Laura (1944) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
250 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
You'll fall in love with this film...
Elizabeth-4030 March 2000
One of the best suspense films of the 1940s, "Laura" is loaded with elegant sophistication, witty dialogue, unscrupulous characters, and romantic obsession, all wrapped in hauntingly beautiful music.

Lovely Gene Tierney is Laura; the young advertising executive allegedly murdered at the front door of her apartment. Dana Andrews is well cast as Mark MacPherson, the handsome, no nonsense detective assigned to unravel the case.

Clifton Webb is superb as Waldo Lydecker, Laura's mentor and an egocentric, effeminate newspaper columnist who has made a career of eliminating Laura's prospective suitors. Lydecker detests Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a southern playboy to whom Laura is engaged. Anne Treadwell (Judith Anderson) is Laura's aunt who, incidentally, is in love with Carpenter herself.

As MacPherson sorts through the motives and alibis, he finds Laura too bewitches him. In one of the most memorable movie scenes of all time, Dana Andrews gives an intense performance of a man driven to distraction by the story of Laura, her letters, private diary, perfume, and hauntingly lovely portrait above the fireplace. Clearly agitated, he takes a drink as he sits in a chair beneath Laura's portrait. He falls asleep, and the audience is left wondering if his dreams of Laura are coming true, as she appears through the doorway. He awakens and rises from the chair, his soul shaken by the sight of Laura alive.

This intriguing story, combined with Clifton Webb's biting quips, Gene Tierney's beauty and elegance, Dana Andrews' intensity and dark good looks, and Vincent Price's sense of humor, makes this film immensely watchable again and again.
62 out of 71 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A perfect Noir film
FilmOtaku14 July 2004
The first time I saw this film, about eight years ago I ended up almost losing a friend because I was hoarding the VHS copy he had lent me for about two months. After seeing it, I quite simply didn't want to give up the tape because in doing so, I wouldn't be able to watch it anytime I wanted to; and I did watch it anytime I wanted to, and often, until he threatened to call a Noir Intervention. I may have loved this film from the first viewing, but I wasn't prepared to deal with something like that, as entertaining as it may have been.

I fell in love with `Laura' because it is biting and evil, intelligent and surprising. The unfathomably gorgeous Gene Tierney plays the title character, an advertising executive whose best friend Waldo Lydecker (played by the always wonderful Clifton Webb) and fiancée Shelby, (a really young Vincent Price) are some of the prime suspects in her murder. The gruff detective leading the case (Dana Andrews) is Det. McPherson, and he quickly essentially falls in love with a ghost while he is trying to solve her murder.

`Laura' has one of the great Noir scripts in that just as the audience thinks they have the case solved, another curve ball is thrown at them which blows that theory out of the water. The acting is pure delightful melodrama, but Clifton Webb's performance is simply show-stopping. His character is a vicious snit of a writer who uses his column as a weapon against anyone he doesn't like or even tolerate. Even upon multiple viewings I can't help but howl at some of his lines and mannerisms.

If anyone was to request suggestions for good Film Noir movies, I would prescribe a heavy dose of `Laura' because it has something for everyone in that it is romantic, thrilling, mysterious, wickedly funny and above all, thoroughly entertaining.

89 out of 110 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Has to be considered a classic example of film noir...
Neil Doyle10 July 2001
LAURA is, quite simply, as good as it gets as far as "film noir" is concerned.

Aside from an interesting story, a witty script, excellent B&W photography of elegant sets and the beautiful Gene Tierney as the center of attention, it works on every level imaginable. Dana Andrews has an intriguing role as the detective drawn to the portrait of Laura after believing her dead. And Clifton Webb has his star-making role of Waldo Lydecker, the snobbish and elegant man who seems just as obsessed with the dead woman as the detective. Adding to the impressive performances are Judith Anderson and Vincent Price.

The only flaw seems to be that Laura herself is not as well-defined in motives and background as the other players. But Gene Tierney's mesmerizing beauty hardly makes that important. Nevertheless, she is too passive in the role and actually gave far stronger performances in films like The Razor's Edge and Leave Her to Heaven, something she herself admitted--but her looks were never used to better advantage.

With several plot twists and turns, it keeps you thoroughly absorbed until it reaches its satisfying climax under Otto Preminger's knowing direction. Not to be missed, it's a classic of its kind.

For a detailed look at the career of DANA ANDREWS, see my current article on him in FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE, Summer 2001 with a look at all of his films and many photos.
62 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Classic Film Noir with Perfect Cast
jbritton15 June 2000
Laura is a wonderful example of film noir. The cast is perfect. Dana Andrews is the detective assigned to investigate the murder of Laura (played by Gene Tierney). As he interviews her associates and becomes mesmerized by her portrait, he begins to fall for Laura posthumously. Clifton Webb plays her mentor perfectly and Vincent Price is classic as Laura's pretty boy fiance. Although the movie begins with Laura's murder, it still has incredible surprises and an awesome denouement. Andrews hard boiled detective and the dark, raining sets illustrate the meaning of film noir. I highly recommend it.
44 out of 52 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Laura And Her Curious Friends
bkoganbing10 August 2006
Laura Hunt has been murdered in a most grisly way, a shotgun blast to the face as she answered her apartment door. Dana Andrews as Detective Mark McPherson is assigned to the case and he's got a good list of suspects to work from in this up close and personal murder.

Laura Hunt hung out with some real characters. Dana Andrews has a good group to choose from. There's Vincent Price who was to marry Laura, a worthless playboy who spends his life as a permanent party guest. There's Clifton Webb as the epicene critic and noted wit who was a kind of sponsor for Laura into society. There's Judith Anderson as Laura's sophisticated aunt who has a yen for Price. There's even Dorothy Adams as Bessie, Laura's lesbian maid who is carrying a titanic torch for her ex-employer.

Andrews very patiently and methodically goes through the suspects. In his way he's as officious and annoying as Lieutenant Columbo on television. But he does get to the truth. Of course there's one very big surprise for him during the course of the investigation.

