Laura (1944)

US 20th Century Fox DVD

Gene Tierney

as Laura Hunt in the Otto Preminger directed Crime Mystery Masterpiece from 1944

2016-05-08


MASTERPIECE !
This must surely be the most stylish Film Noir crime mystery ever made and Yes, it can be
discussed if this really is a film noir or not, as it's A Studio prestige project from 20th Century Fox and exec. producer
Darryl F. Zanuck. No costs were avoided to make this perfect, and a true Film Noir should be made on a restrained
budget and possibly also by a B- or a Powerty Row studio, or ? No, there's some exceptions to this, as i.a. Double
Indemnity and ... this film. Laura's a Film Noir with it's night and shadows (including Venetian blinds) meticulously and
masterfully caught by LaShelle's camera, and with the obsession and desperation of a murderer.
Everything just fell into place during the making of this film, the actors, photography, the story, costume design, the sets
the music and the direction to make Laura a 100 % Masterpiece of 1940's filmmaking.
And this, even though this production had a very troubled story with a multitude of actors and directors saying no to or
leaving the project. Rouben Mamoulian even started directing the film before getting sacked by Zanuck

Waldo and Laura ... things going sour


It has become a beloved cult classic and it was the first important film and first of his Film Noirs that the legendary ex-
austrian Otto Preminger directed. Maestro Otto, the on set much feared and hated by the actors tyrant - The Son of
a Bitch from Vienna, but Boy did he deliver the goods. It was Otto pulling the strings all the time to make this perfect
- Otto, You Genius You ! He was the one that contacted the author Vera Caspary initially and he was the producer
BUT wasn't allowed by Zanuck to direct it, as they had an old grudge between them. He certainly wanted to direct it
and finally Zanuck gave the Green light. In the great and very informative commentary track by the film historian Rudy
Behlmer he tells us the different versions of how this happened, and one says that Otto tricked Mamoulian into directing
it with Andrews cop acting in a much too sophisticated way and Zanuck sacked him after watching the dailies.
Otto made a couple of Film Noir's and my 2 favourites from him are Angel Face (1952) and Laura (1944) but Fallen
Angel (1945), Whirlpool (1949) and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) are pretty good too

Waldo, Laura and Mark

The Actors: Everyone's Perfect and matches each other like the parts in a Swiss high quality clockwork.

There are 1. the film debutant, theatre actor and former dancer/singer Clifton Webb in the role of his life as the
middle-aged dandy, NY writer and critic Waldo Lydecker, 2. the otherworldly GORGEOUS Gene Tierney
as the murder victim and then murder suspect Laura Hunt, 3. the magnificent Judith "Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca"
Anderson as Laura's rich socialite aunt Ann, 4. ditto magnificent Vincent Price as Shelby Carpenter, the suave
but too slick playboy boyfriend of Laura and toyboy lover to auntie and finally 5. the great Dana Andrews
as the investigating police detective Mark McPherson. Also Dorothy Adams playing Lauras maid is great

Mark and Dead Laura

And then there's the sensational cinematography from relative newcomer to directing photography, Joseph LaShelle
(1900-1989) even though he had worked in the film industry for decades operating cameras. In the commentary
track Rudy Behlmer tell us some actors remembrances of his work, he took his time and meticulously lighted every
scene wanting perfection and was rewarded with winning an Oscar for his work. I'm sure Otto had some impact
on the result too. The Great Art of black & white photography, the forgotten art of lighting a scene lost with the
entrance of color movies (but Leon Shamroy somehow managed to make a color Film Noir in the outstanding
Leave Her to Heaven in 1945).
And let's not forget about the atmospherical music from David Raksin and the beautiful Laura theme (and we get
to hear some of his thoughts pasted into the 2nd Commentary track by film professor Jeanine Basinger).
The fine Sets and Gene Tierney's clothing too, WOW, may the 1940's fashion style make a comeback again

The Vera Caspary novel published in 1942/1943
here in the Swedish 1945 original edition from Forum

Caspary, a fine author of psychological crime dramas and also her Great Noir 1945 melodrama Bedelia is
very recommended, a story about a man and a noir looser anti-hero obsessed with a psychotic femme fatale.
This later Caspary novel definitely could've inspired the great Cornell Woolrich to his maybe most powerful
novel masterpiece, the 1947 Waltz Into Darkness - read more about this on my Film Noir&Pulp Fiction page.
Both the film and novel starts with the narration of Waldo Lydecker remembering the weekend Laura died.

Original ratio 4:3 fullscreen, english audio stereo or mono with english subtitles, black & white
Extras:
2 Commentary tracks - 1. A Great and informative one from film historian/author Rudy Behlmer about
the whole process from Vera Caspary's novel through script work, casting and filming to the finished film,
and 2. a commentary track from film professor Jeanine Basinger with extra information about the film and
with some added (pasted in) views regarding the music from composer David Raksin.
2 Documentaries - 1. Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait (44 minutes) about the somewhat tragic life of
the enigmatic beauty 2. Vincent Price: The Versatile Villain (44 minutes).
A Deleted scene - about how Waldo made a socialite out of Laura (with commentary by Rudy Behlmer
and with the possibility to see this in an extended version), Theatrical Trailer and a infosheet

 

Back to Film Noir & Pulp Fiction page