Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Lady From Shanghai (1947)

WHO: Orson Welles wrote, directed and starred in this (that's him racing along a Portsmouth Square path as Rita Hayworth looks on in the above screen capture).

WHAT: Whether or not you consider this one of the great films of the classic film noir era (and I certainly do; I consider it an unjustly overlooked but key element to the towering Welles filmography) you have to admit that it's second half includes some of the best glimpses of of late-1940's San Francisco ever captured by a major Hollywood studio camera. I could name all of the great locations in which Welles and cinematographer Charles Lawton, Jr. (later a specialist in shooting Westerns in the Alabama Hills and other desert locales) set up terrific shots, but it's more convenient just to link the pages devoted to The Lady From Shanghai on Brian Hollins's great Reel SF site of classic San Francisco-location films; he completed an online tour of the film in 2012, and is currently working his way through The Man Who Cheated Himself, Born To Kill and Los Angeles film The Exiles.

WHERE/WHEN: Final screenings today at 5:50 and 9:25 at the Stanford Theatre

WHY: The Stanford's current series pairing Humphrey Bogart vehicles with film noir classics (often but not always making for a double-dose of noir, naturally) has just a few more programs to go; and Orson Welles is featured both tonight and next weekend, when he appears on-screen and behind-the-camera in Touch of Evil (on a "power-mad official" double-bill with the Caine Mutiny). The good news is that the Stanford has already announced its final film series of 2013. The bad news is that the venue will continue to be closed three nights a week, only showing films Thursday through Sunday nights for the rest of the year, with the exception of the annual December 24 showing of It's A Wonderful Life (this year falling on a Tuesday.) 

But the weekends will be pretty wonderful; each one from November 14th through December 29th will  feature one of the seven films made with the Marx Brothers during their years at Paramount (1929-1933) or under producer Irving Thalberg at MGM (1935-1937), in chronological order, as well as one of the seven great comedies directed by Preston Sturges at Paramount between 1940 and 1944, in nearly-chronological order.

Segueing from Welles to Sturges seems appropriate because it was only after the sealing of the unprecedented (in the talkie era) agreement to allow Welles to write and direct his own films at RKO, that a writer even of Sturges's stature was able to make the leap to directing his own scripts. That he saw three of them (The Great McGinty, Christmas in July and The Lady Eve produced and released before Citizen Kane hit the screen must have been both gratifying and infuriating to Sturges.

HOW: 35mm on a double-bill with Key Largo.

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