The Lady from Shanghai – 1947 – dir. Orson Welles
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...