© 1947 Columbia Pictures Corporation

The Lady From Shanghai (1947)

Orson Welles famously directed The Lady From Shanghai for a quick paycheck. A really quick paycheck. Welles was producing a musical stage version of Around the World in 80 Days and had a lot of his own money was invested in the production when the costumes were impounded pending payment of $55,000 to cover debts. The director Columbia Studio head David Cohen and offered to produce, direct and star in a film provided Cohen could wire him $55,000. Legend has it that the source novel was being read by the ticket girl in the box office in the theater from which Welles made the desperate phone call. The plot is notoriously convoluted by the standards of 1947, and the film was widely dismissed by critic. Today, though, it is not too get one’s head around the twists in the plot. Although they were separated and heading toward a divorce, Welles cast his wife Rita Hayworth as the female lead. Hayworth is playing a different kind of role, with less glamour and more drama, a point that her cropped, bleached hair seems designed to drive home. As can be expected from Welles, the camera work is excellent.The finale in the house of mirrors is one of the amongst the most famous sequences in cinema, although it takes some patience to get there.

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