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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An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2019) with… Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)

As we get into the holiday season, let’s get started with the melodrama Tomorrow Is Forever starring Claudette Colbert, Orson Welles and George Brent.

It’s the end of the first World War, and Elizabeth MacDonald (Claudette Colbert) is looking forward to the return of her husband John Andrew MacDonald (Orson Welles). However, she receives a telegram stating that he has been killed in action. Pregnant with his baby and grieving, she is helped by her boss, Larry Hamilton (George Brent), and they get married. However, John is alive, but in very bad shape in an Austrian hospital, and although the doctors can help him, he decides to let Elizabeth continue to believe him dead. Fast forward to 1939, and Elizabeth and Larry are still happily married, with her now grown-up son Drew Hamilton (Richard Long) contemplating joining the Canadian RAF to help fight in the coming war, much to his mother’s dismay. Larry has also recently hired celebrated Austrian chemist Erik Kessler (John MacDonald’s new name), who has emigrated with his adopted daughter Margaret (Natalie Wood). While Erik recognizes Elizabeth still, she doesn’t quite recognize him the first few times they meet. She is more concerned with the thought of losing her son Drew, much the same way she lost her first husband. While she starts to believe she recognizes Erik as John, he denies it while also trying to repair the rift between mother and son (especially since Drew doesn’t know he has a father other than Larry).

Admittedly, this is probably not a movie that can really be classified as a Christmas movie. Most of the connection to the holiday is in an early scene when Elizabeth is coming home with a Christmas tree, only to find the telegram that told her of her husband’s death. While the movie comes around to that time of year again, it is mainly to emphasize December 20, which was Elizabeth’s wedding anniversary with John MacDonald. Otherwise, there is no connection to the Christmas holiday. Still, it’s a good movie to watch any time of the year, whether for Christmas or not.

As I have mentioned previously, I’m not generally fond of melodramas, but this is one I very much enjoyed! More than anything, the cast is what makes this movie work. As Elizabeth, Claudette Colbert does a great job of portraying a woman who has kept herself busy in motherhood and everything else, delaying the possibility of closure in the “death” of her first husband, until her only son from that first marriage is now trying to go off to war. Natalie Wood does very well in one of her earliest roles. For me, personally, I have nothing but praise for Orson Welles in this movie. While I have seen the classic Citizen Kane, I found I completely disliked the movie and Orson Welles himself, and thus I have otherwise avoided a lot of the other movies that he did. This one I like, especially once he becomes Erik Kessler, helping him to express so much, all the while walking (and moving) like the cripple the character had become after the war. For me, there’s not a sour note in any of the performances in this movie, and I very much would recommend it to anybody interested!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix in yet another one of their stellar transfers. As usual, that made it an easy film to try out (and having actress Claudette Colbert in it didn’t hurt, either), and it is a release I would heartily recommend!

Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Since You Went Away (1944)Claudette Colbert

Orson Welles – The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

International Lady (1941) – George Brent – Out Of The Blue (1947)

Natalie Wood – The Bride Wore Boots (1946)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!