Give My Love to the Sunset

Why is The Lady from Shanghai so good?

(Why is it so much better than The Prince and the Showgirl, which was made10 years after it? Had cinema regressed?)

  1. Orson Welles acts the whole movie with an Irish accent which he wint and picked up in Double-in in the early Thorties.
  2. Rita Hayworth lies on a boat in the Caribbean and sings Please Don’t Kiss Me, the camera giving us just her plaintive face, her voice accompanied by a piano and an acoustic guitar.
  3. It’s like the germ of future film scenes – it nearly ends in Chinatown; Welles delivers a monologue about sharks that foreshadows Quint’s in Jaws; Lovers meet – Romeo and Juliet – backed by an aquarium. It ends, like Strangers on a Train, in an amusement park. Even the Oscar Pistorius case is told (Welles, sceptical that anyone goes to jail for murder in American, tells the story of a man whose wife “went to the icebox for supper…he shot her five times in the head, said he thought she was a burglar.”)
  4. The dialogue, which Welles adapted from a Sherwood King novel, is great (“Some people can smell danger; not me.” “Personally, I don’t like a girlfriend to have a husband” – Do you drink? – “Whatever’s put in front of me: it doesn’t have to be wholesome it just has to be strong” – “I was taught to think about love in Chinese” – “The only way to stay out of trouble is to grow old so maybe I’ll concentrate on that.”)
  5. Hayworth plausibly speaks Mandarin and dives from high rocks.
  6. So much happens – even just in the first sixteen minutes – and scene after scene looks beautiful (the opening shot of the tugboat passing under the Brooklyn Bridge; when they “dawdle around the West Indies, getting into trouble”; when they spend some time in the “bright and guilty world” of Acapulco; when they watch a show in Chinatown).

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