The Lady from Shanghai

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Released 1948

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Movie Summary

Director:
Orson Welles
Released:
1948
Rating:
Not Available

Loosely based on a pulp novel by Sherwood King, The Lady from Shanghai is a mystery movie like no other. After saving the beautiful, affluent Elsa (Rita Hayworth) from three hooligans in Central Park, Michael O'Hara (Orson Welles), a penniless itinerant seaman, learns that Elsa is married to the famous disabled attorney, Arthur Bannister. Michael cannot help becoming infatuated with Elsa, so he signs on as a crew member on the Bannisters' yacht Circe and sets sail for Mexico. When Bannister's law partner, George Grisby (Glenn Anders), joins the yacht, he makes an outrageous proposal - that Michael should "murder" him, so that he may cash in on his own life insurance and escape his awful life. Michael wants the $5,000 George promises him so that he can run off with Elsa, but he soon realizes that faking murder is more complicated than he supposed. Especially when Grisby actually is murdered... Bizarre, baffling, wildly imaginative and provocative, The Lady from Shanghai is a classic suspense thriller.

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (3)

  • QUOTES (7)

  • NOTES (2)

    • Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, expected this film to be a great success along the lines of Rita Hayworth's recent hit, Gilda. When he saw Orson Welles's first cut of the film, he reacted with rage, allegedly shouting, "I'll pay a thousand dollars to anyone who can explain the story!"; in addition to finding the plot over-complicated to the point of incomprehensibility, he was outraged that Hayworth had been cast as a villainess and that her trademark red mane of hair had been both cropped and dyed blonde at Welles's insistence. He had the film re-edited, with at least twenty minutes removed (some sources suggest much more), insisted that some new footage be shot, and imposed a music score (by Heinz Roemheld) which Welles detested. The film was Rita Hayworth's first box-office flop, although it is now generally regarded as easily the best film she was ever in.

    • This film was born out of financial desperation. Orson Welles needed several thousand dollars in a great hurry to solve various problems connected with his stage musical, Around The World In 80 Days, and turned to Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, for help. He offered to write, direct and star in a film for Columbia as a way of paying back the debt. He envisaged this film as a low-budget film noir which would introduce the French actress, Barbara Laage, to American audiences in the title role. Cohn, however, saw it as a vehicle for his studio's biggest star, Rita Hayworth - who was also Welles's (estranged) wife. The film immediately became a super-production with a $2,000,000 budget.

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Themes

Film Noir, Classics