Friday, 17 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Orson Welles in The Lady From Shanghai

Orson Welles did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Michael O'Hara in The Lady From Shanghai.

The Lady From Shanghai is an effective and visually stunning film noir, though like Citizen Kane Welles could've told some of his actors to tone it down a bit, about an Irishman who falls into a strange web of corrupt people by taking a job from a rich lawyer due to his fascination with the man's wife.

After watching Welles's version of Macbeth and now this film I've come to conclusion that Welles and foreign accents aren't exactly chocolate and peanut butter. As with his Shakespearean adaptation he takes upon a thick brogue this time an Irish one. As was his Scottish accent in Macbeth, the accent itself is a bit much, but what is worse is the way it attempts to hide Welles's naturally impressive voice. It creates this odd squishy sound of sorts as he tries to plug his normal voice with his attempt at an Irish accent. You know I always write that I don't mind accent too much unless they are so bad that they are distracting. Well, here an example of that. It's is made worse that Welles also narrates the film with his Irish brogue and it doesn't sound good. The reason being Welles always sounds as though he is putting on this curiously broad accent and unfortunately it is a sour point that it is the first thing we experience from his performance.

This is not a terrible performance though despite his  accent. O'Hara, despite narrating the film, is often a reactionary character within it. We follow him as he enters into this dark world of corrupt men by taking the job on the rich lawyer Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane)'s boat, due to having previously saved his wife Elsa (Rita Hayworth) from attackers. O'Hara most often observes the rich man, his wife, and the other strange people hanging around. Welles now non-verbally is very good in the role. Welles does well as he internalizes basically this strangeness in his performance through O'Hara as he watches these people. Welles speaks far more effectively when ,well, he does not speak. In this way Welles works well with himself as director in that he is careful to capture O'Hara's state within the pivotal moments which resonate far more than when he goes around speaking in his unnatural voice. Welles expresses the right unease as he interacts with or merely watches the very sleazy Bannister, but does equally well to convey the fascination O'Hara has with his enigmatic wife.

Welles does grant an understanding to O'Hara in mainly only his face and body language to the point that his narration perhaps was not even needed. Welles manages to create this sense of dismay towards basically the amorality presented by the situation, while giving  motivation to O'Hara staying where he is through the entrancement he reflects, rather understandably, to Hayworth's Elsa. Of course the creeps do not end at Bannister as he also meets the man's strange private detective George Grisby who comes to the man with a truly bizarre proposal to fake murder him. Again Welles's work, when he's not speaking, amplifies the atmosphere by offering O'Hara as possibly the only genuine person and portraying such honest confusion as he attempts to grasp the situation he is in. We are also given just a bit background where O'hara has killed before, in a war though, but Welles reflects the discomfort to being spoken of as a murderer when he felt the killing had been his duty. Everything eventually spins out of control when O'Hara finds himself caught in a plot he barely understands, and the final scenes are perhaps Welles's best work in the film. I suppose it helps that he doesn't say much, but he manages to make the ending resonate emotionally by powerfully revealing the sense of betrayal all within still a confused entrancement. Welles excels most in portraying the central "romance" since he realizes the complexity of the attraction to this woman who  This is a good performance, especially well used by Welles himself as the director, but with a less distracting accent I think it could have been a great one.


Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings for the rest of the cast.

94dfk1 said...

Luke: Thoughts on Watson in Beauty and the Beast? I've actually only seen her cameo in This is The End and have heard that she's not a very good actress, but I do want to find out myself.

Luke Higham said...

94dfk1: She's kinda in the Keira Knightley mould, but yeah she's not a particularly good actress. She's autotuned to oblivion in the film and her opening vocals in Something There are weak as fuck. Her chemistry with Stevens was fine and she looks the part but Hathaway would've been a much better fit.

You haven't seen Harry Potter?

Louis Morgan said...


Hayworth - 4(The best performance in the film as she gives the most cinematic turn and does not fall into the theatrical trappings some of the other performers do. I find she goes further here than in her more famous role in Gilda. Hayworth here is alluring as always but she goes further to present this certain enigmatic quality in her work. In that there is an apparent vulnerability but also this sinister quality as well. She's the right type of mystery in that when the truth is revealed it feels natural.)

Sloane - 4(Sloane's an unwieldy element in any film since he will go ham any moment. He isn't overly subtle here but his approach works for just how horrible his character is. Sloane's approach is fitting to a man who basically mocks everyone else at all times, and he really gets under your skin as he should. He's especially good in the courtroom scenes by granting such ego and venom towards everything that he does. Also on a side note I'm quite sure he was the basis for Mr. Burns of The Simpsons here.)

Corsia - 3(A bit much but still effectively sleazy in the role.)

Anders - 2(There's too much than there's whatever Anders was doing. He plays the role like he's gone completely insane the whole time, it's more than a bit much after awhile.)

Sanford - 2(Calm down there judge, yikes. Straight forward role but he really goes over the top in I guess an attempt to steal his scenes.)