The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn thought he’d made a killing when he signed a desperate Orson Welles (he needed $55,000 fast to open his play in Boston) to write, direct and star in this film noir. When Welles cast the studio’s top star, Rita Hayworth, who also was his wife (though estranged) at the time, the publicity prospects made the project look even better. But Cohn didn’t realize what it meant to work with a man possessed with a highly original vision. First the director made the famous redhead cut her hair and dye it blonde. Then he handed in a cut that ran 155 minutes and made little sense to an old-fashioned movie mogul like Cohn. The studio cut almost an hour, added a (dubbed) song for Hayworth and disregarded the director’s notes on scoring. Welles’ vision was so strong that this story of a seaman (Welles) caught between dazzling temptress Hayworth and her venal husband (Everett Sloane) remains a byzantine delight, a triumph of style over diversity and an inspiration to other directors for years to come.

Dir. Orson Welles