The Adventures of Marco Polo

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For the American musical group, see The Markko Polo Adventurers.
The Adventures of Marco Polo
The Adventures of Marco Polo 1938 poster.jpg
1938 US Theatrical Poster
Directed by Archie Mayo
John Ford (uncredited)
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn
George Haight
Written by N.A. Pogson
Robert E. Sherwood
Starring Gary Cooper
Sigrid Gurie
Basil Rathbone
Cinematography Rudolph Maté
Archie Stout
Edited by Fred Allen
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • April 15, 1938 (1938-04-15)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Adventures of Marco Polo is a 1938 drama-adventure genre film, and one of the most elaborate and costly of Samuel Goldwyn's productions.[1]


Nicolo Polo shows treasures from China and sends his son Marco Polo (Gary Cooper) there with his assistant (and comic relief) Binguccio (Ernest Truex). They sail from Venice, are shipwrecked, and cross the desert of Persia and the mountains of Tibet to China, to seek out Peking and the palace of China's ruler, Kublai Khan (George Barbier).

The philosopher/fireworks-maker Chen Tsu (H. B. Warner) is the first friend they make in the city, and invites them into his home for a meal of spaghetti. Children explode a fire-cracker, and Marco thinks it could be a weapon. Meanwhile, at the Palace, Ahmed (Basil Rathbone), the Emperor's adviser, harboring dubious ambitions of his own, convinces Emperor Kublai Khan that his army of a million men can conquer Japan.

Kublai Khan promises Princess Kukachin (Sigrid Gurie) to the King of Persia. Marco, arriving at the palace, sees Kukachin praying for a handsome husband. Marco is granted an audience with the emperor at the same time as a group of ladies-in-waiting arrive; Kublai Khan lets Marco test the maidens to find out which are the most worthy. Marco tests them all with a question ("How many teeth does a snapping turtle have?"), and he sends off the ones who had incorrectly guessed the answer, as well as those who had told him the correct answer (none), retaining those saying they did not know. His reasoning behind this is that they are the perfect ladies-in-waiting, not overly intelligent, and honest. Kublai agrees and Marco immediately becomes a favored guest. Ahmed shows Marco his private tower with vultures and executes a spy via a trapdoor into a lion pit. Kukachin tells Marco that she is going to marry the King of Persia, but, having fallen in love with her, he shows her what a kiss is. A guard tells Ahmed, who vows to keep Marco out of the way. Ahmed then advises Kublai Khan to send Marco into the desert to spy on suspected rebels. Kukachin warns Marco of the deceiving Ahmed.



Critical consensus for The Adventures of Marco Polo was mostly negative back in 1938. In reviewing the Warner Archive Collection DVD release of the movie, Paul Mavis of wrote, "Frequently amusing comedy/romance masquerading as a big-budget swashbuckler....[I]t's an agreeably light, silly adventure, beautifully mounted and briskly handled, with a bemused, cynical sense of humor to its sexual bantering that's quite charming (thanks in no small part to the pro cast)."[2]

In Italy, the fascist censors considered the film disrespectful to the eponymous hero and insisted on re-dubbing it to make the protagonist a Scotsman and releasing it under the title "Uno Scozzese alla corte del gran Khan".[3]


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