Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

Well, the 17th has rolled around again, and that means that it’s time for another Rita Hayworth film! Today’s film is the 1948 classic The Lady From Shanghai, which also stars Orson Welles. So let’s start things off with another theatrical short!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Dixieland Droopy (1954)

(Available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 44 seconds)

Droopy plays Dixieland musician John Pettibone, as he tries to become famous. This is probably one of the weaker Droopy cartoons, with the main gags being how he gets thrown out of places for playing his record, and then is on the run after “stealing” some Dixieland musician fleas. Do I enjoy it? Yes! I’ll gladly stick it on to watch it! But I can’t deny that I’ve seen better from both Droopy and Tex Avery.

And Now For The Main Feature…

While walking through Central Park one night, sailor Michael O’Hara (Orson Welles) comes across Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) being mugged, and helps her get away. He learns that she is married to famous criminal lawyer Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane), who later offers Michael a job on his yacht (which he very reluctantly accepts). While they are sailing around the country, Michael falls for Elsa, but they find themselves watched, both by Arthur’s partner, George Grisby (Glenn Anders), and Sidney Broome (Ted De Corsia), a detective Arthur uses for some of his divorce cases. Eventually, Grisby makes Michael an offer: for $5000, he wants Michael to “murder” him (so that he can disappear and live a life in obscurity). Once the yacht arrives in San Francisco, Michael decides to go with the idea, hoping to use the money to help Elsa get away from her husband. What he doesn’t count on is Grisby’s treachery (as he plans to kill Arthur and blame Michael), which Broome finds out about. Broome tries to blackmail Grisby, but gets shot for his efforts. Before he dies, Broome tries to warn Elsa and then Michael about Grisby’s treachery, but it’s Grisby himself that gets killed. Michael is arrested (because of all the previous set-up, which included a signed confession), and has no choice but to have Arthur represent him. Will Michael get out of this mess, or will he go to the gas chamber for murder?

The Lady From Shanghai came about mostly due to Orson Welles’ fall from grace. With Citizen Kane‘s failure, The Magnificent Ambersons famously being cut and redone by the studio, and another film that he had planned to shoot in South America never being completed, Orson Welles was no longer looking like the genius he was originally thought to be. He had gone back to the stage, to put together a musical for Around The World In 80 Days, but had run out of money to get the costumes right before the premiere. Without anywhere else to turn, he called Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures (and his wife Rita Hayworth’s boss), to ask him for the money. In return, he promised to direct a movie for him essentially for free (and Harry Cohn accepted). Some sources say that the film was chosen because the original story, If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King, was on a display of paperbacks next to where Orson Welles was when he made the call, and some say that it was a story that Columbia had already purchased the rights for, but whatever the case, it’s what Orson Welles ended up doing. Rita Hayworth was cast at Harry Cohn’s insistence (instead of some of the other actresses that Orson was considering), although Harry Cohn later made a fuss about her changing her image (which he had been carefully crafting for his star for years) by cutting her hair and dying it blonde for the film. At the time, The Lady From Shanghai still didn’t do well at the box office, and was considered one of Orson Welles’ biggest failures, but, like some of his other films, its reputation has improved with time.

This is a movie that I had heard of, but it’s taken me several years to actually get around to seeing. And I will admit to having enjoyed it! Like I said back when I reviewed Tomorrow Is Forever, after watching Citizen Kane, I was generally less than interested in any of Orson Welles’ films. Following up that film (Tomorrow Is Forever), I find my opinion improving, as I was impressed with his performance in this movie as well. I certainly feel for his character, trying to do good, but getting sucked into all the mess of the people he’s trying to help (and getting into trouble because of it). It’s definitely a different role for Rita Hayworth, one that seems to fit in somewhat with her role in the classic Gilda. Overall, I do think all the performances worked well, as everybody kept me guessing what was going on, and who was going to be the big culprit. I admit, the story could be confusing at times, in such a way that multiple viewings would certainly be preferred to fully understand what was going on. But, in this film’s favor, I find myself WANTING to watch it again (admittedly, it’ll probably be a while, but at least it’s not one that completely alienated me on the first viewing). So, I would definitely say there is a movie here worth seeing!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment, either individually or as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection. This is another transfer that seems typical of Sony (the company that owns this movie). In other words, it’s quite good! The detail is superb, and it shows off some of the cinematography very well, especially in the aquarium and the scene in the funhouse with all the mirrors! Certainly one of the best ways to see this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Down To Earth (1947) – Rita Hayworth – The Loves Of Carmen (1948)

Tomorrow Is Forever (1946) – Orson Welles

Down To Earth (1947)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionThe Loves Of Carmen (1948)

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