Gene Tierney is Laura and she was a beauty in her day. Man or woman, who wouldn't be crushing out on her. This film was the first one that got Dana Andrews any real notice from the critics. And of course Clifton Webb made a screen debut in this after a long career on Broadway. Webb got an Oscar nomination for his role of Waldo Lydecker as a Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Barry Fitzgerald for Going My Way.

David Raksin's musical theme for this film is one of the great ones ever done for the cinema. So popular did it prove that Johnny Mercer wrote a lyric for it after the film came out. At the time people like Frank Sinatra and Dick Haymes and a host of others rushed to record it.

I guess you could classify Laura as a kind of sophisticated noir police drama. It's dialog will leave you begging for more. It's not much in the way of mystery because about a third of the way through you will realize at the same time Andrews does who the murderer is, maybe even before Andrews does. That doesn't matter though because Laura is entertaining every step of the way.
35 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Classic Mystery With Wit & Style
Snow Leopard14 June 2001
"Laura" is a classic murder mystery and more. The main characters make for a fascinating psychological study, and the movie is also filled with wit and style, in addition to a murder mystery that holds plenty of interest in its own right.

The story opens with a detective (Dana Andrews) questioning suspects in the murder of popular, beautiful, and successful Laura Hunt. As he does, we learn not only about the suspects but about Laura herself, through flashbacks. We see Laura (Gene Tierney) develop the career and relationships that eventually led to danger, and we also learn that Laura meant something very different to each of the suspects: the snobbish, venomous writer who launched her career (Clifton Webb), the worthless playboy whom Laura was going to marry (Vincent Price, in a role quite different for him) and her rather desperate aunt (Judith Anderson). Even the detective quickly becomes obsessed with Laura's memory. The psychological overtones of all this add considerably to the mystery plot.

The mystery story itself is quite good, with interesting details and at least one major surprise along the way. The climax is tense and exciting, a fitting conclusion to both the mystery plot and the complex relationships among the characters. The acting and direction are all very good, and make the most of the story's possibilities.

"Laura" is a must-see not only for those who like mysteries, but for anyone who likes classic cinema made with style.
38 out of 46 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Chic, Sophisticated Adaptation With Witty Webb Stealing Show
Like WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION and other favorite films of mine, discovering who really dunnit doesn't spoil LAURA's enjoyment on repeat viewings; instead, paying closer attention to the real killer the next time you watch makes you realize all the clues to their true nature that you were having too much fun to catch the first time around. For example, when you re-watch Clifton Webb as waspish columnist Waldo Lydecker during his flashback-laden dinner conversation with Dana Andrews' Lt. Mark McPherson about Gene Tierney's Laura Hunt, you suddenly realize how truly obsessed and self-centered Lydecker really is. Note that everything he says about Laura really ends up being more about him than about her: "...she deferred to my tastes...the way she listened (to me) was more eloquent than speech...", etc. Though Webb steals the show with his Oscar-nominated performance and viciously witty lines (if I start quoting Webb's best lines, I'll pretty much be transcribing every word out of his mouth), the whole cast hits all the right notes in Otto Preminger's spellbinding adaptation of Vera Caspary's novel, with Vincent Price and Judith Anderson memorable as two of the wolves-in-chic-clothing in Laura's circle, and Andrews and Tierney's chemistry sending sparks flying even before they actually share the screen after the Act 2 twist. Tierney is quite convincing as a sophisticated yet soft-hearted young woman whose kindness almost does her in; as Andrews aptly points out, "For a charming, intelligent girl, you've certainly surrounded yourself with a remarkable collection of dopes." Webb and LAURA's screenwriters re-teamed later for the similar THE DARK CORNER, which might as well be called LAURA 2 -- and I mean that as a compliment! :-)
21 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
There's something about "Laura"
Coventry7 January 2004
Alright, I confess...I hadn't got any experience with Otto Preminger-movies before I saw Laura. But, if they're all as promising as this one...I'll soon become his biggest fan for sure! A fan of Vincent Price, I was already. That was my motivation to watch Laura in the first place. I wanted to see this favorite actor of mine in a good old-fashioned and intelligent tale of mystery and murder. I got what I expected PLUS a hell of a lot more!! Laura can be summarized by using one single word: BRILLIANT! Like no other film, Laura is the perfect proof that cinema can be the purest form of art. The dialogues are superb. Every line that's being said in Laura is a highlight, every facial expression made is a stunning one. Preminger's film is Film-Noir perfection. Period. First and foremost, the story of Laura impresses you bigtime. The script is extremely intelligent and it's always one step ahead of you. There were most movies desperately TRY to fool the audience ( and fail ), Laura pulls it off without any effort. The atmosphere and design just sucks you in completely and you're overwhelmed by every surprising twist. I'm not telling anything about the plot or storyline here. It would be a shame to spoil something about this masterpiece. See it for yourself and be astonished! I am willing to write one last word about the cast, though. Laura has the most entire charismatic cast I've ever seen! Gene Tierney was an obvious choice to play the title role, I may say. She's one of the most beautiful girls who ever appeared on the big screen. It's only normal that she's in the spotlights here. Heck, I even fell in love with her myself while watching her. Clifton Webb is terrific as the men-hating critic named Waldo. His constant sarcastic remarks are a joy for all senses. And - as I said before - Vincent Price is the one who's making this film complete. Laura was shot pretty early in his well-filled career but his talent is obviously there already. Even though he grew out to become a legendary horror-icon, he certainly proves here that he could handle all kind of characters.

Go and see Laura! See it now!! It's one of the greatest films ever made and the undeniable proof that classic cinema will always be the best. No matter who're they're trying to impress us with sound and visual aspects nowadays, nothing compares to the charm and intelligence of a good story!
107 out of 140 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of Otto Preminger's best
Dennis Littrell23 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
This is film noir played in part as a comedy of manners. (Incidentally, a comedy of manners gets its name from the satirical possibilities in the differing class views on proper behavior--manners--exploited by playwrights to the delight of an audience placed in a superior position--they think--of social discernment. Here we can see the differentials, but they are not played for comedic effect.)

