Monday, May 18, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Lady from Shanghai (1947) - Good Motive = Good Misdirection

[Quick Summary: A man is sucked into a noir mystery with a woman, her jealous husband, and his business partner.]

3 Reasons That This Script is Worth Reading:*

1) I didn't see the end coming.
2) Rita Hayworth thought so much of the script that she wanted to be in the film, even though she and Welles were estranged at the time. (He directed and starred.)
3) It excels at characters with good motives.

I realize more and more that a good motive does not need to be complicated.

However, it does have to be solid enough to give the writer options.

In this mystery-thriller, I learned that one option is to misdirect the audience.

Misdirection is extremely helpful in keeping the suspense buoyant.

ex. In this story, Michael saves Elsa at the park.  He falls for her, but learns that she's married.

The next day, her jealous husband (Bannister) hires Michael as a chauffeur for Elsa. Bannister has also hired Broome as a butler to spy on Elsa and Michael.

Grisby, Bannister's law partner, offers Michael $5000 to shoot someone.

Note that everyone has a juicy motive:

Michael - In love with Elsa
Elsa - Wants out of marriage
Bannister - Jealous of Michael
Broome - Willing to double cross for $$
Grisby - Willing to pay Michael to commit a crime for unknown reasons

Welles then uses these motives to misdirect from the main mystery, i.e.,What do these people involve Michael? Why?

- Michael tries to quit his job...but he stays for Elsa.
- Bannister sends Michael off to drive Elsa...why would he do this?
- Grisby bribes Michael to help him...why is it so important?

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Because I was so caught up in the misdirects, the final reveal was truly surprising.

The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
by Orson Welles

*I think the script is the closest thing to Welles' true vision, since the studio took out about 60 minutes from the film

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