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Film: The Lady from Shanghai

Orson Welles directed and starred in this 1947 Film Noir classic as Irishman Michael O'Hara, who meets the beautiful Elsa, the titular Lady (Rita Hayworth), after saving her from muggers in Central Park. She offers him a job aboard her yacht, but things soon take a turn for the worse when Micheal gets involved in a plot to help a man fake his death.

Tropes appearing in this film include:

  • Amusement Park: Where the climax occurs, in the hall of mirrors.
  • Chekhov's Skill / Foreshadowing: Elsa mentions that she grew up in China, the daughter of White Russian exiles (hence the title). After O'Hara escapes from the courthouse, he winds up in Chinatown, and Elsa talks to some of her Chinese hoodlum friends to get him away from the cops.
  • Death Faked for You: It doesn't work.
  • Droste Image: In the iconic hall of mirrors sequence, as shown in the image on this page.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Hayworth, famous for her luxuriant red hair, got a short haircut and went platinum blonde for this movie.
  • Executive Meddling: As was often the case with Welles' work. The original cut ran around 155 minutes (including a much-extended funhouse climax) and had a much different musical score (the Hall of Mirrors segment was intended to play entirely without music). Studio execs ended up cutting almost half the runtime and commissioning a jazzy score designed to underline the action.
  • Faking the Dead: Grigsby's plot. Subverted — he certainly succeeds on the "dead" end of things, but the "fake" is entirely lacking.
  • Femme Fatale: Elsa
  • Film Noir
  • Film of the Book: Actually based on the novel If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King.
  • Frame-Up: Grigsby tells O'Hara that he wants to fake his own death in order to collect on insurance and get away. Actually Grigsby's plan is to kill Bannister and frame O'Hara for it.
  • Genre Savvy: Michael is almost acutely aware that something bad awaits him if he goes along with Elsa and her husband. He's even tries to get hired on the first merchant ship leaving New York just to avoid being pulled into it. It's only the promise a very nice paycheck that causes him to reconsider and even then he's still leery about it.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Trope Codifier. Probably not the Trope Maker as this trope was used for comic effect by Charlie Chaplin in The Circus some 20 years before.
  • Mutual Kill: Elsa and her husband shoot each other.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Welles struggles with an Irish accent.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Rita Hayworth, married on-screen to gnome-like Everettt Sloane.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The audience knows how they are going to try to fake Grisby's death. Even though it's not the whole story, it doesn't go quite as planned.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Ironically, Michael knows how dangerous this is. He even remarks "I didn't like my girlfriends to have husbands"
Dead ReckoningFilm NoirNightmare Alley
The Ghost and Mrs. MuirFilms of the 1940sMiracle on 34th Street

alternative title(s): The Lady From Shanghai
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