Gene Tierney (at twenty-four) stars as Laura Hunt, a beautiful career girl who, as the picture opens, has been murdered. (Shot in face with a double barreled shotgun, a point of information not dwelled on by director Otto Preminger. Today's directors, of course, would have begun with a full facial shot of the corpse.) Dana Andrews is the leading man, playing Mark McPherson, a hard-boiled police detective with a soft heart. Vincent Price, who before he became a maven of horror, was actually a soft-spoken, hunkish ladies man, plays Shelby Carpenter, who could afford to have his reputation blemished, but not his clothes. He is a man about town who would fit nicely into a British comedy of manners at the turn of the nineteenth century.

But the surprising star is Clifton Webb who plays Waldo Lydecker, venomous columnist and radio personality, who against his first impressions, falls madly (and of course hopelessly) in love with Laura and becomes her mentor. This was before the genteel and very precise veteran of the musical stage was Mr. Belvedere, and before his triumph in Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), that is to say, before he was typecast as an irascible but lovable middle aged man--but not before his fiftieth birthday; strange how the fortunes of actors may go. By the way, George Sanders's Oscar-winning performance as the cynical critic in All About Eve (1950), owes something to Webb's work here.

The strength of the movie is in the intriguing storyline featuring surprising but agreeable plot twists, and especially in the fine acting by Webb, Andrews, Tierney and Price. Webb in particular is brilliant. I think this is another example of Otto Preminger getting a lot more out of his actors than he is usually given credit for. See Anatomy of a Murder 1959, starring James Stewart and Lee Remick, for another example. Known for turning commercial novels into commercial movies (e.g., The Man with the Golden Arm (1955); Exodus (1960); Advise and Consent (1962)) Preminger is at his best when he lets the material have its way. I call that the invisible style of directing and he follows it here. Add the beautiful score by David Raksin and this movie is a special treat.

As a mystery however it is a little predictable. We know from the beginning not only who will get the girl, but with a very high probability who pulled the trigger. What we don't know in the first case is how, since she is presumably dead, and in the second case, why. The lack of motive hides the killer's identity from us. But rest assured, all is unraveled in the final reel.

See this for Clifton Webb whose improbable Hollywood success, beginning with this movie, started when he was in his fifties and ended when he was in his sixties. If I were a thirty-year-old actor running to auditions, I would call that inspiration.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
47 out of 61 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Of Love, Murder and Obsession
jhclues6 May 2001
It's a classic tale of love, murder and obsession, when a homicide detective becomes enamored of the victim of a brutal murder he's investigating, in `Laura,' directed by Otto Preminger and starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. The story begins with the discovery of the murder of Laura Hunt (Tierney), a young advertising executive in New York City, and as detective Mark McPherson (Andrews) makes his investigation and begins to fit together the pieces of the puzzle of Laura's life and death, the essence of who she was begins to emerge. And it gives the story an interesting twist; for after seeing a portrait of Laura, and getting to know her by reading her most intimate personal letters and diary (routine for a murder investigation), McPherson becomes obsessed with her, and soon discovers he's not alone; there was another man obsessed with her as well. Subsequently, he must determine if that obsession played any part in Laura's death. The suspects include the men in her life, Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a radio personality/columnist who helped her begin her career, and Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), her fiance, a man of seemingly dubious character who had recently been involved with a model who worked for Laura's agency. The list doesn't end with them, however; also in the running is a man named Jacoby (John Dexter), the artist who painted the portrait of Laura that so mesmerized McPherson, and then there's some question as to the relationship between a certain Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson) and Carpenter that is yet to be resolved.

Preminger delivers a solid mystery that will keep you in suspense until the very end, but with only enough tension to keep it interesting rather than engrossing. And though the story is believable, there are elements of the plot that develop so quickly it stretches credibility a bit. An additional two or three scenes relating to certain aspects of the characters lives (especially Laura's) would have had a significant impact of this film-- good as it is-- and with a running time of 85 minutes (on most prints) it wouldn't have been out of the question to expand it somewhat.

As far as the characters, McPherson, Lydecker and Carpenter emerge fully sketched and need little development; you know exactly who they are and where they've been. This is not the case with Laura, however; Tierney's character suffers somewhat from lack of development, and as the story unfolds, she seems to get from here to there with little discernible change. What the character needed was a bit more depth and some real definition.

Which is exactly what Andrews and Webb give to their characters; Webb as the flamboyant and self-assured Lydecker, Andrews as the stoic and deliberating McPherson. Price gives a notable performance, as well, but has a tendency to lapse into melodrama occasionally, which can be distracting at times. And Tierney gives a passable performance, though her acting is not on a par with her exquisite beauty. In her initial encounter with Lydecker, for instance, her pronounced coyness is somewhat diverting. Still, her presence on the screen is radiant, which makes it easy to overlook the slight flaws in her acting.

