The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

The Lady From Shanghai



Critic Consensus: Energetic and inventive, The Lady from Shanghai overcomes its script deficiencies with some of Orson Welles' brilliantly conceived set pieces.

Movie Info

In this stylish film noir, a sailor becomes involved in a scam with a beautiful woman and her lawyer husband. But complications arise, and the sailor soon finds himself being tried for murder. The sequence set in a fun house hall of mirrors is among the most dazzling on film.

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Orson Welles
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 3, 2000
Columbia Pictures Corporation


as Mike O'Hara

as Elsa Bannister

as Arthur Bannister

as George Grisby

as Sidney Broome

as Goldie

as District Attorney

as Cab Driver

as Yacht Captain

as Bartender

as Police Lieutenant

as Truck Driver

as Old Woman

as Port Steward/Policem...

as Toughie/Cop

as Reporter

as Reporter

as Reporter

as Reporter

as Reporter

as Jury Foreman

as Schoolteacher

as Chinese Girl

as Chinese Girl

as Policeman

as Garage Attendant

as Ticket Seller

as Chinese Woman

as Chinese Man

as Cab Driver

as Ticket Taker

as District Attorney's ...

as Policeman

as Policeman

as Policeman

as Policeman

as Policeman

as Policeman
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Critic Reviews for The Lady From Shanghai

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (9)

A magnificent mess of switchbacks and revelations, climaxing with one of cinema's most outrageously inventive sequences.

Full Review… | July 23, 2014
Time Out
Top Critic

The climax, a shootout in a funhouse hall of mirrors, is one of the bravura sequences in all film, a triumph of hey-look-at-me form over just-the-facts content.

Full Review… | February 20, 2014
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Be warned: This is a film that collects obsessives.

Full Review… | January 28, 2014
Time Out
Top Critic

For all the violations it suffered, The Lady From Shanghai seems strangely coherent in its extant form -- or rather, coherently incoherent, and in a way that seems quite deliberate.

Full Review… | January 28, 2014
Village Voice
Top Critic

Welles and Hayworth were married at the time; he gives her closeups of unmatched rapture even while allegorizing his own fate as a free spirit caught in the trap of Hollywood's delusional pleasure dome.

Full Review… | January 27, 2014
New Yorker
Top Critic

Script is wordy and full of holes which need the plug of taut story telling and more forthright action.

Full Review… | February 11, 2009
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Lady From Shanghai

Orson Welles stars in and directs this tale of sharks in the water, cannibalizing one another in a bloody frenzy. Actually, the sharks are human in nature and Michael (Welles) or "Black Irish" as he is also known, is stuck observing them in all their horrific glory. When Michael defends a beautiful blonde (Rita Hayworth) from being mugged in the park, she gets her wealthy husband, famed lawyer Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane) to hire him to work on their yacht. While Bannister at first glance appears to be a bit of a milquetoast, as things progress, we see he's more conniving than he appears. "You're quite a tough guy" he says of Black Irish, who's pretty good with his fists, but as we find out, Bannister's bank role makes him a "tough guy" too. Things are very convenient for Michael on this yacht, the husband seemingly turns a blind eye to the flirtations of his wife with the new ships hand. When Bannister's partner arrives to join the vacationers, he propositions Michael with some sort of "foolproof" insurance scam that seems anything but. Director Orson Welles develops a taught little noir here, but it's nothing extraordinary to get worked up about. Everett Sloane gives a great performance, but the whole thing doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

Even thoug hthis film came out several decades before it, I can't help but compare this movie to Fargo to an extent. This might be a more pure film noir than that one, but they both are very similar in their dealings with an average guy caught up in a scheme that can't possibly go in any direction but a bad one. They're both complex twisty turny mystery films made by great directors with great sense of style and visuals, but for me, as solid of a film as this is, I think that Fargo is my winner.

This is still a top notch film though. It's not as legendary or brilliant as Citizen Kane or Touch of Evil, but this is definitely the bronze medal winner among those two, and, considering those two films, being in 3rd isn't too shabby at all.

Michael O'Hara is a guy with a tainted background and has experience with nautical related thigns, He goes to work for a guy and his wife, and, not only does he fall for the lady, he gets caught up in a shady murder plot involving the husband. Plot twists abound, and this was easier to follow than most similar type of films, but I feel like the script could have been more clear and polished.

And, being Welles, this film looks fantastic and has some brilliant images and cinematography, with the absolute highlight being the surreal climactic shooutout in a hall of mirrors maze at an amusement park. That sequence alone is the main elling point for why this movie should be seen. However, for the scene to have the most impact you do need to watch the rest of it.

Doing that last bit isn't a problem, but if you've seen Welles before ,you know that you really have to be in the right mindset to enjoy his work, since he, like LKubrick, was one of those brilliant, but very polarizing filmmakers who might have been perhaps a bit too headtrong in their vision.

The performances are fine though, and it cracks me up that this film caused controversy since Welles convinced Rita Hayworth to not only cut her fiery red hair short, but to dye it blonde as well.

All in all, a decent, though not perfect film noir mystery thriller.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

.This is an excellent Orson Wells film with a beautiful Rita Hayworth, actress of the by gone era will never be matched by the female movie starts of today. They are just candles in the wind. This movie has so many twist and turns which will keep you guessing throughout the film, Orson plays the rich mans aid who falls in love with the rich mans wife, is she in love with him or leading him to a death trap, only you watching the film will the answer be found. Nothing short of 5 stars. 4-5-12

Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

The Lady From Shanghai Quotes

– Submitted by Kate S (4 years ago)

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