daughter. She also finds out that Sir Guy's grown-up daughter, Poppy (Gene Tierney, is a frequent and deeply indebted guest of Gin Sling's casino. Gin Sling is now ready to blackmail Sir Guy into keeping her casino open. He tracks down his daughter and tries to convince her to leave town. But Poppy refuses to budge, having fallen in love with Doctor Omar (Victor Mature).
by Paul Brenner synopsis