The supporting cast includes Dorothy Adams (Bessie), Cy Kendall (Inspector), Grant Mitchell (Lancaster Corey), Buster Miles (Office Boy) and Frank La Rue (Hairdresser). A good mystery, but with few surprises, `Laura' nevertheless remains a classic in it's own right. It's not a perfect film (the final words spoken, in fact, are decidedly melodramatic), but it's good storytelling, and is ultimately satisfying. Saying that there was room for improvement would be nit-picking; suffice to say that it is what it is, which is a pretty good movie. I rate this one 7/10.
48 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the very best Hollywood movies of the 1940s starring the most beautiful actress of all time.
Infofreak26 February 2004
'Laura' is one of the most entertaining mystery movies I've ever seen. A mystery? Also a romance, a Film Noir and even in some ways a comedy. It's quite a unique movie from the legendary Otto Preminger, who took over from the original director and started from scratch. Gene Tierney plays the title character, a woman who seems to bewitch every man she meets. It's no wonder because Tierney is mesmerizing to watch. I think she could well be the most beautiful actress of all time. Dana Andrews, Vincent Price and Clifton Webb play the three men in Laura's life. Andrews ('Night Of The Demon') plays a detective investigating Laura's apparent murder, Price, years before becoming a horror icon, a gigolo type who is due to marry her, and Webb (best known as Mr. Belvedere) is a snobby columnist and wit who is Laura's mentor. All four actors are just terrific and the plot is full of twists and surprises. I enjoyed this movie from start to finish. 'Laura' is one of the very best Hollywood movies of the 1940s. Highly recommended
23 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The crafty Preminger's coded, high-style murder mystery hasn't lost its perdurable appeal
bmacv27 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Rashomon-like, Vera Caspary's clever suspense novel Laura falls into five sections and five separate voices, telling its story from the viewpoint of each of its principal characters. It was too cumbersome a structure for a 1940s mystery, so the script (by Jay Dratler and others) simplifies and concentrates the narrative for director Otto Preminger to play with. Judith Anderson as Laura's aunt Ann Treadwell, a vain and silly society dame, and Vincent Price as Shelby Carpenter, a 'male beauty in distress' and on-again, off-again paramour both to Treadwell and to Laura, find themselves demoted to supporting players (if still a couple of satisfyingly kippered herring). Caspary's pentacle gets rejigged into an old-fashioned triangle, with viper-tongued newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) and wise-mouthed police detective-lieutenant Mark MacPherson (Dana Andrews) locking horns over the elusive Laura (Gene Tierney). Elusive isn't the half of it. For the first half of the movie, she's presumed dead, her face obliterated by a load of buckshot when she answered the door of her apartment one stifling Friday night in New York City. MacPherson's on the track of her killer and pieces together her story: How through brains and determination (not to mention looks) she rose in the advertising industry, how she met the powerful Lydecker by seeking his endorsement for a fountain pen (first meeting a rebuff on the grounds that he writes with 'a goose quill dipped in venom'), how they became a high-profile, May-December couple in Manhattan society. But to Lydecker's sniffy chagrin, Laura didn't see herself as his exclusive chattel. There were other men: The painter who did her portrait that hangs over her fireplace, for instance (out of spite, Lydecker demolished him in the press), and then the indolent hulk Carpenter. MacPherson learns most of this while interviewing Lydecker in his bath, where the feared and lionized wordsmith fashions his prose on a typewriter perched atop a trestle across his marble tub ('It's lavish but I call it home'). With his imperious – queenly – airs, Webb takes his performance as Lydecker into a rarefied realm that can't have failed to register even in 1944, that of the closeted, elegant gentleman critic using the glamorous Laura as his beard (it's a dimension that was far fainter in the novel). But his full-tilt camping makes his desperate obsession with Laura – if taken at face value – too perfumed a lozenge to swallow. MacPherson's obsession, however, looks like the real McCoy. The testimonials to her beauty, her vibrancy, her elegance start to work on him, until he finds himself holed up at the crime scene – her apartment – gazing at her portrait while drinking himself into a trance (to David Raskin's entrancing title song) and falling asleep in her armchair. (As Lydecker puts it, he's fallen in love with a corpse.) When he awakens, it's to find Laura, come back from the dead – actually from her country place where she's spent the weekend, oblivious to her supposed murder. (The victim turns out to be a model who worked at her agency.) Laura's eerie reemergence reactivates all the tensions and antagonisms slackened, or frozen, by her presumed death. With Laura now among the living, Lydecker finds in MacPherson a more formidable – 'disgustingly earthy' – rival than the penniless playboy Carpenter, while MacPherson finds himself working not on a remote case but seeking the perpetrator of the attempted murder of a woman he's infatuated with (who, since there was in fact a corpse, finds herself a suspect as well).... One of the more perdurable movies of the 1940s, Laura nonetheless remains perplexing. Set in the upper-crust New York of terraced penthouses and chic boîtes and the Algonquin Hotel (where Lydecker's prototype, Alexander Woolcott, held court at the fabled Round Table), it gives off more than a whiff of the Gothic, of tales set on the moors or craggy seacoasts. (Echoes of Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca abound, above and beyond the presence of Judith Anderson, as do those of a more contemporary New York story, I Wake Up Screaming). It's a stylish and stylized murder mystery that finds the tangled liaisons among its characters more absorbing than what clues may be hidden inside the grandfather's clock. Those characters have been written off as superficial, and their liaisons as implausible, a point which carries some validity. The making of the movie was troubled, with producer Darryl Zanuck replacing Rouben Mamoulian with Preminger, then clashing with Preminger over his casting of the flamboyantly gay Broadway star Webb. Preminger was a shrewd and worldly man who surely knew how Webb would 'read' even to audiences in the boondocks (not to mention his casting of Price and Anderson, two more actors about whom rumors persist). So there's little getting around the fact that Laura stands as what has come to be called a 'coded' movie, brimming with subtext. But coded how? Preminger saw his movie as less about heterosexual passion gone homicidal than about a superficial culture of celebrity and hype and image. Lydecker's obsession was not so much with Laura's flesh as with fantasy – a rising star to which he could he hitch his jaded wagon. He's a demented fan who fancies that only his own enthusiasm and puffery make her shine. It's the only version of reality that the narcissistic, grandiose Lydecker can accept, with himself as both creator and custodian of her legend. It was the world Laura, too, occupied and enjoyed, if fitfully, a world which she departed for meatier trysts, albeit with lovers who lived in the same fairyland of ritzy illusion. Until she met (and almost too late) MacPherson, a prole without affectation who came to love her as a physical organism rather than as a creature of publicity, a fabulous freak of the zeitgeist. Under a veneer of arch sophistication (aptly captured by director of photography Joseph LaShelle), Preminger found an affirmation of bedrock American values. But he burrowed into that bedrock by the most oblique and unlikely of routes, having himself a great deal of perverse fun along the way. As crafty in his own way as Caspary was in hers, Preminger managed to satisfy wartime ticket-buyers, and he continues to satisfy decadent cinéastes six decades later.
53 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"I suspect nobody and everybody, I'm merely trying to get at the truth."
Laura A definitive film noir classic, and simply put my favorite film of all time. Laura tells the shocking story of Park Avenue society beauty, Laura Hunt ( Gene Tierney) who is murdered in her apartment, which brings Detective Mark McPherson ( Dana Andrews) to New York's most elegant neighborhood to investigate. As he tried to get inside the head of the victim, he also questions the men in her life-the acerbic critic Waldo Lydecker ( Clifton Webb) and her playboy fiancé Shelby Carpenter ( Vincent Price). But who would have wanted to kill a girl with whom every man she met seemed to fall in love? Fueled by her stunning portrait, liquor and classical music, McPherson quickly finds himself falling under her spell too. A police detective falling in love with the woman whose murder he's investigating? Then in one stormy night, halfway through his investigation, something so bizarre happens to him, that he is forced to re-think the whole case.

