The Lady From Shanghai, film review: Welles brings a mix of charm, naiveté and fatalism

(PG) Orson Welles, 87 mins Starring: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloan
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The Independent Culture

Orson Welles's foray into film noir boasts one of the actor-director's most likeable and unusual performances.

We're accustomed to Welles as charismatic Harry Lime-like crooks or tragic heroes or Falstaffian grotesques. His character here, the mischievous adventurer Michael O'Hara, is as close as he comes to a conventional leading man.

Welles's Irish accent may leave a lot to be desired, but he brings a mix of charm, naiveté and fatalism to the role. Michael is utterly bewitched by the blonde femme fatale (played by Welles' wife Rita Hayworth, shortly before their marriage ended).

Welles enjoys being the Josef K-like dupe for a change. The film is as tangled and ingenious as any of Welles's conjuring tricks. The shoot-out in the hall of mirrors is the most famous sequence, but there are other moments just as memorable – among them a razor sharp courtroom scene, a sequence in a Chinese theatre and a comic-erotic stolen kiss in an aquarium.

Hayworth's gorgeous siren is even more lethal than the one she played in Gilda a year or two before.