For this edition Shadows of Film Noir, we take a look at Otto Preminger's Laura, produced by Twentieth Century Fox in 1944. It was a glossy, high-class production that was well regarded, and it was a hit, even though it was not one of the year's top grossers. It won an Oscar for its black-and-white cinematography, and received nominations for directing, screenplay, art direction, and supporting actor. Since then, it has come to be known as one of Preminger's greatest films, along with Anatomy of a Murder (1959). It's an odd combination of class and back-alley emotions, all coming together in a bizarre, brilliant way.
What It's About
Police detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is investigating the murder of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), a beautiful advertising executive. His first stop is powerful newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), who first appears in his bathtub, perched at his typewriter (which rests on a kind of marble shelf across the tub). Lydecker tells the story of how he came to meet and befriend Laura -- with flashbacks -- and accompanies McPherson on his other interviews. He meets Laura's would-be fiancé, the milquetoast Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), Laura's wealthy aunt, Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson), and her housekeeper, Bessie Clary (Dorothy Adams). The more McPherson learns about Laura, the more he begins to obsess over her, not helped by a haunting portrait that hangs in her apartment. He falls asleep beneath the portrait and awakes to a startling new twist in the case.