This reveal still kind of leaves me guessing. Is it all a dream? Or maybe it is all formulated by the ' spell' of the movie. An alluring cast and no doubt the famous musical theme by David Raksin has something to do with it.

There are so many scenes I could count as my favorite but, the one that always stands out to me is the scene where McPherson falls asleep under the portrait and he awakes with the sudden appearance of a woman who seems to be Laura Hunt herself!, dressed in a drenched trenchcoat. This entire scene is fuelled with more sexuality than Hollywood Studios these days can ever dream of in their bids to put two stars together.

Another scene I love is when McPherson slugs Carpenter in the stomach. " It's too bad. You didn't open up that door Friday night." I'm not kind, I'm vicious. It's the secret of my charm." "You'd better watch out, McPherson, or you'll finish up in a psychiatric ward. I doubt they've ever had a patient who fell in love with a corpse." "People are always ready to hold out a hand to slap you down, but never to pick you up." "Waldo, why are you doing this?" "For you, Laura." "I was 99 percent certain about you.... but I had to get rid of that one percent doubt."
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The more I think about it, the less I like it...
Qanqor23 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I was rather enjoying this movie as I was watching it, but I found myself dissatisfied with the ending, and the more I think about the film, the more flawed it seems to be. My main complaints are plot holes and character inconsistencies.

o Laura is portrayed as a quite intelligent woman. So what does she see in Shelby? Everybody else has figured out this guy is a shallow, lying loser. How does she not see through him? Why hasn't the aunt long since opened her eyes? We know that the aunt sees right through him, and what's more she wants him for herself.

o For that matter, what does she see in Waldo? She hates his cold, arrogant personality at the start, and he does little to hide it the rest of the way. You'd think, gratitude or not, he would have rubbed her the wrong way much, much sooner.

o What on EARTH was Shelby doing fooling around with the model in the first place? He was clearly dabbling with the aunt for the money, OK. He had a sweetheart deal with her, so why was he sacrificing it to marry Laura? The only reasonable answer is that he actually really did love Laura. OK. So what *possible* reason does he have for risking *both* of them to trifle with this poor, unimportant (and not even that great looking) model?

o Explain to me again why on earth he took the model to *Laura's* apartment? And dressed her up in Laura's negligee? And why the model went along with this? This is crucial to the plot yet barely touched on.

o MOST DAMNING: Why, why, why would Waldo go kill Laura (the first time) that Friday night, *when he was on the cusp of victory*??? He already knew that she was going to take the weekend to decide if she was going to break off the engagement to Shelby, and it sure seemed likely that she was going to. All evidence was that he was succeeding in breaking up that marriage, so the "If I can't have her, nobody will!" motive makes NO SENSE!!!

Aside from these plot holes and character inconsistencies, I had three other complaints.

First off, the best moment of the film was completely marred for me by bad film making. That is the moment when Laura comes back and we find out she's still alive. The way the scene was shot, I was *absolutely sure* that this was a dream sequence, and not really happening. It took me quite a while to readjust my thinking and go along with it all being real. And I was still half-expecting it to turn out to all have been a dream, up to the end of the movie. Turns out, I was right. From what I've read, there originally *was* supposed to be an it-was-all-a-dream ending, that was scrapped. Which is fine, the movie is better if she really were still alive and all. But that scene should've been re-shot without the detective falling asleep like that. As it stands, it's just clumsy and confusing.

And then there's Laura herself. She's certainly beautiful. But the character just didn't come off to me as being this amazingly magnificent woman. It's hard to buy why everyone is so obsessed over her. She seems pretty ordinary, frankly. I guess the problem was that she failed to make *me* fall in love with her, and so it didn't resonate with me when everybody else did. I agree with what someone else said, that she worked better as a painting than a character.

Finally, I found the ending disappointing. At the moment that the detective announces he's about to make an arrest, we had a pretty nicely tangled web, with some reasons to suspect every character, yet also reasons to doubt. I actually paused the movie at that point to consider the possibilities. I imagined various combinations of possible conspiracies and alliances between various characters, less obvious motives, surprises. I was hoping for and expecting something much more clever and interesting than just that old-sourpuss did it.

So there you have it. My strongest emotion is disappointment. And the usual bewilderment at the people who gush over this movie. It's a shame, because, handled better, this really could have been an excellent film.
22 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
This movie is more about style than substance..
calvinnme14 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
... and what style it has, from its cinematography to its score, to the interesting characters to the well crafted dialogue. However, in many ways it is like "The Big Sleep" and "The Maltese Falcon", because plot point by plot point it is baffling.

The body of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) is found shot point blank in the face, apparently as she opened the door to her apartment. She is an advertising executive who has risen to high society thanks to doors opened by columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), who has the opening lines "I'll never forget the weekend that Laura died..". The third main character is a tough New York cop, Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews). Mark is instantly smitten with the portrait of Laura that hangs in her apartment. He is so smitten that he seems to forget all rules of evidence and police procedure. He lets a civilian and a suspect himself (Waldo) accompany him on his rounds to question other suspects and he walks all over the crime scene -heck - he practically moves in for a few days, reading Laura's private diary and letters, and drinks heavily, even in the morning, while on duty? Was Frank Drebin of Police Squad his only competition when he was promoted? While he was practically moving into Laura's home he MIGHT have asked why her housekeeper continued to come in every day when her mistress was dead. Exactly who was she cleaning up after and who was paying her? Questions unanswered and unasked.

