- Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) to Michael O'Hara (Orson Welles)
Los Angeles Times - 02/18/1994
"...A lot of fun....Welles' usual technical invention is everywhere..."
USA Today - 10/06/2000
"...A noirish murder mystery that'll push the pin all the way to the right on your bizarro meter..."
Total Film - 11/01/2003
"...[With] some fascinating visual set-pieces....They're up there with the darkest imaginings of Welles' genius..."
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, an atmospheric film noir based on Sherwood King's novel IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE, features Orson Welles as producer, director, co-screenwriter, and star. Welles plays rogue seaman Michael O'Hara, complete with Irish brogue. After saving beautiful Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) from thieves in Central Park, O'Hara is requested to serve on the yacht owned by Elsa's husband, Arthur (Welles veteran Everett Sloane), an older man who needs special crutches in order to walk. A fiery passion lurks underneath the relationship between Michael and Elsa; in actuality, the marriage between Welles and Hayworth was ending at the time the film was shot. Enter George Grisby (the eerie-sounding Glenn Anders), one of Bannister's associates and a man with a very special offer for O'Hara, luring him into a web of lies and murder.
Although Welles claimed he made THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI just to finance other projects and the film does not show off his typical Wellesian flair, it still plays like a classic noir that draws the viewer in and never lets go. The characters are complex and fascinating, and the tension runs high and hot as the truth behind all the lies starts to come out. The film is most famous for its thrilling climax, which takes place in a hall of mirrors. Welles might have considered THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI workmanlike, but this noir thriller is only as workmanlike as any Welles film can be.
A man hired to work on a yacht belonging to a wealthy married couple finds himself drawn into a dangerous web of deceit and intrigue. The film's famous climax takes place in a hall of mirrors.
Based On A Novel |
Essential Cinema |
Film Noir |
Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: May 1948.
Rita Hayworth was sick for much of the filming, causing many delays.
Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles were separated at the time of the filming; they divorced shortly after shooting was completed.
Much of the early filming was shot on location (beginning in Acapulco in October 1946), but the producers insisted on moving much of the shooting into the studio, a decision that Welles hated. Shooting wrapped in spring 1947.
The role played by Rita Hayworth was written originally for Barbara Laage.
The beautiful long red hair Rita Hayworth had in GILDA was cut short and dyed platinum blonde for LADY FROM SHANGHAI.
Welles painted the crazy house (used in the climactic scene) himself over the course of one week.
Working titles for the film included BLACK IRISH and TAKE THIS WOMAN.
The yacht in the film (the Circe) belonged to Errol Flynn, and Flynn was on board during the Acapulco shoot. The actual name of the yacht was the Zaca.
The original director's cut was 155 minutes but was sliced to a final 86 by the producers.
Estimated budget: $2 million.
Columbia head Harry Cohn was so baffled by Welles's work that he announced, "I'll give a thousand dollars to anyone who can explain the story to me."
Harry Cohn demanded that Rita Hayworth perform a musical number in the picture, since her biggest hit, GILDA, featured her performing "Put the Blame on Mame." The voice was actually dubbed in by Anita Ellis. Against Welles's wishes, a scene in which Hayworth performs "Please Don't Kiss Me" (again with the voice of Ellis) was added to the film, and the music from the song was used throughout the film. Ellis also dubbed in her singing for Hayworth's in DOWN TO EARTH and THE LOVES OF CARMEN. Welles hated the final soundtrack that the producers added to the film, claiming that it took all the suspense and mood away from his work.