The Shanghai gesture

   A four-act melodrama by John Colton produced by A. H. Woods, The Shanghai Gesture opened on 1 February 1926 for 331 performances at the Martin Beck Theatre. Mother Goddam, played by Florence Reed, runs a Shanghai brothel and avenges herself on Sir Guy Charteris, her former lover who sold her into prostitution. With Charteris looking on, Mother Goddam sells a young woman to some junkmen, after which she reveals that the girl is her daughter by Charteris. When the girl later appears as a drug-addicted prostitute, Mother Goddam strangles her. Colton wrote Mother Goddam for Minnie Maddern Fiske, but she left the production during its rehearsals and Reed stepped in. Critics found the play lurid, but Reed's acclaimed performance helped it to a long run in New York and on tour. Josef von Sternberg directed a 1941 motion picture adaptation and Bette Davis* played Mother Goddam in a 1970s television* film.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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