The Lady from Shanghai

1947 film by Orson Welles

The Lady from Shanghai is a 1947 American film about a man who follows a beautiful woman and joins a bizarre yachting cruise but ends up mired in a complex murder plot.

Written and directed by Orson Welles, based on the novel by Sherwood King.
"I told you... you know nothing about wickedness" Taglines

Michael O'Hara

  • I've always found it very... sanitary to be broke.
  • New York is not as big a city as it pretends to be.
  • When I start out to make a fool of myself, there's very little can stop me. If I'd known where it would end, I'd never let anything start, if I'd been in my right mind, that is. But once I'd seen her, once I'd seen her, I was not in my right mind for quite some, with plenty of time and nothing to do but get myself in trouble. Some people can smell danger, not me.
  • That's how I found her, and from that moment on, I did not use my head very much, except to be thinking of her.
  • Personally, I don't like a girlfriend to have a husband. If she'll fool her husband, I figure she'll fool me.
  • Talk of money and murder. I must be insane, or else all these people are lunatics.
  • I never make up my mind about anything at all until it's over and done with.
  • Once, off the hump of Brazil I saw the ocean so darkened with blood it was black and the sun fainting away over the lip of the sky.We'd put in at Fortaleza, and a few of us had lines out for a bit of idle fishing. It was me had the first strike. A shark it was. Then there was another, and another shark again, 'till all about, the sea was made of sharks and more sharks still, and no water at all. My shark had torn himself from the hook, and the scent, or maybe the stain it was, and him bleeding his life away drove the rest of them mad. Then the beasts took to eating each other. In their frenzy, they ate at themselves.You could feel the lust of murder like a wind stinging your eyes, and you could smell the death, reeking up out of the sea. I never saw anything worse... until this little picnic tonight. And you know, there wasn't one of them sharks in the whole crazy pack that survived.
  • [describing Acapulco] There's a fair face to the land, surely, but you can't hide the hunger and guilt. It's a bright, guilty world.
  • [voiceover] It was early October when we made San Francisco, and dropped anchor across the bay from the city in Sausalito. It had been a most interesting cruise, all very rich and rare and strange. But I had had no stomach for it. To begin with, living on a hook takes away your appetite. You have no taste for any pleasure at all but the one that's burnin' in you. But even without an appetite, I had heard it's quite amazing how much a fool like me can swallow.
  • [Michael's pre-signed confession note] I, Michael O'Hara, in order to live in peace with my God, do freely make the following confession...We arrived at the boat landing at approximately 10:20. Mr. Grisby said he heard a sound, something suspicious. He said he was frightened of a hold-up and asked me to get the gun out of the side pocket of the car just in case. I reached in and got the gun, but I had hardly taken hold of it when the gun went off by accident in my hand, and I saw that Mr. Grisby was all covered with blood. It took me a minute to realize that Mr. Grisby was dead, to realize that I, Michael O'Hara, had killed him.
  • [voiceover] I began to ask myself if I wasn't out of my head entirely. The wrong man was arrested. The wrong man was shot. Grisby was dead and so was Broome. And what about Bannister? He was going to defend me in a trial for my life. And me, charged with a couple of murders I did not commit. Either me or the rest of the whole world is absolutely insane.
  • I was right. She was the killer. She killed Grisby. Now she was going to kill me. Her servant Li and his friends smuggled me out into the darkness and hid me where I'd be safe from the cops, not safe from her. One of the Chinese worked in an amusement park. It was closed for the season. An empty amusement park makes a good hide-out and she wanted me hidden. Well, I came to in the Crazy House and for a while there, I thought it was me that was crazy. After what I'd been through, anything crazy at all seemed natural. But now I was sane on one subject - her. I knew about her. She planned to kill Bannister, she and Grisby. Grisby was to do it for a share of Bannister's money. That's what Grisby thought, but of course, she meant to kill Grisby too after he'd served his purpose. Poor howling idiot, he never even did that. He went and shot Broome, and that was not part of the plan. Broome might have got to the police before he died. And if the cops traced it to Grisby, and the cops made Grisby talk, he'd spill everything and she'd be finished. So she had to shut up Grisby but quick. And I was the fall guy.
  • I went to call the cops, but I knew she'd be dead before they got there and I'd be free. Bannister's note to the DA would fix it. I'd be innocent officially, but that's a big word - innocence. Stupid's more like it. Well, everybody is somebody's fool. The only way to stay out of trouble is to grow old, so I guess I'll concentrate on that. Maybe I'll live so long that I'll forget her. Maybe I'll die trying.

