Laura (1944)
March 13, 2021 11:28 AM - Subscribe

A police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he's investigating.

In one of the most celebrated 1940s film noirs, Manhattan detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigates the murder of Madison Avenue executive Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) in her fashionable apartment. On the trail of her murderer, McPherson quizzes Laura's arrogant best friend, gossip columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) and her comparatively mild fiancé, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price). As the detective grows obsessed with the case, he finds himself falling in love with the dead woman.

Thomas M. Pryor: When a murder mystery possessing as much sustained suspense, good acting and caustically brittle dialogue as "Laura," which opened yesterday at the Roxy, comes along it might seem a little like carping to suggest that it could have been even better. As the story of a strangely fascinating female who insinuates herself into the lives of three very worldly gents, much depends, of course, upon the lady herself. This is made quite evident in the beginning of the story when considerable interest and curiosity is generated over the murder of Laura Hunt, and the two rivals for her affections make quite a to do about her intriguing attributes to an inquiring detective.Yes, you get the idea that this Laura must have been something truly wonderful.

Roger Ebert: I've seen Otto Preminger's “Laura” three or four times, but the identity of the murderer doesn't spring quickly to mind. That's not because the guilty person is forgettable but because the identity is so arbitrary: It is notnecessarythat the murderer be the murderer. Three or four other characters would have done as well, and indeed if it were not for Walter Winchell we would have another ending altogether. More about that later.

Film noir is known for its convoluted plots and arbitrary twists, but even in a genre that gave us “The Maltese Falcon,” this takes some kind of prize. “Laura” (1944) has a detective who never goes to the station; a suspect who is invited to tag along as other suspects are interrogated; a heroine who is dead for most of the film; a man insanely jealous of a woman even though he never for a moment seems heterosexual; a romantic lead who is a dull-witted Kentucky bumpkin moving in Manhattan penthouse society, and a murder weapon that isreturnedto its hiding place by the cop, who will “come by for it in the morning.” The only nude scene involves the jealous man and the cop.

Angie Errigo: Otto Preminger’s superb and potent romantic thriller is a classic mystery in which ravishing Gene Tierney is the object of murder.

Perennially underrated Dana Andrews is the ’tec falling in love with her as he puzzles over the killer, Vincent Price the suave prime suspect and Clifton Webb the acerbic columnist Waldo Lydecker, whose marvellous opening line is, “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died.” Adding to its lustre: Oscar-winning black-and-white cinematography, famous twists and the haunting David Raksin score.

posted by Carillon (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed this. I'm not sure the movie realizes this, but McPherson is a pretty bad detective, and only gets lucky in having anything to do with solving things. Gene Tierney was great though, that Pryor review left me a bit gobsmacked when he says she's the weak part of the film. Clearly things change, but she's acting circles around Andrews.
posted by Carillon at 11:30 AM on March 13, 2021

I love this movie so much! I haven't seen it in ages so time for a rewatch.
posted by Kitteh at 2:13 PM on March 13, 2021

It was my first time watching! I expected to enjoy it, but really ended up liking it more even than that! I can see why you love it.
posted by Carillon at 5:37 PM on March 13, 2021

I'm going to be a lone voice of dissent, then, I suppose....but mainly because of one thing.

Consider how many people raved about Laura and how awesome she was, how warm and vital and generous and good and lively and....and then when you finally do see some scenes where you see Laura, she comes across to me as kind of a non-entity, and I didn't see what anyone was talking about. This is not a slight against Gene Tierney; I think the script just really didn't give her much to work with.

The rest of the plot was fun, that one aspect just really bugged me is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 PM on March 13, 2021

I have to admit that when I saw this in a theater that did old movies I was a bit underwhelmed too. EmpressCallipgos' point is a big part of it for sure, as is the massive reputation it had. Not horrible, but not near the top of the list for movies from that era either.

I also left thinking that to some extent at least the praise might be because of the narrative structure, which might have seemed relatively innovative then and is old hat then.
posted by mark k at 2:53 PM on March 14, 2021

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