get crazy and surreal in "The Lady from Shanghai," Orson Welles' 1947
masterpiece that was cut down from two hours to 87 minutes by the
87-minute version, the only one that allegedly now exists, is
exhausting and more than enough for anyone with doubts about Welles'
It is confusing and unpredictable.
Its lead characters are neither lovable nor noble, and a bit odd.
It's a bumpy ride with an smashing, unforgettable ending and not a lot of survivors.
Some might describe it as the classic film noir.
The movie begins
slowly with Michael O'Hara, played by Orson Welles, wandering in New York City.
In a narrative voice-over, he states that
"When I start out to
make a fool of myself, there' very little that can stop me. If
I'd known that it would end, I'd never let anything start, if I'd been
in my right mind. But once I'd seen her, once I'd seen her, I was
not in my right mind for quite some time...me, with plenty of time and
nothing to do but get myself in trouble. Some people can smell
danger, not me."
Elsa Bannister, played by Rita Hayworth, is riding in a Hansom carriage in Central Park
in New York City. The red- and long-haired bombshell is striking because
she is, here, a platinum blonde with short hair, which infuriated Harry Cohn,
the head of Columbia Pictures, because she was the number one pin-up
girl for American soldiers in World War II and had starred the previous year,
gloriously, in "Gilda." She also had been married to Welles and
had told Cohn she wanted to make the picture although they were then
Orson enters crazy house