And everybody in this film is lying their heads off, seemingly to no avail. Vincent Price as the lazy, effete, amoral Shelby is deliciously funny. Why does he lie - twice - about the classical music concert he claims he attended? To what purpose? And the scene where Laura and Waldo burst in on Shelby and Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson) having dinner is priceless. In fact, every scene with Price and the wonderful Judith Anderson is both funny and touching. Judith's character really loves this charming skirt chasing gold digger in spite of the fact that she sees all of his flaws. He really should follow her advice and marry her.

Well then, it turns out that Laura is alive, and the very fact that she is alive makes her a suspect too. After all there WAS a killing it just wasn't her! Laura was all mystery and allure when she is just a beautiful portrait with a personality built by Waldo's words and Mark's imagination. However, the real Laura is disappointingly ordinary. Waldo does to some degree seem to be her Svengali, and he does seem to be right when he says that her doom is being attracted to any guy with a good build. Back to the lying - Laura herself lies like a carpet. What's all that nonsense about the radio? It's there, it's not there, it's broken, it's being fixed....who cares? Why does she lie about whether her radio works or not? Meanwhile, once Laura returns, Mark's attention in questioning suspects seems to be focused on whether or not Laura really loves Shelby or anybody else, in other words, does Mark have a shot with her? He acts like a schoolboy every time he gets an answer in the affirmative.

How does this all work out? Watch and find out. I highly recommend this one, just don't get too wrapped up in the plot. Instead, enjoy the atmosphere and dialogue.

As an aside, this was the first time Clifton Webb had been in any film since 1930, when he costarred in a Vitaphone short with radio personality Fred Allen. He refused to do a screen test from Laura's script, but did agree to be filmed doing a scene from "The Blythe Spirit", which was a play in which he was starring. So at age 55, from his single performance in "Laura", Clifton Webb was catapulted to stardom at Fox for the next 15 years.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wonderful noir romance
LouE1516 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
(Spoiler warning at suitable point below) Ah, love and death… I've found myself referencing "Laura" while thinking about so many other films lately (most particularly the excellent Korean thriller "Tell Me Something") that I just have to add my pennyworth, despite being the millionth person to contribute.

The premise: 1940s New York: tough detective called in to investigate a nasty Park Avenue society murder finds himself falling for the victim through her portrait, her things, his contact with those that knew her. One night a startling twist sends him – and the film – in a completely unexpected direction. Don't mistake the brusqueness of style, the punchy delivery and starkness of this film for one-dimensionality. Just as the work of Preminger is greater than the sum of its parts, so "Laura" is more than meets the eye. It owes a lot to the excellent and subversive book by Vera Caspary from which it is taken. (Am I the only one who had no idea women were instrumental in every sub-genre of pulp magazine writing from the 20s to the 50s?) Much of the psychodrama came from the book – but the visual and stylistic tone is pure filmic noir. However, in classic film noir the femme fatale is always the powder keg for everyone around her, and she usually pays for her sin with death. In "Laura" the central death is only the start of the story, not its retributive finale; the 'femme fatale' anti-heroine is really no such thing; and its hero, a portrait of curt masculinity, falls most unusually for an image, an idea.

* * * spoilers from here on * * * This isn't so much a study in police procedure as a study of a man in love. The underrated Dana Andrews' Detective Lieutenant Mark McPherson may seem like a cartoon hard-boiled copper, but look a little harder: his terse, tense, scrutinising detective is a study in the transformative power of love on such a man. From Waldo Lydecker, Laura's friend, we learn that McPherson is damaged – a silver shinbone in his leg as a result of a gun battle with a gangster. He reveals very little of himself – we know him rather from what others say, or by his actions. But his tension, control and intelligence lends an edge to his masculinity. He has ways of looking which speak volumes. His big, sad eyes reflect the bafflement of a man lifted by the love he finds himself experiencing. He plays continually with a baseball toy, to rein himself in. The point – reinforced by a great punch late in the film – is that he has reason to.

The sensual, swooning quality of the theme music is made flesh by the magnetic Laura herself (Gene Tierney). She's not just beautiful – she's like something people dream of. Mark thinks he's dreaming when he wakes to find her standing before him: she's the woman who could make him feel whole. Laura – whom he gets to know, uniquely, from the inside out – is neither a 'doll' nor a 'dame' (his enraging, early words); and in reaching for her he becomes a gentleman, against his own character or background. His 'real' gentleman is in marked contrast to the apparent gentlemen (and Laura's admirers) that we first meet – the acerbic, snippy Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb on great Wildean form), who narrates the first half of the film, and the Southern playboy Shelby Carpenter (an oddly cast Vincent Price). They both turn out to be fakes in a way.

So Laura emerges from her portrait, from her elegant apartment, and from Waldo's museum – his clock, his story, his possession – to become real for Mark. From here on in, it isn't Waldo's world any more, it's hers, and his. I think Tierney takes great credit for "Laura" not merely being the story of a tussle between three men for something they want: she shows you that there's something she wants, too, and that she has the spark and independence to get it.

The extraordinary circumstances of McPherson's contact with Laura lends their connection an intimacy which isn't lessened by the suspicion under which she labours. When Mark makes a move to arrest her at one point, it's almost as if she wants to go; she'd rather be with him under arrest, than listen to Waldo's sniping, or put up with Shelby's lies and lack of faith in her. The moral ambiguity created by these circumstances sets the tone of the piece, creating a sort of swirling, swoony romance with a very dark heart.

"Laura" stands watching and re-watching. For an interesting companion piece, check out Tierney and Andrews a few years down the line (and both incidentally somewhat battered about by life), in another great noir, "Where the Sidewalk Ends". I'd also strongly recommend reading Caspary's original pulp novel of the same name.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
great film -- too bad about the DVD commentaries
BaldyCotton5 January 2007
What an excellent film. I love noir, and Laura rings nary a false note. I just viewed the 2005 DVD and the video is very sharp.

