This blog is a study of major motion pictures from its humble beginning forward. Studying and viewing many of the most influencial feature films in chronological order that journey attempts to study each subject with a sense of historical perspective on the medium, its creators, major players, and the audiences it has impacted, understanding that with time each work evolves in the minds of the general public and history as a whole.
This film’s production had almost as many twists in it as
its plot. A stirring tale of abnormal love and mistaken identities, the
thriller Laura from the beginning was
a motion picture doomed to failure. However with the right mix of writing,
cinematography, and lesser known actors would rise to be one of the highest
praised film of 1944.This early film noir with its troubled history throughout
production ultimately lists as one of American cinema’s most beloved mystery
movies out of World War II era.
Laura is a film
noir story about a detective who begins to fall in love with the woman whose
death he is investigating when the case is turned on its ear with unforeseen circumstances.
Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigates the murder of the
beautiful, young advertising executive Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), who was found
shot in the face in her apartment. Through McPherson’s investigative interviewing
with the likes of popular columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), on whose
coattail Laura appears to ride in her professional and social rise, and her
fiancé Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a playboy socialite, he pieces
together her story. Slowly his intrigue turns to a perculiar infatuation, if
not a love for a woman he has never met. When Laura sudden appears in the
middle of his investigation, the two turn their effort to discovering the true
victim and her murderer. It is deduced that Lydecker’s tremendous jealousy led
to the murder of the mystery woman and continues on as his jealousy turns
deadly once more with his vows that if he cannot have Laura, no one can.
A lighter shot film noir, Laura’s mystery thriller story makes for an interesting watch.
Filled with twists and a cast filled lesser known film actors, this picture was
a surprise hit for 20th Century-Fox, gaining great critical praise.
Despite the critical accolades the feature lost out in many awards due to
Hollywood politics. In viewing one can infer there being a passion in the
production process of this picture despite its relative small size. Ultimately Laura is considered one of the finest
mystery pictures in Hollywood history with its classic cinematic appeal and
film noir qualities.
The picture was a passion project of producer/director Otto
Preminger. As a successful director of the stage Preminger was presented with
the story of “Laura” which he attempted to adapt for Broadway, which never came
to be. While under a film contract at 20th Century-Fox Preminger
once again Preminger was met with the story of Laura, which he looked forward
to constructing in get earnest. Preminger was given the authority as producer,
but studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, who famously clashed with Preminger, took
away the idea of him directing. With Rouben Mamoulian appointed as director at
the beginning of production the filmmaker made his authority known as he began
to re-write the script and take away the original intent Preminger had for the
picture. After seeing rush dailies and disputing the style being portrayed,
Preminger was able to convince Zanuck to remove Mamoulian and appoint himself
Weeks into production the movie was already well behind
schedule with the massive shack up as Preminger assumed command, which
initially worried both cast and crew. Initially the cast believed the change of
directors was a direct response to their own acting, producing a disagreeable
time on set for a while before cast and crew discovered Preminger’s great
passion for the project and no ill will towards the cast. Production cam e
together as everything rallied around Preminger and although production would
go long, the producer/director got the film he wanted.
Webb with Tierney
The cast includes many lesser known talents of the silver
screen at that time. Gene Tierney at twenty three was still a fresh face to
audiences, but her performance here would vault her to one of the star
actresses in Hollywood, providing her with her best remembered role. Dana
Andrews had little experience, his persona general considered more suited for a
gangster type of role, but it was his acting delivery that aiding in this
picture’s noir qualities. Clifton Webb returns to the silver screen after
fourteen years of primarily Broadway work. His casting as Lydecker was a source
of struggle with the studio, being the Broadway star was a known homosexual,
but his performance garnered him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
The light speaking Vincent Price, well before his famed horror feature days,
would establish himself in major motion pictures here as the parasitic fiancé
in this early role.
Andrews with a young Vincent Price
Composer David Raksin provides a haunting score, inspired by
the jazz music Preminger was wishing to have added to the feature. The original
score and Laura theme by Raksin proved so powerful and poignant, that even
though is was not nominated for an Oscar, would become a popular tune and style
of sound in motion pictures for decades. In time Raksin’s work on Laura would be considered one of the
finest motion picture.
Upon initial release Laura
became an immediate success with critics and audiences alike. In time its
longevity would help make the picture one the higher revered American motion
pictures in history, especially in the genres of mystery, film noir, and
thrillers. This is true considering its election into the National Film
Registry in 1999 by the Library of Congress.
Looking back Laura
remains a solid classic Hollywood picture with a plot that entertains. Slower
than your more contemporary film, Laura
may find trouble with younger audiences, but it remains a classic for a classic
age in Hollywood, without all the bells and whistles of typical larger