“Everybody is somebody’s fool.”
An Irish drifter (Orson Welles) immediately becomes smitten with a beautiful woman (Rita Hayworth) he helps rescue from a rape attempt. Soon he’s invited to serve as a ship’s mate on a yacht trip hosted by Hayworth’s wealthy, crippled husband (Everett Sloane), where Sloane’s business partner (Glenn Anders) attempts to convince Welles to take the rap for a murder he won’t actually commit.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “longtime cult favorite” — infamous as the movie “held back for two years by Columbia chief Harry Cohn, who was horrified that Welles would chop off the flowing red hair of Rita Hayworth” in addition to going “way over budget on a film that [he] couldn’t understand” — may be “Orson Welles’s most enjoyable film”. He notes that “the film has always given critics trouble because it’s hard to categorize”, given that the “story itself” (based on Sherwood King’s novel If I Die Before I Wake) “is classic film noir material”, but it could also be seen as “more of a twist on Gilda,” and “anticipates Beat the Devil” because of its “tongue-in-cheek humor, the improvisation, the bizarre characters, the blonde (played by an actress known for a different hair color) who is a habitual liar, [and] the sense that the director is having a grand time behind his camera”. Indeed, as Peary points out, “Welles has fun simply by setting his significant scenes in such unusual places as an aquarium (for a love scene), a Chinese theater, and an amusement-park Crazy House”, which serves as the location for Welles’ justifiably “celebrated shootout in the Hall of Mirrors”.
I’m in complete agreement with Peary’s assessment of this convoluted yet consistently enjoyable and creatively filmed noir, which — like most of the titles in Welles’ oeuvre — never fails to keep one engaged on (at the very least) a visual level. Welles-the-actor has been criticized for his attempt at an Irish brogue here in the lead role, but I find it convincing enough, and a nice change from his typically sonorous boom. It’s remarkably easy to buy his characterization as a chump who’s fully aware he’s being taken advantage of by Hayworth and her crew, yet can’t seem to find a way out of the nightmare he’s pulled into. The screenplay (co-written by Welles) is full of zingy one-liners (“I’ve always found it very sanitary to be broke”), and will certainly keep you on your toes throughout — though I actually don’t find it quite so difficult to follow as others claim. Meanwhile, Hayworth is as gorgeous as ever, easily convincing us that she’s someone Welles would lose his head over.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Orson Welles as Michael O’Hara
- Everett Sloane as Arthur Bannister
- Glenn Anders as George Grisby
- Innovative direction by Welles
- Atmospherically noir-ish cinematography
- Fine location footage in the Bay Area of California
- The justifiably famous “hall of mirrors” finale
Yes, as one of Welles’ best films.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)