Please do go and get the disc (definitely worth it), but a word of warning about the extras: Sorry to drop the P-bomb, but Jeanine Basinger's (and, to a lesser extent, Rudy Behlmer's) commentary is beyond-the-pail pedantic. How wonderful that Maestro Basinger has benefited from having the Gene Tierney archives at Wesleyan U., but sophisticated viewers of 2007 do *not* need to have enormous blocks read to them in the commentary feature; have rudimentary film language terminology defined and hemmed/hawed about for long stretches; have the commentator list every film that each actor participated in. Can you say "filler"? Perhaps one aside of Tierney's letters here or there would be useful, but the shopping lists are endless. Please studios, monitor the commentaries that are done on these great films! I do not need to have an academic explain to me at great length what the purpose of a flashback is, etc., etc. And--wow!--I had no idea that the painting of Laura was actually a doctored photo (explained ad nauseam in every corner).

Here's hoping the Leave Her to Heaven disc is spared such treatment in the extras.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A stunner in its day .... but feels like a stage-play today
A_Different_Drummer21 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Bit of a change of pace for me here. I spent most of time on the IMDb drawing people's attention to films and TV shows that never got the respect they deserve. Most of the films I review have an IMDb rating which is too low. LAURA on the other hand, currently (as I write this) with a running score in the high 8's, is not a film I would consider under-rated. If anything, the score is just a tad, a touch, a whisker, too high. Here is the skinny: in its day this film was a revelation. Even in its genre, it was a standout. The idea of falling in love with a picture is something you would expect in a fantasy or tear-jerker, not a police procedural or mystery. The audiences that saw it in a theatre were gob-smacked and (with the trick ending which I will NOT discuss) justifiably so. But, the musical question, does it hold up well today? I am not so sure. We are talking about a film where the character playing the hook, the draw, is, for all argument's sake, not actually there. Like John Cleese would say in the infamous DEAD PARROT skit, dead, deceased, no longer among the living. Therefore the film has to be carried by those talking about her. And to this wizened old reviewer, much of those scenes resemble the "living room" pieces in the old Charlie Chaplin films, where the exposition, however interesting, proceeds much like a stage play, with various characters banging lines of dialogue back and forth. If you want to see something from the period which is just as spectacular today as it was then, see PORTRAIT OF JENNIE .. this is not an ad, I don't get a commission if you do, I'm just saying...
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Murder without Feeling, a Second Take on Laura
secondtake24 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Empty pleasure.

I thought of ending this review there, but Dana Andrews deserves more.

Laura is a whodunit with a sort of surreal happy ending, and enough twists and pretend twists and twists on twists to make you give up guessing and just watch. It's not such a good thing to have the movie control the facts so that we can't participate in solving the mystery, not really. I know I gave up on this one easier than other people, and for me, the second time, not remembering who did do it, I still gave up on the guessing game.

But there is more here than that, by far. Just start watching as a start. Very smartly staged and photographed (LaShelle, masterfully), and with strong, clean performances, mostly from the demurring detective played by Dana Andrews (better known for his performance in "The Best Years of Our Lives"), watching is easy. The long scene two thirds through, where Andrews is alone in the posh apartment brooding, considering, puzzling, and possibly falling further in love with the dead Gene Tierney of the title role, is a little masterpiece of careful, restrained movie-making. As if to confirm his feelings (and really make the movie perk up), this is where he has a glass of whiskey, falls asleep, and wakes to see Laura standing there like a mirage or an angel. Or a mistake. Laura, the supposedly dead main character we had seen only in flashbacks. From here it takes us on a circuitous wrapping up and we sort of know what will happen, though still don't know how to guess who may have done it.

There might be some issues of confusion not intended--a plot this precise and interwoven begs for nitpicking. Watch the final big party scene with all the suspects gathered, where Andrews accuses, implicitly, Laura herself. Does she panic? No. If she wants us to think she did it (killed the model in her clothes), wouldn't she worry that she would go down by mistake? Isn't the electric chair a lot to risk? And then there is the clock, and Andrews smashing the bottom panel. Shortly later, a replacement panel is perfectly in place. Is this just good police cabinetry? Did I miss something about the second clock (there is an exact match somewhere)? Finally, we would all like to know how Laura could afford such a spectacular (and not very attractive) apartment on her working woman's salary.

No one besides Andrews is especially admirable or evil as a character here. And as actors, no one is especially amazing or awful, either, professional competence begetting the unexceptional. Of note: Vincent Price, a cult favorite, is strained as a chipper disingenuous boyfriend. And potential killer. Clifton Webb, is pretty amazing as a disdainful local writer. And potential killer. His verbal barbs are cutting and hilarious all the way through.

