The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
Directed by Orson Welles
Who’s in it? Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloane
What’s it about? Best known to some as the girl from the first of the posters on Andy Dufresne’s cell wall in The Shawshank Redemption, Rita Hayworth stars as femme fatale Elsa in The Lady from Shanghai, another classic if slightly less well known noir-thriller from cinematic genius Orson Welles, who here continues his habit of directing, writing and starring in his own films. Welles’ Irish sailor meets upper crust blonde Elsa (Hayworth) in Central Park after rescuing her horse-drawn carriage from three would-be hijackers, only to be embroiled in a murder plot on the high seas aboard her husband’s yacht. Based on Sherwood King’s novel If I Die Before I Wake, Welles and Hayworth were husband and wife before and during the film’s production though the marriage ended a year after its release. Some interpret the dizzying hall of mirrors finale as a wry comment by the Citizen Kane director on his marriage to the star.
Memorable Moments? Hayworth’s femme fatale frantically scampering through a fairground hall of mirrors, as her reflection is bounced from wall to ceiling during the film’s thrilling end sequence, is a fitting end to a heady and memorably thrilling film, if less well remembered than Welles’ other iconic noirs.
Look Who’s Talking: ‘Though the plot is impossible to follow, there are many glimpses of Welles’ signature atmosphere-making.’ – Empire
Like that? Try this: The Third Man (1949), arguably Welles’ signature film, in spite of his groundbreaking work in Citizen Kane, is a more atmospheric and intriguing film and has virtually set the template par excellence for the Noir genre ever since.
Trivia Pursuit: As well as starring in the film Welles also wrote the screenplay, though his role as director was strangely uncredited.
Ronan Wright writes from Belfast and blogs at Filmplicity.