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The Lady from Shanghai


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Well, I finally sat down and watched this. I think it's pretty much agreed on this this is a seriously flawed movie. So let's begin there. First, pardon the sacrilege, but Welles erred in directing, producing and starring at once. Couldn't even his wife -Rita herself - have told him just how bad his Irish accent was? Now, we all agree that Welles' original version of this movie must have been better because this movie is so fractured. Who can imagine what the "Chinese theatre" scene would have been with the additional exposition Orson must have had in mind? OK, so how come I am nevertheless enthralled? Because Welles did more than justice to his other characters. This is artistic brilliance in the same vein as Kane except that here, the final version is such a jumble, one gets distracted from how sophisticated are his characterizations. While Welles' O'Hara is supposed to be understood through his narration, the other characters are given ample lines and screen time to allow us to know them. Case in point: Bannister. When he enters the movie, we can feel sorry for him, crippled and married to a beautiful woman he can never "have". But we get the time to see him for the shark he is, along with Grisby and Broome.

Is Elsa a shark? Is the audience ever sure until the end? That's good story telling. Plus: I don't care how short they cut Rita's hair or how bleached blonde they made it, this woman is simply stunning. (I write this just a few days after the death of Farrah Fawcett and can see the same public fascination.) Rita Hayworth is *g or g e o u s* and the camera work that lights her - that frames every scene here - is film at its finest.

"Well, everybody is somebody's fool."

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I pretty much agree with you. I find the characters and acting so fascinating, I gave up worrying about the plot and the accent years ago.

 

The beautiful effects in this movie are wonderful, such as having vultures flying overhead in a few of the scenes in Mexico, when Grisby was talking to Michael about murder.

 

And the sharks and eels in the tanks in the background at the aquarium.

 

And when we learn that Elsa speaks perfect Chinese, that is stunning. And we learn she?s mixed up with the Chinese mafia. Wow.

 

And Rita with the blonde hair. That makes her a totally unique one-film lady. To me, she looks unique in this film, as if she is someone else.

 

And I sure would like to know what Bannister has on Elsa that makes her stay with him!

 

The talk about the A-Bomb is also amazing. I think this is the earliest movie, after 1945, in which the subject of world atomic war is mentioned.

 

And those faces and glances during the Chinese theater scenes! Wow!

 

And the mirrors!!

 

I watch this movie like I listen to La Traviata. I have no idea what La Traviata is about, but I love to listen to it.

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I have mixed feelings about Rita's hair in this one, and there some flaws that have already been mentioned, but the hall of mirrors climax is unforgettable.

 

An interesting bit of trivia is that if Orson had not asked Rita to make this movie, she would have been cast opposite Humphrey Bogart in Dead Reckoning another Columbia film). Since Rita was not available, Lizbeth Scott got the part instead.

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