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The Lady from Shanghai was originally director William Castle’s project.
After the success of his play, Not for Children, Columbia Pictures invited him to Hollywood where he soon found himself learning the in’s and out’s of showbiz.
Castle directed several “B” pictures before realizing that his ticket to bigger things lied in developing his own projects.
His first attempt was If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King – later called The Lady from Shanghai.
“Although I knew I would have to make it on a low budget, it was a challenge I felt sure would finally propel me into more expensive A pictures.”
Castle wrote a ten page treatment and submitted it to a story editor at Columbia. It was promptly rejected since Harry Cohn, the studio head, wouldn’t like a story about a female murderer.
Undeterred, Castle then passed it onto Orson Welles, who was working at the studio. The two had actually met years earlier before Castle came to Hollywood.
At the time, Welles was in a tight spot. He was in debt and had angered Cohn by marrying Rita Hayworth.
Orson liked the story, and without telling Castle, ran it by Cohn.
“It takes a genius like Orson Welles to find material like this,” Harry Cohn told Castle, not realizing that he had found it first.
The move was particularly hard on Castle who saw the film as his chance to make a name for himself, but all hope wasn’t lost.
“Trying to rationalize that working with Orson in any capacity would be a great learning experience, I tried to push aside my disappointment in not being able to direct,” he later said.
Castle received credit as an associate producer.