The Lady From Shanghai

The Lady From Shanghai (1947)  Director: Orson Welles

This Welles film noir, starring Rita Hayworth and Welles, is based on a novel If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King. Welles plays Michael O’Hara, an Irish sailor who sails on a boat with the blonde woman, Elsa, whom he meets on a whim in the park. Elsa and her husband, a disabled defense attorney, Mr. Bannister, invite Michael onto their boat. Mr. Bannister’s partner joins them and persistently beckons Michael into a plot to stage a fake killing of him in exchange for $5,000, which would allow the new lovers, Elsa and Michael, to run away together. Brisby, the partner, actually intended to kill Bannister and frame Michael. A private investigator, Broome, discovers the plot but is shot and not killed by Brisby. The case is brought to trial, but Michael escapes in faking an attempted suicide. He reunites with Elsa in a Chinese theatre, when he discovers that Elsa was the true killer of Brisby. The movie concludes with a climactic and famous shootout in the madhouse of the boardwalk, with confusion about who is shooting as the funhouse mirrors are continuously destroyed. Both spouses shoot each other, Bannister fatally and Elsa mortally. Michael leaves the scene as Elsa screams in pain. The film closes with his words: “Maybe I’d forget her. Maybe I’d die trying.”



While receiving mixed reviews in its heyday, the film is a great film as is common for an Orson Welles film. The shootout at the end in the madhouse is of particular note.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s