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THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI... wonderful movie !


FredCDobbs
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Although there are certain parts of the plot that don't make any sense, that's ok with me, because I love this movie.

 

This is the only film in which actor Glenn Anders is an outstanding character, as George Grisby. I've seen two or three of his other films and he is lost in obscurity in them. So, I attribute Orson Welles' great directing for Glenn's outstanding performance in this film.

 

Rita Hayworth looks so different in this movie, with short blonde hair and no smiles, she seems like a different actress altogether. Since this is the only film in which she looks and acts like this, it makes her a one-movie actress (in my opinion). Again, Welles gets the credit.

 

Mr. Osborne or someone said this was supposed to be a 2-hour movie, but a studio head made Welles cut it down to 92 minutes. Because of that, some of the murder mystery and solution is a bit confusing.

 

But, it doesn't matter. This is a work of ART, in addition to being noir film. :)

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When I first saw this film in a theater years ago, in San Francisco in the 1970s, during the fight scene in the judge's office, the telephone in the judge's office began to ring and it rang loudy for a long time. But in the TCM prints, I've never heard the phone ring.

 

Can anyone else hear it ring in the TCM prints?

 

I seem to remember a local newspaper carrying a long article about the film, which pointed out the phone ringing, and it said that the phone-ringing idea was a Welles idea to make the fight scene even more tense, since no one can stand to hear a phone ring for a long time without answering it. So this is an unusual Welles idea about "film theory".

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I agree that Lady From Shanghai is a very good movie. Unique and interesting. But I admit I'm somewhat surprised you like it so much Fred. It does start out slow and I have seen you say things about other movies like 'nothing much happens'. i.e. the basis of the movie isn't action but mostly talk.

 

As for Rita being a one movie actress; You don't like Gilda? (or did you mean one movie actress as it related to her style in this movie?).

 

 

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I meant a one-movie actress as it relates to this film, i.e. her short blonde hair, the no smiles, the way she acted. She just doesn't look or act like she did in Gilda or in her musicals and dance movies. She was a really good noir actress in this film,and I wish she had made more noir movies with short blonde hair.

 

The scenes near the end when she is speaking fluent Chinese are fascinating, and her relationship with the Chinese gangster, Li, is also very interesting. Welles, in the screenplay, hints that there is a LOT about this dame and her past that most people don't know.

 

I don't find the beginning boring at all. I always try to understand what they are talking about, with all those names of Chinese cities. And I wonder what she means by, "You need more than luck in Shanghai".

 

Then there are two mysterious guys at the parking garage in the beginning, which we don't meet until later, and I wonder who they are when I first see them. And the scene in the union hall is interesting, and the conversation about the "no such thing as a tough guy" is very interesting. So I find the beginning of the film very interesting.

 

This film has a lot of extreme close-ups, which are just great, and all the scenes inside the Chinese theater are very good, with a lot of close-ups of eyes looking around. The scenes in Mexico are good too.

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>Yes, I heard the phone ring,

 

You DID hear the phone ringing??

 

Well, I guess it is my ears now. It was a loud ring when I saw it in the theater. But now I don't even hear it. I guess the frequency of the ring, maybe 3,000 - 4,000 Hz, I can't hear it now.

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TCM has run in the past, and frequently lately, as a promo for *The Lady From Shanghai* an interview with Welles daughter. She said that the studio and audiences were furious about Welles cutting off Rita's long auburn hair and dying it blonde. She said that everyone thought it was mistake. She said that he did it, so that she would fit that different personna , to make her look completley different from the way she had appeared before, to make her look more believeable in the role, to not have the audience think of her as Rita. I think he was exactly right. I thought she looked beautiful and looked the part. As far as I'm concerned it was a brilliant decision and it's too bad that Welles had listen to all that criticism.

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>As far as I'm concerned it was a brilliant decision and it's too bad that Welles had listen to all that criticism.

 

I agree, and it was a brilliant idea. Giving her short blonde hair made up in a unique style, along with her different personality, did give her a different persona.

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>Yes, I DID hear it ring, it rang 7 times & loudly !

 

Well, I can't hear it on my TV now. Maybe something's wrong with my TV. :)

 

I also saw the 1936 movie "San Francisco" in a theater, and it has some low tones that can't be heard on regular small TV speakers. Both the organ music and during the earthquake itself. There are low tones of the quake, all during the two earthquake sequences, that I have only heard in a theater, and when I hook my hi-fi system up to my TV. Very low tones, way down around 20 - 30 Hz, and maybe even lower. I was surprised to hear those low tones from a 1936 recording.

 

Real earthquakes in San Francisco have very low tones, due to the ground and the buildings shaking. And there are probably even lower tones that we can't hear. With humans, that is called sub-sonic. Elephants are supposed to make sub-sonic sounds that other elephants can hear.

