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The Lady from Shanghai

The Lady from Shanghai(1948)


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Working titles for this film were Black Irish, If I Die Before I Wake and Take This Woman. Orson Welles's onscreen credit reads: "Screenplay and Production Orson Welles." Many of the actors appearing in the film were performers in Welles's Mercury Theatre stage and radio shows. The picture marked the screen debut of Carl Frank, a veteran radio star and member of the Mercury Theatre. A December 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that cinematographer Rudolph Mat temporarily took over for Charles Lawton, Jr. when Lawton fell ill. According to a June 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item, co-producer William Castle was under consideration as Welles's co-director. An October 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that assistant cameraman Donald Ray Cory died of heart failure while filming on location in Acapulco, Mexico. Information contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that the third draft of the screenplay was deemed "unacceptable" by the PCA because of a scene in which the character played by Hayworth commited suicide to escape justice. Some contemporary reviews, including the Variety review, which called the script "wordy and full of holes," criticized the film's confusing story.
       According to modern sources, Ida Lupino was originally set for the role played by Hayworth. Modern sources also note the following about the production: Welles wrote the first draft of the screenplay adaptation in a seventy-two hour period while he was staying at a hotel on Catalina Island. In his contract with Columbia, Welles was to be paid $2,000 for a week for his acting, an additional $100,000 after the studio recouped its costs, and fifteen percent of all the profits generated by the film. Although the novel on which the film is based was set in New York City and Long Island, Welles moved the main setting of the story to Mexico and Sausalito, CA. Hayworth and Welles, who married in 1943, were estranged at the time Welles cast her in the film. Hayworth reportedly accepted the assignment in the hope that her daughter Rebecca would benefit from Welles's profits from the film after their divorce. The divorce was finalized a short time after the filming of the picture was completed.
       An interview with Welles quoted in a modern source indicated that the script was originally written for actress Barbara Laage. According to a biography of Welles, Welles had limited control over the editing of the film and was displeased with many aspects of the final picture. Welles criticized much of the completed film, which, he claimed, was significantly altered by Columbia production head Harry Cohn and editor Viola Lawrence. Chief among Welles's criticisms were the overpunctuated score, the reduction of approximately twenty percent of the film, and the addition of a less ambiguous ending. The Welles biography also notes that Cohn delayed the release of the picture for nearly a year in an unsuccessful attempt to have it released after The Loves of Carmen, a film in which Hayworth, one of his most valuable stars, had a more flattering role. In addition to Acapulco, some filming took place on location in California at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, and in San Francisco and Sausalito. The film's hall of mirrors sequence, which has been imitated and parodied in many films, including the 1993 Woody Allen directed film Manhattan Murder Mystery, starring Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda and Angelica Huston.