Shot in 1947, The Lady from Shanghai was adapted for the screen by Orson Welles, from the novel, If I Should Die Before I Wake, by author Sherwood King. Today, the film is remembered as the auteur’s classic, but upon its initial release, the film was unsuccessful at the box office. Experimental and innovative with camera techniques for the time, with combinations of fast, jumpy cuts and long tracking and crane shots, which enhanced the malice and mystery of the plot, Welles ultimately elevates film noir into another dimension. Every shot is particularly and intentionally framed as if it were a photograph. He even includes comedic moments by advantageously incorporating dark humor. Without a doubt a master of cinematic perspective, Welles could not have completed any of his works if it was not for his artistic peers, and incredibly talented fellow actors.
Tag: The Lady From Shanghai
On the list of favorite movies my mind’s Rolodex holds, The Lady from Shanghai has always had a special place. It was a treat seeing it again after all these years, not only because it is a good movie but because the last time I saw it, I was a college student at one of the weekly film viewings our Student Union Association ran in the school cafeteria. Every Friday evening, all tables and chairs would be cleared
from the dining hall, a rickety screen was erected in front of the cafeteria kitchen and we students would be left perfectly content to belly down on the floor or sit Indian-style, sipping Boone’s Apple Farm or Blue Nun from Dixie cups. The lights would go down, leaving us in the dark with Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Rita Hayworth. I remember most the girls cuddled up against the walls or each other psyched for a night of nicotine (those were the days when you could still smoke in campus buildings), gossip and movie goddesses from the 30s and 40s. To me, they were not half-a-sleepy co-eds wrapped in blankets and pillows dragged over from their dorms but secret Rita Hayworths dreaming they were, or could some day be, as steamy and as sultry as she was, as defiant as she was, as immortal as she was. That is what movie stars do for us; they keep us alive and dreaming. Seeing a movie we have seen before in our long ago past resurrects memories not only of that movie but of who we were and where we were when we first saw it. A movie is a mirror of itself but also a mirror of Time
and of us. And so it is for me with The Lady from Shanghai...
Lady From Shanghai – 1947 – dir. Orson Welles
Orson Welles’ Lady From Shanghai bridges the cinematic landscape from drama to adventure and mystery. Led by its director (and protagonist) himself, alongside heroine Rosalie Bannister (Rita Hayworth), each character reveals layer after layer of insecurities, deception and greed throughout the story. However, the fascination lies within the depth that Welles is able to explore. Both tough guy and damsel reveal their true colors gradually, methodically, touching upon the most intimate conundrums of life, reflecting a harrowing character piece that shows the demons within oneself. The magic lies in Welles’ delivery, exposing the depths and revealing their own façade to be but a mere image they have create to shelter their true selves.