When gunrunner Tony Evans (Ricardo Corez) leaves his girlfriend Tanya (Kay Francis) behind for a job, he leaves her in the care of his boss Nick (Warner Oland). Nick wants her to work at his nightclub and, feeling betrayed, Tanya initially refuses to do have anything to do with Nick and his club. But then she realizes that using her looks and working at the club might actually help her get out of there. While working at the club, she becomes known as Spot White, notorious woman of affairs. In fact, she’s so notorious that the police commissioner wants her to leave the country. And she does, but not without blackmailing him for some money first.
Tanya gets on a boat headed for Mandalay and changes her name to Marjorie Lang. Not long after getting on board, she cuts herself, which leads her to meet Dr. Gregory Burton (Lyle Talbot). Like Marjorie, Gregory is looking to start a new life. Gregory once killed a patient when he performed surgery while drunk, so now he wants to go to an area facing a deadly fever outbreak to make amends. Marjorie and Gregory fall in love during the voyage, but Marjorie’s happiness is interrupted when she finds out Tony is also on board.
Tony wants to get back together with Marjorie, but she wants nothing to do with him. But when Tony gets word that the police are after him, he fakes his own death and Marjorie is blamed for it. But after her name is cleared, she discovers Tony is still alive and this time, she really does kill him.
Mandalay may not be anything substantial, but it is a very entertaining way to spend a little over an hour. It’s over the top and trashy, but in the most wonderful way. If you like Kay Francis, you’re going to love her in Mandalay. She’s really at her pre-code best here. And if you’re a fan of pre-codes in general, Mandalay is a must-see. It’s got just about everything — prostitution, alcoholism, murder