The Lady from Shanghai

I had the time to watch a short movie that ran only 87 minutes, so I did sit down for “The Lady from Shanghai,” the classic with Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth.  Reportedly, the original cut was more than one hour longer.  I don’t know if Welles direction could have sustained this plot over that length, although I would have liked a look at that longer cut.  Rita Hayworth cut her famous long red hair for this picture, and she did look striking as a blonde, although her hairdo wasn’t the greatest.  The opening sequence with the carriage made me think of an Astaire and Rogers movie, which could have been “Top Hat.”  I don’t know how Welles’ character could have been sucked into this arrangement of confessing to a murder.  You would really have to be a fool to agree to anything of the sort.  I liked the shot of Rita diving into the water.  I wondered if she really spoke in Cantonese for the Chinatown sequence.  What I didn’t like so much was Everett Sloane on the witness stand.  I get sick of courtroom scenes generally, and the idea of a witness cross-examining himself is not so amusing.  Also, there was no security to speak of in the place if he was actually able to escape.  It seemed that the movie could have taken better advantage of the San Francisco setting. Perhaps it was part of the footage that was cut.  As it is, this cut is leading right to the memorable ending.  I don’t know why an empty amusement park is supposed to be a good hiding place.  I did think briefly about the Ferris wheel in “The Third Man.”  Those last moments when Rita says she does not to die are chilling, although her voice wasn’t quite dramatic.  I thought about her real-life decline due to Alzheimer’s.  I have always thought of “The Lady from Shanghai” as a good movie for a summer night, although I didn’t wait for the summer to watch it again.  Welles the director was known for “Citizen Kane,” “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “The Lady from Shanghai,” and “Touch of Evil.”  I remember him as an actor in “The Third Man” and “A Man for All Seasons.”  I also remember how much Truffaut admired him, and I remember how Welles died after his appearance on The Merv Griffin Show.  That was 37 years after the release of “The Lady from Shanghai.”  Some of the filming locations were the Sausalito waterfront, the Kearny Street Hall of Justice, Portsmouth Square, the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park, and Whitney’s Playland-at-the-Beach at Ocean Beach.  I remember that footage from the film was used in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery” in 1993.  I will agree with anyone who says that the movie doesn’t make sense, but I don’t think that anyone cares that it doesn’t make sense.

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