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The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 24 December 1947 (France)
Fascinated by gorgeous Mrs. Bannister, seaman Michael O'Hara joins a bizarre yachting cruise, and ends up mired in a complex murder plot.

Director:

Orson Welles (uncredited)

Writers:

Sherwood King (story based on a novel by), Orson Welles (screenplay)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Rita Hayworth ... Elsa Bannister
Orson Welles ... Michael O'Hara
Everett Sloane ... Arthur Bannister
Glenn Anders ... George Grisby
Ted de Corsia ... Sidney Broome (as Ted De Corsia)
Erskine Sanford ... Judge
Gus Schilling ... Goldie
Carl Frank Carl Frank ... District Attorney Galloway
Louis Merrill Louis Merrill ... Jake Bjornsen
Evelyn Ellis Evelyn Ellis ... Bessie
Harry Shannon ... Cab Driver
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Storyline

Michael O'Hara, against his better judgement, hires on as a crew member of Arthur Bannister's yacht, sailing to San Francisco. They pick up Grisby, Bannister's law partner, en route. Bannister has a wife, Elsa, who seems to like Michael much better than she likes her husband. After they dock in Sausalito, Michael goes along with Grisby's weird plan to fake his (Grisby's) murder so he can disappear untailed. He wants the $5000 Grisby has offered, so he can run off with Elsa. But Grisby turns up actually murdered, and Michael gets blamed for it. Somebody set him up, but it is not clear who or how. Bannister (the actual murderer?) defends Michael in court. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"Do all rich women play games like this?" See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Cantonese

Release Date:

24 December 1947 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

If I Die Before I Wake See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,300,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,927, 30 August 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$7,927, 30 August 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (original)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Goofs

In the Crazy House, Mrs. Bannister's lips do not match the line "we could have gone off together." See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Michael O'Hara: When I start out to make a fool of myself, there's very little can stop me. If I'd known where it would end, I'd never let anything start... if I'd been in my right mind, that is. But once I'd seen her, once I'd seen her, I was not in my right mind for quite some time.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits shown over a water background. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Visitor (1979) See more »

Soundtracks

Na Baixa do Sapateiro (Bahia)
(uncredited)
Written by Ary Barroso
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

"It's A Bright, Guilty World"
29 June 2000 | by stryker-5See all my reviews

Michael O'Hara is a charming Irish sailor, a drifter who encounters a beautiful woman in Central Park, saves her from attackers, and finds himself drawn inexorably into her eerie world.

Orson Welles wrote this screenplay, and adaptation of of a Sherwood King novel. He had great difficulty getting it past Joseph Breen, the overseer of the Motion Picture Production Code, and in the end had to drop the ending in which O'Hara persuades Elsa to kill herself. Welles also directed the film and played the key role of O'Hara, a character with strong Wellesian resonances. As Higham, Welles' biographer, puts it, "Like Welles, O'Hara rejoices in being eccentric and poor ... and sees through and condemns all corruption."

The great Rita Hayworth was estranged from her husband Welles in mid-1946, and agreed to take the role of Elsa Bannister as part of a final bid to save the marriage. Elsa is the Lady From Shanghai, the temptress whose sexual allure ensnares O'Hara. Arthur Bannister, the complaisant cuckold, is played by Everett Sloane, stalwart of the Mercury Theatre and long-time Welles collaborator. The disturbing role of the deranged George Grisby is taken by Glenn Anders, his face distorted by wide-angle lenses to suggest the psychotic menace of the law partner with the bizarre death-wish. It has been claimed that Welles based Grisby's character on the real-life Nelson Rockefeller.

As one would expect from Welles, there are some stunning visuals in this film, and some hauntingly memorable screen moments. Hayworth sings the love song beautifully, and the Acapulco interlude is visually delightful. The cast works brilliantly as an ensemble, delivering the Wellesian dialogue with purring efficiency. The Central Park sequence involves the longest continuous dolly-shot ever filmed. Later, we see the arches of the Calle del Mercadero slip by moodily as the camera tracks down the street, and then the angle is reversed and we see the colonnade from inside. Only Welles could come up with the aquarium idea, with shots of a different, better, aquarium matted in to give the exact effect that he wanted - a silent commentary on predators. The rounded tops of the fish tanks link the aquarium thematically with the Calle del Mercadero. The famous final sequence in the fun fair was butchered by the studio, reduced to a mere sherd of Welles' original scheme, but still terrific. Our spatial perceptions are toyed with, much as O'Hara's moral bearings have been skewed by Elsa.

One part of the film which fails badly is the trial scene. Absurdities proliferate. A defence attorney finds himself called to the stand as a prosecution witness, and if that is not silly enough, he then proceeds to cross-examine himself. The surprise subpoena is nonsense.

Verdict - A relatively lightweight offering from Welles contains good things, but is marred by the risible courtroom scene.


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