The Lady From Shanghai


The Lady From Shanghai

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 43


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,707
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The Lady From Shanghai Photos

Movie Info

After watching a rough cut of Orson Welles' The Lady From Shanghai, Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn looked furtively around the projection room, and in an anguished voice begged "Somebody please tell me what this is about!" Cohn missed the point: in an Orson Welles film, it doesn't matter what it's about. You just sit back and wallow in his camera pyrotechnics and shadow-drenched imagery. Actually, the story, based on a novel by Sherwood King, makes perfect sense after two or three viewings. Welles plays an Irish-American sailor (with a brogue that wouldn't convince a cow) who rescues a beautiful blonde from muggers in Central Park. The blonde is portrayed by the otherwise redheaded Rita Hayworth, who under the direction of her ex-husband Welles delivers one of her most impressive performances. Orson and Rita meet again when Welles is hired as a crew member of the yacht owned by Rita's husband, the brilliant, crippled defense attorney Everett Sloane. As he falls deeper under Rita's spell, Welles gets involved in a bizarre insurance scam. Glenn Anders, Sloane's eccentric law partner, plans to stage his own death, collect the insurance, and skip town. All Welles has to do is pretend to murder Anders, and he'll get a big chunk of the money. As it turns out, Anders is murdered for real. The innocent Welles is defended in court by Sloane, who is famous for never losing a case, but who in this instance seems bound and determined to lose. As the jury files out, Welles makes a break for it. Rita catches up with him at a Chinese theatre, then stands by with a glazed expression on her face as she watches her cohorts drug Welles. As he comes to in an amusement park fun house, he begins to piece the plot together; he has been set up as a clay pigeon by Rita and Sloane. Only now, Rita intends to double-cross her husband. The plot comes to a literally smashing climax in the famous "hall of mirrors" sequence, with Rita and Sloane shooting it out amidst shards of shattering glass. No, it isn't the simplest thing in the world to follow Lady From Shanghai, but we wouldn't forego this bizarre cinematic jigsaw puzzle for anything.

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Orson Welles
as Mike O'Hara
Rita Hayworth
as Elsa Bannister
Everett Sloane
as Arthur Bannister
Glenn Anders
as George Grisby
Ted de Corsia
as Sidney Broome
Carl Frank
as District Attorney
Harry Shannon
as Cab Driver
Sam Nelson
as Yacht Captain
Peter Cusanelli
as Bartender
Joseph Granby
as Police Lieutenant
Maynard Holmes
as Truck Driver
Dorothy Vaughan
as Old Woman
Philip Morris
as Port Steward/Policeman/Peters
Philip Van Zandt
as Toughie/Cop
Alvin Hammer
as Reporter
Mary Newton
as Reporter
Robert Gray
as Reporter
Byron Kane
as Reporter
Charles Meakin
as Jury Foreman
Jessie Arnold
as Schoolteacher
Doris Chan
as Chinese Girl
Billy Louie
as Chinese Girl
Joe Recht
as Garage Attendant
Jean Wong
as Ticket Seller
Grace Lem
as Chinese Woman
Preston Lee
as Chinese Man
Joe Palma
as Cab Driver
Artarne Wong
as Ticket Taker
Richard Wilson
as District Attorney's Assistant
Al Eben
as Policeman
Norman Thomson
as Policeman
Harry Strang
as Policeman
Steve Benton
as Policeman
Milton Kibbee
as Policeman
Eddie Coke
as Policeman
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Critic Reviews for The Lady From Shanghai

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (11)

Audience Reviews for The Lady From Shanghai

  • Mar 24, 2019
    Yeah, the studio interfered but unlike "The Magnificent Ambersons" or "The Stranger" it still fundamentally feels like Welles' vision mostly remains intact. If you can get past his awful Irish accent the movie is filled with some delightfully weird stuff.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 08, 2016
    This classic film noir has it all - a tight script, great scenes on location, and the seductive and beautiful Rita Hayworth. Orson Welles is in the role of the guy realizes he's swimming with sharks, but can't stop himself from doing so. Isn't that a common theme in these movies? At Hayworth's urging, he takes a job on her husband's yacht; her husband (Everett Sloane) is a rich, invalid lawyer who is having his wife followed. Things are uneasy from the outset, and then take a turn for the worse when Sloane's partner Grigsby (Glenn Anders) offers him money out of the blue to commit a murder - on himself, Grigsby. Glenn Anders looks like a maniacal Mike Ditka while making this proposition - oh wait, Mike Ditka already looks maniacal, but you get the idea. Rita Hayworth went blonde for this film, which apparently led to the ire of her fans, but she's a knockout and on top of it, she delivers a strong performance. I'm not sure about Orson Welles' Irish accent, but he did give us a great film, and it really was his baby, having written the screenplay, produced, directed, and starred in it opposite Hayworth, his wife of four years who he would divorce shortly after the film's release. The film has great scenes in San Francisco and Acapulco, the 'open air' feel of which provide an interesting counterpoint to the 'noir' plot. There is also, of course, the iconic final sequence in the hall of mirrors. The film is successful but it's too bad Welles wasn't given full creative control, as a great deal of that last sequence was edited out and destroyed, which is a real shame. One reason I like it is because despite some intricacies in the plot which will keep you guessing, it's all explained logically in the end. Another is Welles' direction, which is intelligent and provides interesting camera angles. I'm not sure why this movie was released to mixed reviews in 1947, but it's worth seeing if you like films in this genre.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 22, 2014
    Welles may use every cinematic trick in his repertoire, but the story and characters fail to captivate or engross.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 06, 2012
    The only good thing about this heap of vintage trash is Rita Hayworth. Everything else will hit you like a tranquilizer. Orson Welles directs and stars with a terrible Irish accent; even I could do a more accurate Irish accent than that. It's not only distracting, but annoying. The plot goes in way too many directions for anyone to stand a chance of grasping it and the lean 87 minute running time feels like an eternity.
    Kevin M Super Reviewer

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