This is a quirky murder mystery, a little cutting edge for its time, and yet without social or psychological compensations. Like a Hitchcock thriller, we have intrigue and surprise, but unlike Hitchcock, there is too much composure and glint. And that painfully recurring theme song, which became a hit. This is somehow a great movie, but a flawed great movie.
9 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sometimes, the best portrait are those in which there is a slight mixture of caricature. Laura was a good movie, but somewhat dated since the 1940s.
ironhorse_iv13 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The opening title and credits play atop the haunting pause, yet recognizably poignant portrait of the eponymous title character as the famous atmospheric haunting theme music 'Laura' by composer, David Raksin plays in the background. It's here, where this classic film noir directed by Otto Preminger start to become one of the most stylish, elegant, moody, and witty classic films ever made without one scene with any of the ensemble cast of characters or one sentence of dialogue. It create the interest, by allowing the viewer to fixedly gaze, upon the artist work. By having the portrait in dream-like, high-contrast black and white cinematography, characterized by shadowy, it allows the audience to know, that this movie is a mystery; and a psychological study of obsession. Everybody wants to know, who in the painting, this is, and what happen to her. For some, more than others; this was the case for New York City, police detective, Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) whom investigates the murder of a beautiful and highly successful advertising executive, Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney). Laura has apparently been killed by a shotgun blast to the face, just inside the doorway of her apartment and everybody around her, is a suspect. Among of them is, a dim-witted, parasitic playboy fiancé, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a cynical, mannered and prickly society columnist, Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a loyal housekeeper in Bessie Clary (Dorothy Adams) and an aging, well-heeled, matronly socialite, Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson). All of them, beautiful portrayal by the well-seasoned actors with Andrews doing the best, even if his character is now so clichés. Although, I like his acting, I have to disagree with the Academy, for allowing Clifton Webb to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor that year. I found Clifton to be, one of the weakest in the picture; because how aloof & cartoony, his character was. He was alright, but not Oscar worthy. I get that this was Clifton Webb's first screen appearance since the silent era, but he was a bit over the top. In my opinion, actor, Barry Fitzgerald deserve his win for 1944's 'Going My Way'. Why, because who else, can say, that they were nominated both for Best Supporting Actor & Best Actor in the same year, for the same role in the same movie. Nobody that's who! Despite that, the other Oscar nominates, such as Best Director (Otto Preminger), Best Cinematography (Joseph LaShelle), Best Art Direction and Best Screenplay was truly deserving for the people that work for 'Laura'. Preminger really get mad props from me, because how passionate, he was, for the project. Not only was, he willing to work, with rival producer, Darryl F. Zanuck to produce the film, but he also had to replace two weeks of work from, outgoing director Rouben Mamoulian, including the painting, when Darryl F. Zanuck fired Rouben, for lack of direction. He deserve the nominated. However, the best screenplay nominated could be questionable, since a similar theme movie where, a man fall in love with a woman's portrait was release during the same year, with director, Fritz Lang's 1944's film 'The Woman in the Window'. In the end, it's up to debate, which movie probably rip off, whom, or was it, just all a coincide. We may never know. What we do know is that, the crisply-written screenplay by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein and Betty Reinhardt was loosely based on the play and novel of the same name by Vera Caspary. A series of changes, happen, such as the five separate voice narrators being drop; the ending of the film, alternate and a number of allusions to a character's homosexuality were cut from the script before filming began, in favor for a hyper-protective character expressed hetero-like jealousy over anyone else's attention toward Laura, particularly by the detective who shows some troubling, signs of necrophiliac. While, the twist toward the end, softened the feelings of the detective, this was still pretty shocking for the 1940s for a lead character to have. As much as I love the twist ending, it does beg the question, why the police officers didn't bother, doing finger prints or body measurements to make sure, who the victims is. While, a lot of people do mistaken Laura as an amoral femme fatale. In truth, her character felt disappointing as she's nothing like it. She just another damsel in distress broad. Don't get me wrong, Gene Tierney is a beautiful creature, but this movie isn't one of best roles. Her character haunting theme song is more famous than her role here. Gene Tierney was right with her, being adequate, here. Overall: While, this movie was badly cut up, due to wartime appeals, during its original run. It has since, been remastered and clean up for future audiences since the 1990s. Even some versions of DVDs has the rare sequence in which Vincent Price sings a song and accompanies himself on the piano. In the end, Laura was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Because of that, it's one film, worth looking out for.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the great classics of all time
yardbirdsraveup25 December 2006
So much has been written about this movie that I can hardly add more. This is Otto Preminger's finest hour as a director. He did many other great films (Stalag 17, Fallen Angel), but Laura is his keystone. Personally speaking, I never get tired of this film. Every time I watch this movie, I notice something different, whether it's in the dialogue, the cinematography of Joseph LaShelle, or even the facial expressions of the actors. Even the props are superior in this film. Everything is perfect. And that cast! Dana Andrews, as detective MacPherson, Judith Anderson as Mrs. Tredwell, the splenetic and cynical Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker, Vincent Price as Shelby and the beautiful and very talented Gene Tierney as Laura.

For longtime fans of Film Noir and budding enthusiasts, this film is an essential addition to your film library.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Hauntingly beautiful
summer1111dg6 December 2006
I think Gene Tierney is at her most beautiful in "Laura." She is a stunningly beautiful woman and it is very believable that the detective would indeed fall head over heels in love with her just from her portrait. As the detective spends more and more time in her apartment -- rummaging through her letters and diary -- he begins to form a bond with the lovely Laura. Det. Lt. Mark McPherson becomes in fact, quite protective of her.

Clifton Webb is perfectly cast as Laura's benefactor and suitor. He is unique actor who is able to convey condescension and smugness like no one else.

I am not as fond of the casting of Vincent Price as the "pretty boy" boyfriend though. Perhaps too many memories of him in more typical horror roles later on ruin it for me. But it is Tierney who mesmerizes in her performance. You can't take your eyes off her when she is on screen.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
your basic ten star film
RanchoTuVu15 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Gene Tierney as Laura rises to the top of the advertising world when she wins over the famous critic and radio personality Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), who introduces her to clients as well as into New York society. The cost is her total allegiance to him, but, as we see in the opening scene when he's in his marble tub, physically he's not much for such an attractive woman, plus the fact that he's probably more than twice her age. Once Laura has established herself, Waldo becomes less and less a necessity and more a pain in her pretty neck. But an obsession with her grows within him, in spite of or maybe because of his own amorphous sexual instincts. He's appalled by sex, but driven to possess Laura. It's an interesting character, and when the social and professional upstart starts seeing other men, Waldo's feelings are smashed upon his own inadequacies. That she would first dump him for her portrait painter and later an unscrupulous playboy played by Vincent Price, is more than he can take. With a beautiful theme song wafting through and a tough Dana Andrews as the detective, the story unfolds from different highly interesting perspectives, especially when the detective falls in love with the presumed dead Laura, transfixed by nothing more than her purported qualities, which he's jotted down from interrogations with different suspects. Through it all, there is unsurpassable camera work, direction, and acting, and a classic theme song.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews