Thursday, May 28, 2009
Day 110: The Lady from Shanghai (1947) - Rank: 4/5
I've already decided that when it comes time for another "Film Noir-a-thon" among my friends, this is the selection I'm bringing. Snappy dialog, quirky for the sake of quirky characters and more double-crosses than you can shake a stick at makes this a fun view. What really made it stand out for me though is its inaccurate title. If I had to rename it, I think I'd go for "The Everett Sloane Show." While the downside is it certainly doesn't roll off the tongue and pique the interest of the curious as "The Lady from Shanghai" does, it certainly is more appropriate.
Sloane plays a crippled, crooked lawyer who spends most of his time travelling about the world on his private yacht with his trophy wife Elsa (a blond Rita Hayworth) at his side. He gets drunk habitually and spouts off insults at anyone in close proximity and carts himself about on two canes (if an intoxicated cripple is not an entertaining element for a film noir, then you and I have nothing to talk about). Sloane's Arthur Bannister recruits Irish sailor Michael O'Hara as a strong hand on the yacht and, ultimately, as a patsy for a murder triangle. Also involved in the complex plot is Arthur's law firm partner, George Grisby, played with even hammier, drunken zeal by Glenn Anders. "When you fire the gun, just say you were doing a little tarrrrrr-get practice! That's it, just a little tarrrrrrrrrrrrr-get practice!"
By the time this duo of character actors are done chewing the scenery and drinking all the Scotch in sight, there's very little left of the movie, and thankfully so, because you still have Orson Welles. I like Welles, but the sad thing is: he cannot convey a convincing Irish brogue. His narration was like nails on a chalkboard from the get-go, and God only knows that Welles loves the sound of his voice. It's a mystery to me why he chose to go with the Irish accent, because the nationality of the character is inconsequential to the plot - I suppose it was just Welles wanting to try something new....which he shouldn't have. Still, the greater mystery that remains is this: how, in ten years, did Orson go from screen lover to bloated behemoth? He must have wrung Sloane and Anders dry, drank the booze he retrieved from their bodies, and subsequently ate them. It may sound crazy, but see his performance in "Touch of Evil" and it actually makes sense...sort of...
Watch the Trailer