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I'm 'Really' surprised that you can't hear it ring because it rings when the bookcase falls over, it rings when the water cooler falls over, etc.,...a total of 7 times and quite loudly, annoyingly so !

 

Maybe there is something wrong with your speakers? :|

 

Twink

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My gut tells me Orson wasn't impacted by any criticism and that he didn't need anyone to come to his defense.

 

As for Rita's look; It was spot on for this role. This is a good example related to the discussion about making movies as 'art' verses making them for profit. The only thing the suits cared about was that the new look Rita wouldn't be as marketable.

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Harry Cohn was LIVID when he saw Rita in this, stating something like, "That SOB has ruined her image. Everyone knows the most beautiful thing about Rita is her hair". Plus he hated the movie, so he sat on it for awhile, which gave him to prepare a more "suitable' vehicle for her as she grew her hair back in. I think she looks beautiful, and the look works in the movie's context, but we're 65 years removed, and Rita's tresses were a source of much income for Columbia's coffers.

 

PS-The movie was a flop of major proportions.

 

Edited by: Arturo on May 6, 2013 3:41 PM

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According to Orson Welles daughter in that interview that TCM runs, everyone considered it a mistake. His daughter thought so too, she commented on how he was so innocent he couldn't see why it was a mistake. She does make it certainly sound as if Orson was under fire from a lot of camps.It's interesting that Fred and I and you and Arturo all agree that it was the right decision to have Rita have that look.

Arturo is absolutely correct, the film was a big flop. Audiences hated the look Orson gave Rita.

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Note I never said there wasn't a lot of criticism. I said that I don't think Welles would care that there was.

 

What is interesting is that IF Rita's new look did impact the box office take (i.e. was part of the reason the film was a flop), than the studio heads were correct in their assessment since, for the studio, the goal was to make a profit. So it was only the 'right decision' if one puts 'art' over profit (which of course we do at this forum but it is unreasonable and folly to expected those that funded the movie to feel the same).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Since I didn't know Welles and I'm guessing you didn't either, we have no way of knowing one way or the other if he cared. Guessing that as a human being and an artist, he probably did care. Your point is well taken about profit and art. As far as art goes, I think he made a good decision as far as Rita's look for the film goes.Now the film is considered a classic and a great noir, so I guess it was the right decision as far as art and the lasting impact the film has had.

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I suppose both Welles and Cohn BOTH could have been right.

 

Luckily, Welles won out and we now have a better noir film than Cohn wanted. :)

 

And of course, we also have all those Technicolor films with Rita and her long red hair. :) We win ! :)

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Well what we do know is that Welles didn't care for the Hollywood studio system. He left for Europe about a year after completing Lady From Shanghai for what he said at the time was 'freedom'.

 

Welles was known for being independent (some would say to a fault). So, yea, while I'm only speculating (which is why I say 'my gut'), I stand by that speculation. I really don't think Welles cared what someone like Cohn had to say. Anyhow we look at this very differently. My view is that generally someone that considers themselves an artist would NOT care (i.e. an artist true to themselves does care about the opinions of others especially ones he believes are fools like Cohn whose goal was clearly money). Only someone insecure would 'care' (and Welles wasn't known for that either).

 

 

 

 

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I think it is possible to make money and art at the same time, with the same film.

 

My feeling about art in film is that if a lot of people don't like my film, then it is not very artistic. I was a pretty good photographer and editor, and I could dazzle a general audience with photography and editing, and the addition of good background music.

 

A good film can dazzle both a general audience and other artists in the film business. For example, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, It Happened One Night, It's a Wonderful Life, etc.

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Well of course it is possible to have a 'win win' type situation. The point I keep raising relates to independent directors versus directors under contract with a studio and the relationship between the producer, studio bosses and the director.

 

Most of Welles movies didn't make a profit at the time of their release. e.g. Citizen Kane. But in most cases Welles was wise to ensure his short term contract gave him artistic control. He didn't have that type of contract with Cohn for Shanghai. The movie was edited without his approval. This experience along with his distaste for Hollywood caused him to leave to make movies in Europe. I assume Hollywood studio bosses at the time felt that was a win win for all. i.e. they didn't wish to deal with him anymore than he wished to deal with them.

 

PS: I really don't see how one can link something being popular with it being artistic like you did. I mean do you really feel Madonna is the greatest female singer of all time? Justin Bieber is artistic?

 

Edited by: jamesjazzguitar on May 6, 2013 6:25 PM

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Well Welles had problems with the studio bosses, because in his quest to be true to himself, he ignored the rules and schedules, running up costs overbudget and often having the finished product taken away from him and (severely) edited by others. A few of these and they were happy to bid him adieu...from their POV, he could be as arty as he wished, but not with their money; they wouldn't indulge him in his indulgences.

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