Arthur Bannister

  • That's the first time anyone ever thought enough of you to call you a shark. If you were a good lawyer, you'd be flattered.
  • Mike's got a lot of blarney but he knows how to hurt a man when he gets mad.
  • [to Michael] This is one case I've enjoyed losing. I'm coming to see you in the Death House, Michael, every day. Our little visits will be great fun. I'm going to ask for a stay of execution, and I really hope it will be granted. I want you to live as long as possible before you die...I've got an edge. I know you're going to the gas chamber.
  • I knew I'd find you two together. If I hadn't, Elsa, I might have gone on playing it your way. You didn't know that, but you did plan for me to follow you...I presume you think that if you murder me here, your sailor friend will get the blame and you'll be free to spend my money. Well, dear, you aren't the only one who wants me to die. Our good friend, the District Attorney, is just itching to open a letter that I left with him. The letter tells all about you, lover. So you'd be foolish to fire that gun. With these mirrors, it's difficult to tell. You are aiming at me, aren't you? I'm aiming at you, lover. Of course, killing you is killing myself. It's the same thing. But you know, I'm pretty tired of both of us.
  • [to Elsa, as he is dying] You know, for a smart girl, you make a lot of mistakes. You should have let me live. You're gonna need a good lawyer.

George Grisby

  • Mr. Bannister tells me you once killed a man. You are Michael, aren't you?...I'm very interested in murders. Forgive me if I seem inquisitive, but where'd it happen?...How'd you do it? No, let me guess. You did it with your hands, didn't you? Does it ever bother you when you think about it? What did he do to you?...You just killed him for the fun of it, eh?...Then it wasn't murder, I suppose. Tell me, would you do it again? Would you mind killing another man?...Would you kill me if I gave you the chance? I may give you the chance.
  • This is going to be murder and it's going to be legal. I want to live, but I want to vanish. I want to go away and change my name and never be heard of again. But that costs money and it isn't as easy nowadays. If they're looking for you, they'll find you, unless they think you're dead. They'll find you even on the smallest island in the South Seas. That's where I'm gonna be, fella, on that smallest island...I want to live on that island in peace. That won't be possible unless the world is satisfied that I don't exist. You know, the law's a funny thing, fella. The state of California will say I'm dead, officially dead, if somebody will say they murdered me. [He chuckles.] That's what I'm paying you for...You swear you killed me, but you can't be arrested. That's the law. Look it up for yourself. There's no such thing as homicide unless they find a corpse. It just isn't murder if they don't find a body. According to the law, I'm dead IF you say you murdered me. But you're not a murderer unless I'm dead. Silly, isn't it?
  • Just tell 'em you're taking a little tarrrr-get practice.


  • Mrs. Elsa Bannister: You need more than luck in Shanghai.

  • Jake: What's a tough guy?...A guy with an edge...A gun or a knife, a nightstick, or a razor, somethin' the other guy ain't got. Yeah, a little extra reach on a punch, a set of brass knuckles, a stripe on the sleeve, a badge that says cop on it, a rock in your hand, or a bankroll in your pocket. That's an edge, brother. Without an edge, there ain't no tough guy.
  • Bessie: You heard him, Mr. Poet. I need the money.
  • Sidney Broome: There's gonna be a murder. Ain't gonna be no fake murder, not this time. Somebody's gonna be killed...Yeah, your husband. Maybe he's the one who's gonna be knocked off...Could be? You'd better get down to his office if you want to do anything about it.
  • Sidney Broome: [to Michael] Get down to the office, Montgomery Street. You was framed. Grisby didn't want to disappear. He just wanted an alibi - and you're it. You're the fall guy. Grisby's gone down there to kill Bannister, now.


Mrs. Elsa Bannister : I don't know how to shoot.
  • You've been traveling around the world too much to find out anything about it.
Michael O'Hara: It's easy, you just pull the trigger.

