THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947)
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI
There's such outrageous brilliance in Orson Welles's brash and sexy noir melodrama from 1947, now on re-release. There are some opaque plot tangles, perhaps due to 60 minutes being cut from Welles's original version by the studio, but the sheer brio and style make it a thing of wonder, whisking the audience from the streets of New York City, to the open seas, to a tense courtroom and then to a bizarre house of mirrors.
This is arguably Welles's best acting performance: theatrically romantic, with warmth, wit and a gust of pure charisma. He plays O'Hara, an Irish merchant seaman induced to sign on as part of the crew of a luxury yacht belonging to wealthy lawyer Bannister (Everett Sloane), having fallen in love with his young wife Elsa (Rita Hayworth) – a beautiful woman with a shady past in the far east whom Bannister evidently blackmailed into marrying him. Soon O'Hara is mixed up in a murderous plot cooked up by Bannister's partner Grisby (Glenn Anders). Welles creates a dreamlike (though never surrealist) fluency and strangeness, along with a salty tang of black comedy and an electric current of doom and desire between O'Hara and Elsa. It has an irresistible energy.
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