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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Easily one of the best book to film adaptations out there. To Kill A Mockingbird stars Gregory Peck in the role of Atticus Finch a single father and small town lawyer. When a black man is accused of the rape of a white girl Atticus steps in to defend him. Watching this occur through innocent eyes in Scout and her brother Jem. Chalk full of timeless life lessons and quotes to always have with you. To Kill A Mockingbird did the book by Harper Lee from which it is adapted justice. Peck in the role of Finch wasn’t just acting it was the man in a role he was born to play. There is no other film that has captured the scathing truth of social injustice and the people that fight against it in the south.
Psycho was the film that introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock. I remember the first time I had the pleasure of seeing this gem. I was 13 years old and my love of film was growing. Flipping through the channels and there it was. My parents immediately recognized it and it had barely even started. I was entranced from the moment I started watching. The audience feels Janet Leigh’s paranoia as she leaves with an envelope full of cash. When she arrives at the infamous Bates Motel she meets Norman Bates played by Anthony Perkins. A suspense classic that is often cited as one of the first slasher films, though some don’t agree.
Laura stars Gene Teirney in the title role. One of the first Film Noir’s that I discovered on my own Laura is a must watch for any fans of the genre. Also starring Dana Andrews as the detective that begins to fall for Laura through the stories and the painting that hangs above her fire place. Vincent Price in a leading male role and Clifton Webb as Newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker. After the death of an unknown women in Laura’s home everyone believes that it is her that is dead. It is not until she arrives home to find Detective Mark McPherson in her place. While falling in love with Laura he learns more about her past as he continues to investigate the death of Redfern. Though a modern audience may be able to come to the conclusion of who did it soon into the film, the audience upon its release was shocked by it’s ending. A great mystery, paired with an amazing cast makes Laura one of the top film noirs in film history.
4) The Court Jester
Danny Kaye stars in The Court Jester a musical-comedy set in medieval England. One of the defining moments in my childhood came the first time I saw this film. An important part of my childhood The Court Jester was the beginning of my love for film. Especially those made far before I was even born. Funny and memorable Danny Kaye’s performance is one of the most underrated in the world of film. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing The Court Jester please do yourself a favor and watch it. You’ll laugh and you will laugh some more.
5) The Apartment
Starring the worlds favorite every man, Jack Lemmon portrays Bud a lonely man that allows himself to be used by his office mates. Fred MacMurray stars as one of those office mates who also happens to use Fran an elevator girl at the office. The men in the office use Bud’s apartment to hookup with their mistresses. While Bud tries to get in good standing in the office. His reputation is in taters at his home and things get worse when Fran attempts suicide. There friendship grows as she stays with him and a great partnership is born. An amazing cast is to be expected in a Billy Wilder film and this stands as my number one is a long list of gems by the famed Director. If you are looking for a great film that is funny and dramatic all in one this is the one for you.
I have been more fond of romance as of late. Maybe its me trying to get into the holidays or maybe its my crush on the guy that resembles Sal Mineo. Who knows. I thought I should do a post about on screen couples and what makes certain romances stand out. After all how many films did Spencer Tracey and Kathrine Hepburn make together? Why has Casablanca stuck with us after so many years? The answer to the last question is an opinion. Why do you think it’s lasted so long? What do you think makes these couples part of the fabric of old Hollywood. Those moments when Lauren Bacall first looked at Humphrey Bogart. When the detective fell in love with Laura’s portrait in Laura. There have been many versions of love in film. Very rarely do we experience the unrequited. After all why would we want to see one of our greatest burdens played out in front of us. So what is it about romance and the genre in particular that sticks out to people. Some love the films and others hate them. Some ignore the romance angle in most of there favorite films (me). Is that what separates the romantic from the rest of the crowd. Do they believe what they see or do they wish for what they see. If we hate it are we skeptical or are we fearful. Film seems to give us what we want and what excites us. Who doesn’t want to here a man talk to them the way Humphrey Bogart said “Will always have Paris.”? or look at out pictures the way Laura and her portrait was admired. Maybe some of us are cynical and others are hopeful. Some of us are in between. But the film world gives us an escape and the movies give us the lover of our dreams. So what makes certain couples stick out? Maybe its because they are what we want, and what we want to be.
I couldn’t hit Halloween and not have talked about Vincent Price. He is a recognizable face and name in the horror genre. From his work in the Poe films to House on Haunted Hill. I don’t know what the first film was that I saw Price in but I do know that my dad owns The Pit and the Pendulum on VHS and after I watched it the first time I watched it over and over. I know, I know I am a bit weird. I remember watching the original and superior House on Haunted Hill when we had a sub in art class. With his voice and overall appearance it is not hard to believe he appeared in several horror and suspense films. What it may be hard to believe is that Vincent Price began as a leading man type. If you would like to see him away from horror check out Laura and Leave her to Heaven. Two great films starring Gene Tierney.
"Is the cinema more important than life?" Francois Truffaut