Norm Patridge and Tom Piccirilii
My two buddies Norm Partridge and Tom Piccirilli and I have been trading letters. One of the subjects Orson Welles' the Lady From Shanghai. In the course of my letter I said "I saw Lady From Last week. I know Welles ditched because she was "boring" but how boring could Rita Hayworth be?"
From Norm Patridge:
There was a great story about her in a Mitchum bio Pic recommended to me. They were on location somewhere in the Pacific, bored to tears, and the mail came in. Mitchum came across Hayworth on deck with a big canvas sack full of mail. She was ripping the envelopes in half without opening them, then tossing them into the water.
"What are you doing?" Mitchum said. "There might be checks in there!"
"Sure," said Rita. "But they'll be more bad news than good."
Welles and Hayworth had a house down in Big Sur when nothing was there but pine cones and Wm. Randolph Hearst's own personal Xanadu. The old Welles/Hayworth place is now a restaurant. Hamburgers there cost more than ten bucks (welcome to California), but the place overlooks the ocean from a cliff and makes you think of guys taking a pass on the forties to drink beer and look at the water. I was talking to one of the publishers from Night Shade Books about it, and he'd been there too. This was several years ago. He spotted an actor having lunch, and when the waitress showed up to take the order, he told her: "I'll have whatever Lee Marvin is having." To which the waitress replied: "That's not Lee Marvin. He's dead. That's James Coburn."
Hearing the story, I said: "Man, you're kidding me! You couldn't tell the difference between Lee Marvin and James Coburn?"
"Well, they both have that white hair, and they're both kind of cool, and--"
"Yeah," I said, "but if you got in a fight with Coburn, you'd probably end up lighting incense, discussing the Buddha, and concentrating on your third eye. Lee Marvin, man.. he'd just bite your ear off and be done with it."
Anyway, I'm a big fan of LADY FROM SHANGHAI, too. If Welles would have done more stuff like that and TOUCH OF EVIL, he would have been a lot better off. He had the knack for it.
From Tom Piccirilli
I just listened to the commentary on LADY. Apparently, Welles' original cut was two and a half hours long, while the finished product, edited by the studio, isn't even nintey minutes. Never before have I been so aware of the edits made in a film. The whole opening seems to nearly be a montage with Welles' voice-over trying to clarify what the hell the scene is supposed to be about. It's full of what will eventually be known as that flash-cut MTV style editing. It really bothered me. Later on there seem to be entire scenes missing. One in particular has Rita and her hubby lying side by side and she stands up and starts zipping down the streets looking for Welles. When she stands her hubby yells, "Lover!" and then she's off. It feels like there's a whole argument and tons of dialogue that has been cut just to get Rita moving along. So much of the backstory is apparently missing. Hell, who the hell knew or even suspected that the butler was actually a former PI until they actually tell us that he is. Until then, he's just some wormy dude who's hardly even around and doesn't say a damn thing. Then there's Welles' buddy who also works for Rita who just kind of comes in and out every so often to lay down a line and then off he goes again.
What's there is really intriguing and there's a strong sense of noir, but man, the editing actually got on my nerves and made me grimace at times even before I listened to Bogdonovich talking about how they chopped half the movie out.
What surprised me is that TOUCH OF EVIL also got really bad press when it was released. I love that movie to pieces (even with Fritz Weaver's character being so annoyingly nervous and wacky). Also really dig THE STRANGER even though Welles thought it was his least important film (it was apparently his only truly successful one too). CITIZEN CANE helped to establish a lot of the noir mood that crime pics eventually became known for. If the man had stuck to crime early on out of the gate and actually embraced the genre, I wonder if he would've been truly embraced by the public.