The Lady From Shanghai Literary Elements

The Lady From Shanghai Literary Elements


Orson Welles

Leading Actors/Actresses

Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth

Supporting Actors/Actresses

Everett Sloane, Glenn Anders, Ted de Corsia


Crime, film noir




No awards

Date of Release

December 24, 1947 (France) June 9, 1948 (US)


Orson Welles

Setting and Context

The action takes place in present day New York and on the Panama Canal.

Narrator and Point of View

Michael O’Hara is both the leading male actor and the narrator of the movie. He provides personal comments throughout the film and presents the events from a first person perspective.

Tone and Mood

Calm, regretful, tragic

Protagonist and Antagonist

Michael O’Hara is the protagonist and the antagonists are Grisby and Elsa.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between Michael and Grisby who plans to kill Bannister and blame Michael.


The story reaches its climax when Michael realizes that Elsa was behind Grisby’s murder and that she is the one who wants her husband dead.


When Michael tells Elsa that he once killed a man, the conversation foreshadows a similar conversation between Michael and Grisby and it also foreshadows Grisby’s offer.


When Michael tells Elsa that he wants to quit and stop working for her, Bessie convinces not to do it by telling Michael that Elsa is just a young girl who needs protection. This proves to be an understatement when it is revealed that Elsa is a criminal.

Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques

The way the characters were filmed can be considered as being something unusual because of what it transmitted about the characters. When Grisby is filmed, there are a lot of close-ups that seem to accentuate his ugliness and his characters, leading the viewer into creating a certain mental image about him. When Elsa is filmed, she appears as almost a mythical creature, a mermaid and seductress that somehow still transmits the idea of innocence.


During the scene when Elsa is filmed on a rock, it could be considered that an allusion is made to mermaids. Just like the mythical creatures, Elsa lures Michael into her trap and plans to use him for her own benefit.


Michael’s relationship with Elsa is a paradox in the sense that Michael believes that he is the most dangerous person in Elsa’s life when in reality, is the complete opposite.


A parallel can be drawn between the case Michael mentions at the beginning of the film, a murder case where Arthur Bannister saved the man involved from being accused and Michael’s case. In both instances, Arthur Bannister acted as the defense lawyer and in both cases, the men who were accused escaped from being convicted for murder.

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