Elsa: Will you help me? Give me a cigarette? I'm learning to smoke now. Ever since that night in the park, I've been getting the habit.
Michael: Do all rich women play games like this?
Elsa: [she draws near to kiss him] Call me Rosalie.
[He slaps her]
Elsa: [She sticks the cigarette between her trembling lips and lights it. She draws a puff.] I didn't think you would do that.
Michael: I didn't either.
Elsa: You're scared, aren't you? You're scared. I'm scared too.
Michael: You think you're needing me to help you. You're not that kind. If you need anything, you help yourself.
Elsa: I'm not what you think I am. I just try to be like that.
Michael: Keep on trying. You might make it.
Elsa: Oh, Michael, what are we scared of?
[They kiss]

Arthur: Are you independently wealthy?
Michael: I'm independent.
Arthur: Of money. Before you start that novel Elsa says you're going to write, you'd better learn something. You've been traveling around the world too much to find out anything about it....
Michael: I've always found it very sanitary to be broke.
Arthur: ...Money cannot bring you health and happiness, etc. Is that it? Without money, I'd be flat on my back in the ward of a county hospital...Each man has his own idea of happiness, of course, but money is what all of us have in common...You call yourself independent. Come around and see me five years from now.

Michael: Love. Do you believe in love at all, Mrs. Bannister?
Elsa: I was taught to think about love in Chinese.
Michael: The way a Frenchman thinks about laughter in French?
Elsa: The Chinese say, it is difficult for love to last long. Therefore, one who loves passionately is cured of love, in the end.
Michael: Sure, that's a hard way of thinking.
Elsa: There's more to the proverb: Human nature is eternal. Therefore, one who follows his nature keeps his original nature, in the end.

Elsa: He isn't really a steward...He's a detective, Michael. My husband hires him to watch me. He wants to fix it so I'll never be able to divorce him...I haven't a cent, Michael. He wants to cut me off without a cent.
Michael: Does that matter so much, I shouldn't think it would?
Elsa: Oh, I told you, sweet, you don't know anything about the world.
Michael: Well lately, I've been rounding out my education.

Grisby: That's what I need you for, Michael. To see to it that I'm not around. How'd you like $5,000?...I'll fill in the details later...It's yours. All you have to do is kill somebody.
Michael: Who, Mr. Grisby? I'm particular who I murder...You know, I wouldn't like to kill just anybody. Is it someone I know?
Grisby: Oh, yeah, but you'll never guess...It's me...I want you to kill me!

Michael: Sure, I'm gonna take you where there aren't any spies.
Elsa: Michael, where?
Michael: A long way off. Somewhere in the far places.
Elsa: Far places? We're in one of them now. Anyway, it doesn't work. I tried it. Everything's bad, Michael, everything. You can't escape it or fight it. You've got to get along with it. Deal with it, make terms. You're such a foolish knight errant, Michael. You're big and strong, but you just don't know how to take care of yourself. So how could you take care of me?

Arthur: Your Honor, the District Attorney isn't cross-examining, he's making speeches.
District Attorney: That simply isn't so.
Arthur: I move for a declaration of mistrial be sought on the grounds that the jury is being prejudiced.
District Attorney: These are some of the great Bannister's 'trial tactics.' In an appeal for sympathy...
Arthur: The District Attorney is beginning to get vicious.
Judge: When you two gentlemen get over your argument, tell me who won. Then I'll decide on the objection. [Laughter] Objection sustained.

Elsa: Why don't you try and understand? George was supposed to take care of Arthur, but he lost his silly head and shot Broome. After that, I knew I couldn't trust him. He was mad. He had to be shot.
Michael: And what about me?
Elsa: We could have gone off together.
Michael: Into the sunrise? You and me, or you and Grisby?
Elsa: I love you.
Michael: One who follows his nature keeps his original nature in the end. But haven't you heard ever of something better to follow?
Elsa: No.

Elsa: [gasping, as she is dying] He and George, and now me!
Michael: Like the sharks, mad with their own blood. Chewing away at their own selves.
Elsa: It's true. I made a lot of mistakes.
Michael: You said the world's bad. We can't run away from the badness. And you're right there. But you said we can't fight it. We must deal with the badness, make terms. And then the badness'll deal with you, and make its own terms, in the end, surely.
Elsa: You can fight, but what good is it? Goodbye.
Michael: You mean we can't win?
Elsa: No, we can't win. Give my love to the sunrise.
Michael: We can't lose, either. Only if we quit.
Elsa: And you're not going to.
Michael: Not again!
Elsa: Oh Michael, I'm afraid. [He strolls away] Michael, come back here. Michael! Please! I don't want to die! I DON'T WANT TO DIE!


  • "I told you... you know nothing about wickedness"
  • "Do all rich women play games like this?"
  • The Story Of A Reckless Woman!


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