Baffling murders, fascinating plot twists and remarkable camera work all contribute to this spellbinding, time-honored film noir written, directed by and starring Orson Welles. Hired to work on a yacht belonging to the disabled husband of femme fatale Rita Hayworth, Welles plays an innocent man drawn into a dangerous web of intrigue and murder. The subject of great controversy and scandal upon its initial release, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI shocked 1948 audiences by presenting Hayworth with her flaming red hair cut short and dyed champagne blonde. Fifty years later, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI is considered vintage Welles, his famous hall of mirrors climax hailed as one of the greatest scenes in cinematic history.
Legend has it that Orson Welles more or less conned studio boss Harry Cohn over the phone into making The Lady from Shanghai
by grabbing the title from a nearby paperback. In any case, this is one of Welles's most fascinating works, a bizarre tale of an Irish sailor (Welles) who accompanies a beautiful woman (Rita Hayworth) and her handicapped husband (Everett Sloane) on a cruise and becomes involved in a murder plot. But never mind all that (the aforementioned legend also claims that Cohn offered a reward to anyone who could explain the plot to him). The film is really a dream of Welles's driving preoccupations both on and off-screen at the time: the elusiveness of identity, the mystique of things lost, and most of all the director's faltering marriage to Hayworth. In the tradition of male filmmakers who indirectly tell the story of their love affairs with leading ladies, Welles tells his own, photographing Hayworth as a deconstructed star, an obvious cinematic creation, thus reflecting, perhaps, a never-satisfied yearning that leads us back to the mystery of Citizen Kane
. --Tom Keogh