Detective Lieutenant Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigates the killing of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), found dead on her apartment floor before the movie starts. McPherson builds a mental picture of the dead girl from the suspects he interviews. He is helped by the striking painting of the late lamented Laura hanging on her apartment wall. But who would have wanted to kill a girl with whom every man she met seemed to fall in love? To make matters worse, McPherson finds himself falling under her spell too. Then one night, halfway through his investigations, something seriously bizarre happens to make him re-think the whole case.Written by
Steve Hosgood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Twentieth Century Fox" studio head Darryl F. Zanuck was opposed to casting Clifton Webb because of Webb's well-known (in Hollywood) homosexuality, but Producer and Director Otto Preminger prevailed, and the fifty-four-year-old Webb, making his first screen appearance since 1925, was nominated for an Oscar. See more »
When Lydecker is talking to Laura about Carpenter, he reaches for the file twice. See more »
[narrating off screen]
I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. A silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass. It was the hottest Sunday in my recollection. I felt as if I were the only human being left in New York. For with Laura's horrible death, I was alone. I, Waldo Lydecker, was the only one who really knew her, and I had just begun to write Laura's story when another of those detectives came to see me. I had him wait. I could watch him through the ...
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A scene cut from the theatrical version after its initial release was restored to the film in 1990. In it, Waldo Lydecker described how he transformed Laura's appearance and introduced her to high society. The studio worried that this obsession with decadent luxury would be offensive to WWII soldiers serving overseas, so the scene was deleted. See more »
I'm not sure if "Laura" truly qualifies as a film noir, although it certainly looks the part. If anything, it is a bridge between the standard romantic dramas of the '30s and '40s and the far darker truly noir films, such as "Double Indemnity," in which the main characters are either weak, desperate, or truly evil.
Tierney, here, is luminous as always, but hardly unsympathetic. And Andrews is your basic Dick Tracy -- colorless, but solid and honest. It's no surprise then that Webb walks off with the film, but his character is significant in other ways. Outwardly fey, Waldo is a variation on the stock "gay" Hollywood character seen at a time when homosexuality was hinted at but never really acknowledged. He insists he loves Laura, but there appears to be no actual love affair. He chooses her clothes and hairstyles, shows her off on his arm, but never seems to have any real physical contact with her. (The visual clue is his apartment, filled with pretty things that no one is allowed to touch, although Waldo will gladly tell you how expensive they are.) His scenes with Andrews become far more complex in this context, particularly when he discusses the case with the detective from his bath. Their verbal sparring continues throughout the film, and Webb makes frequent remarks about why women find Andrews' type so alluring, while they reject more "refined" males of taste and breeding. But Webb's Waldo, despite the refinement, is a catty and cruel little monster, a man who writes of love, but has none in his life. Unlike David Wayne's comic sissy in "Adam's Rib," who repeatedly proclaims his love and adoration for Katharine Hepburn's Amanda, Webb's Waldo has an edge so vile that we fear him, and, because of that, can accept him as a suspect.
The film is also notable for Vincent Price's performance as a needy boy-toy who is manlier than Webb, but still sexually vague, indecisive and weak. Viewers unaccustomed to seeing Price in such roles may think he was miscast. Perhaps he was, but he seems to be doing precisely what he was supposed to do, giving Laura another worldly but inappropriate suitor.
The plot, predictable or not, is great fun; a bit of a whodunit with a psychological edge. The score is legendary, and like the painting Andrews falls in love with, the music gives the film its haunting quality, particularly at those moments when we segue into another flashback.
There's a bit of inscrutability in most of Tierney's performances, which makes her perfect for this role. We rarely know what she's thinking, or precisely how she feels about the other characters. And because of this, her flashbacks provide few clues as to why anyone would want to murder her.
There are a few other suspects, of course, including the great Judith Anderson, and there's even a smart little cocktail party where you can look them over one more time. As for who really did kill Laura -- well, good luck with that one.
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