Or­son Welles in mem­o­rable act­ing per­for­mance

Whanganui Midweek - - NEWS -

Mon­day, Au­gust 20, 7pm Davis The­atre, Whanganui Re­gional Museum

The Lady From Shang­hai Or­son Welles • USA • 1947 87 mins • HD, B&W • PG vi­o­lence

In this in­sanely lurid film noir, direc­tor Or­son Welles plays an Ir­ish sailor en­snared by a siren­like Rita Hay­worth when he signs up to nav­i­gate the yacht of her crip­pled hus­band, “the great­est crim­i­nal trial lawyer in the world”.

Thanks to stu­dio in­ter­fer­ence, the plot is bor­der­line in­com­pre­hen­si­ble, but the film’s baroque vis­ual style, its hard-boiled di­a­logue, and its co­terie of sleazy ocean cruis­ers add up to some­thing weirdly co­her­ent. A fab­u­lous new restora­tion gives us the per­fect ex­cuse to clam­ber aboard and gape.


There’s such out­ra­geous bril­liance in Or­son Welles’ brash and sexy noir melo­drama from 1947. There are some opaque plot tan­gles, per­haps due to 60 min­utes be­ing cut from Welles’ orig­i­nal ver­sion by the stu­dio, but the sheer brio and style make it a thing of won­der, whisk­ing the au­di­ence from the streets of New York City, to the open seas, to a tense court­room and then to a bizarre house of mir­rors.

This is ar­guably Welles’ best act­ing per­for­mance: the­atri­cally ro­man­tic, with warmth, wit and a gust of pure charisma. He plays O’Hara, an Ir­ish mer­chant sea­man in­duced to sign on as part of the crew of a lux­ury yacht be­long­ing to wealthy lawyer Ban­nis­ter (Everett Sloane), hav­ing fallen in love with his young wife Elsa (Rita Hay­worth) — a beau­ti­ful woman with a shady past whom Ban­nis­ter ev­i­dently black­mailed into mar­ry­ing him. Soon O’Hara is mixed up in a mur­der­ous plot cooked up by Ban­nis­ter’s part­ner Grisby (Glenn An­ders). Welles cre­ates a dream­like (though never sur­re­al­ist) flu­ency and strange­ness, along with a salty tang of black com­edy and an elec­tric cur­rent of doom and de­sire be­tween O’Hara and Elsa. It has an ir­re­sistible en­ergy.

— Peter Brad­shaw, The Guardian

It’s been called ev­ery­thing from an out­right dis­as­ter to ‘the weird­est great movie ever made’. Like The Mag­nif­i­cent

Am­ber­sons be­fore it, Or­son Welles’ glit­ter­ing 1947 thriller was sub­ject to swing­ing stu­dio cuts (up to an hour was sliced from the fin­ished picture). But what re­mains of The Lady from

Shang­hai is re­mark­able enough. Made as the direc­tor was in the process of break­ing up with his star, the breath­tak­ing Rita Hay­worth, this is less a film noir and more a di­vorce case writ large, steeped in irony, self-loathing, love, hate, fas­ci­na­tion, re­crim­i­na­tion, mis­trust and

sex­ual longing. It’s the story of an Ir­ish roustabout — played with wan­der­ing ac­cent and waist­line by Welles — and his re­la­tion­ship with a trou­bled so­ci­ety beauty (Hay­worth) af­ter he takes a job on her yacht. The plot is a mag­nif­i­cent mess of switch­backs and rev­e­la­tions, cli­max­ing with one of cin­ema’s most out­ra­geously in­ven­tive se­quences: a shootout in a fun­fair hall of mir­rors. The re­sult may not have the crys­talline per­fec­tion of Cit­i­zen Kane, but that’s a flaw it shares with ev­ery other film in his­tory. — Tom Hud­dle­ston, Time Out

A glit­ter­ing film noir! Everett Sloane is an en­ter­tain­ingly outre´ vil­lain — a two-legged taran­tula on crutches — and there are sev­eral bold, flashy set pieces in San Fran­cisco, in­clud­ing a chase through a Chi­na­town the­atre, a love scene at the aquar­ium in Golden Gate Park, and a fun-house shoot-out . . .

In the ti­tle role, Rita Hay­worth [the soon to be ex-Mrs Welles], her hair coloured plat­inum, has both bathing­beauty al­lure and an ex­cit­ing sadis­tic streak — there’s a stiletto hid­den in the cheese­cake. — Michael Sragow,


Pub­lic­ity still from The Lady from Shang­hai.

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