Ostensibly based on an "original story" by Arthur Hoerl, Shanghai Rose would seem to have been derived from the then-popular courtroom drama The Trial of Mary Dugan. Dignified Irene Rich is sorely miscast as the title character, the proprietress of a gin mill which doubles as a bordello. A murder occurs, and Rich is put on trial for her life. A series of flashbacks "reconstruct" the crime from several different points of view -- and as the story progresses, it becomes less and less obvious that Rich is the guilty party. Written off as "distasteful" by the film critics of the period, Shanghai Rose was hardly a landmark of the silent cinema.
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