Laura (1944) – Otto Preminger

 

The recommendations in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for the title Pandora’s Box allowed me a chance to see this classic, which I had never sat down to view before.

Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is working the homicide of the lovely Laura (Gene Tierney) in this wonderful noir title.

Brought in to investigate, Mark begins interviewing the suspects, and begins to fall in love with the victim through the tales he hears, and a haunting portrait hanging in the woman’s apartment.

He interviews radio host and writer Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), who befriended Laura, brought her into high society, and though she only considered him a friend, it’s rather obvious that the older man had fallen in love with her, and felt hurt and vengeful when she began seeing the charming Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price).

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Lydecker attempts to disrupt the relationship by revealing that Shelby pawned one of the gifts she gave him, as well as seeing a woman behind her back.

Slightly cynical, definitely with an edge, McPherson runs down his leads, untangling all the crisscrossing threads of jealousy, betrayal and love lost.

Until one evening, as he’s working, the door opens and sends his case cartwheeling in another direction.

The film runs a taut 88 minutes, and is completely engrossing. McPherson is a trademark noir gumshoe that is completely in his element in this film, as things begin to come together, as weapons are discovered, accusations made, and truths revealed.

Everyone has something to hide from McPherson, but that doesn’t stop him from ferreting it out. Sure, he dresses exactly like we’ve come to expect, a tilted fedora, a rumpled suit under a trench coat, but it works within the confines of the film.

I like how Laura’s history is filled out through the testimony of the suspects, and that Mark begins to fall for her almost from the get-go.

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The motivations of all the characters are maintained through the film, we learn exactly why Lydecker is obsessing over reclaiming those items he ‘lent’ to Laura for her apartment, and we watch the sly Shelby try to step aside accusations of indiscretions and murder.

This is one of those films that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen yet, and enjoyed every minute of. The recommendations from Pandora’s Box, a film I didn’t care a lot for, have proven to be very entertaining so far, and, as always, continue to expand my knowledge of film and cinema.

This along with a few other select titles, is a perfect example of a noir film, and I love the darkness these films seem to embrace, that there is no black and white, only grey, everyone has secrets, and no one can ever be completely trusted.

Despite that, there are some funny moments, and some fantastic dialogue.

I love a good noir film. How about you? What are some of your favorite noir films? I’m always looking for one I haven’t seen so share your choices with me won’t you?

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