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The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)

Approved | | Adventure, Biography, Romance | 15 April 1938 (USA)
Adventurer Marco Polo travels to China, where he finds the Emperor Kublai Khan, court intrigue, danger, and unexpected love.

Directors:

Archie Mayo, John Cromwell (uncredited)

Writers:

Robert E. Sherwood (screen play), N.A. Pogson (based on a story by)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Gary Cooper ... Marco Polo
Sigrid Gurie ... Princess Kukachin
Basil Rathbone ... Ahmed
George Barbier ... Kublai Khan
Binnie Barnes ... Nazama
Ernest Truex ... Binguccio
Alan Hale ... Kaidu
H.B. Warner ... Chen Tsu
Robert Greig ... Chamberlain (as Robert Grieg)
Ferdinand Gottschalk ... Persian Ambassador
Henry Kolker ... Nicolo Polo
Lotus Liu ... Visakha
Stanley Fields ... Bayan
Harold Huber ... Toctai
Lana Turner ... Maid
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Storyline

Marco Polo travels from Venice to Peking, where he quickly discovers spaghetti and gunpowder and falls in love with the Emperor's daughter. The Emperor Kublai Khan is a kindly fellow, but his evil aide Ahmed wants to get rid of Kublai Khan so he can be emperor, and to get rid of Marco Polo so he can marry the princess. Ahmed sends Marco Polo to the West to fight barbarians, but he returns just in time to save the day. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

HE BESEIGED THE TARTARS' CITIES...WOOED THEIR BEAUTIES...CAPTURED THEIR PRINCESS! (original poster-all caps) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 April 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Marco Polo See more »

Filming Locations:

Santa Clarita, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(copyright length)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Color:

Black and White (Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to an obituary for actor/stuntman Richard Farnsworth, he was cast as one of the 500 Mongolian horsemen in the film; however, his appearance has not been confirmed. See more »

Goofs

When Marco crosses a bridge, his party is attacked and his horse is driven over a cliff. A safety wire is clearly visible on the rider. See more »

Quotes

Chen Tsu: You have never seen food like this before?
Marco Polo: No. What is it? Snakes?
Chen Tsu: No! No, it has been eaten by the poor people in China for generations. We call it 'spah- get'.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: FOREWORD: Marco Polo lived in Venice seven hundred years ago. He was the first European to visit China and write the story of his adventures in that land of magic and mystery.

He was also the first traveling salesman. . . . . . . See more »

Connections

Referenced in Call the Midwife: Episode #3.5 (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Charming Eyes
(uncredited)
Composer unknown
Sung by Ernest Truex twice
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Old-School Entertainment
31 May 2006 | by wuxmupSee all my reviews

You either get it or you don't. Like most studio films, this movie was intended to make money by providing one thing - entertainment. Not a history lesson, not social commentary. Entertainment. Like the better realized but equally fake-medieval "Adventures of Robin Hood," released the same year (1938), "The Adventures of Marco Polo" (note the similar title) provides plenty of entertainment in the comedy-adventure genre that eventually led to "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Evaluating either "Raiders" or "Marco Polo" on its historical accuracy misses the point. It's like asking how Marco is able to speak what must be flawless Mandarin, plus the language of Alan Hale's presumably Turkic people. If you gotta ask, the movie just isn't your style.

Cooper looks a little less comfortable in this role than in some others, but he's adequately wry and intrepid, never taking the role of Marco too seriously. The rarely-seen Sigrid Gurie, whose face reminds one of Garbo, even through the Asian makeup, is beautiful and ethereal as the daughter of Kublai, played with Midwestern folksiness by the affable George Barbier. (Remember, it's not supposed to be real.) As Kublai's evil vizier, Basil Rathbone emanates the same elegant menace as he did in the role of Sir Guy in "Robin Hood." The ubiquitous Alan Hale, Sr., plays his usual self, and if you look carefully you'll see teenybopper Lana Turner in a small but fully credited role.

Why aren't there any Chinese here in leading roles? Because first, the studio had big-name actors on contract and meant to use their box-office appeal to make a bundle. Second, despite the potentially impressive Asian-American talent pool in California no greed-driven executive would have counted on white audiences in 1938 to shell out Depression-era cash to watch Asian unknowns acting the leads in for-profit motion picture. "The Adventures of Marco Polo" is not "The Last Emperor," and it doesn't pretend to be. Nor is it a misconceived turkey like John Wayne's Mongol epic "The Conqueror" (1961). Instead it's only a great "family film" and simple adventurous fun in the pulp-magazine tradition.


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