Detective Mark McPherson investigates the apparent murder of advertising executive Laura Hunt. Told in flashback by Newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker, Laura follows the detective as he falls in love with her through diaries and a portrait that hangs on her wall.
Gene Tierney stars as Laura, the titular character whose image floats through the film as if she were a mythical creature. Dana Andrews stars opposite her as the detective, Clifton Webb is Waldo Lydecker, Vincent Price is Shelby Carpenter, a role that would surprise today’s audiences, and Dorothy Adams is Bessie Clary.
Laura was adapted to screen from the 1943 novel of the same name by Vera Caspary. Directed and Produced by Otto Preminger, Laura is a classic Film Noir making lists of the top Noir’s for years.
While today’s audience may not find themselves as satisfied with the reveal, Laura still stands the test of time. A successful and talented woman is at the helm. Put on a pedestal by all the men, today’s feminist audience may see these male characters in a less than romantic light.
Film Noir has allowed women to take on roles usually reserved for men. After the Hayes Code was instated women typically portrayed the love interest, the wife, or the daughter. Occasionally they got to play roles far more interesting than that and Laura was a role worth having. Gene Tierney is perfect, as it is believable that any man could fall for her on her portrait alone. She has an essence that pours off the screen; her image excites us as she glides through the memories and imaginations of the other characters. While this role puts Tierney in a place of objectification she is also a strong and smart woman who fights against the ideas that men have of her.
Laura could have been created for the young starlet who by this time was best known for her film Heaven Can Wait alongside Don Ameche. While other good roles came before Laura better ones came after. Tierney would go on to star in Leave Her to Heaven alongside Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain and once again, Vincent Price. Vincent Price would appear in a few more roles outside of the genre he is most associated with but would eventually find his home in horror.
1. Laura is a Film Noir starring Gene Teirney in the title role. Laura is presumed dead after a female victim is shot in her apartment and is later identified as her. Throughout the first part of the film a detective played by Dana Andrews investigates the murder. He questions the people closest to her including Waldo, a columnist played by Clifton Webb who also narrates. Waldo is obsessed with Laura. He tells Detective McPherson of their first meeting and their relationship. Also interviewed is the most recent man in her life played by a pre-horror Vincent Price. McPherson begins to fall for her through the stories and the engaging portrait that hangs above the fire place in her apartment. As he stays at her apartment Laura enters very much alive and well. She is unaware of what has been happening. The understated scene is beautifully played and understated . What we often expect form our favorite Noir’s.
Tony and Jack as Josephine and Daphne
2. Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot. There are few movies funnier than Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in her best role as Sugar. Jack and Tony play out of work musicians who witness a St Valentine’s Day like massacre. To escape they dress as women to join an all female group on their way to Florida. There are so many funny scenes throughout the picture but one that stands out is the moment we first see Lemmon and Curtis stumbling along the platform in high heels. They soon see Marilyn as she passes by. “It’s like Jello on springs.”
Peter Lorre and Gardenia Perfume
3. It was what happened prior to his entrance that really grabbed the audience. Sam Spade’s secretary enters his office. She hands him a business card that he sniffs. “Gardenia.” The Hays’ code may have restricted what we saw on screen but that didn’t stop suggestive scenes and characters that appeared less than heterosexual. Peter Lorre’s performance is a memory I love to have and one I will always love to see.
“I’m ready for my close up.”
4. Norma Desmond was the epitome of the aging Hollywood actress who never left it behind even though that world she once ruled has turned its back on her. Told in flashbacks by a now deceased Joe Gills played by William Holden tells of the events that led to his death. Desmond is the aging former silent film star that wants to make a return to film. Joe is a down on his luck screen writer. There are many moments where Desmond played by silent film star Gloria Swanson takes over the screen but no moment is more grandiose than her entrance on New Years.
When The Lights Come On
5. After watching The Third Man for the first time in a few years I realized how important it is to revisit your favorite films more often. Joseph Cotton goes to Vienna after receiving an invite from an old friend played by Orson Welles who enters the picture a lot later in the film than I initially remembered. He arrives to find that his friend has died after being hit by a card. After meetings with police officers, shady characters and Harry Limes girlfriend he begins to realize that things are not as they appear. The Third Man has many staples of the Film Noir. There is mystery, shadows, twists and turns. Orson Welles enters the film near the end in what to me can only be deemed the best film entrance of all time. If this list was in order The Third Man would be at number one. Harry Lime stands in the shadows waiting for Cottons character. As Cotton walks by he sees a cat at Limes feet. The rest of his body is in darkness and we can’t see Welles face. Cotton yells for him to come out irritating the neighbors who turns her light on to reveal Harry Lime. The use of light has never been so interesting to me and never has a spotlight added to the intensity of a moment quite like this one. From his first entrance to the the last Orson Welles as Harry Lime entered each scene with a narcissistic smirk and glint in his eye. That is what I call a villain.
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"Is the cinema more important than life?" Francois Truffaut