Friday, February 22, 2013

Fabulous Films of the 1940's Blogathon: Laura (1944).

Laura (1944). A film noir directed by Otto Preminger. Cast: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price. The screenplay by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, and Elizabeth Reinhardt is based on the 1943 novel of the same title by Vera Caspary.

Gene Tierney, is one of my favorite actress of the 40's and Laura, is one of my favorite "film noirs". A very interesting film, about a woman, who has three different type of men in love with her.

Dana Andrews, plays the perfect detective, who becomes obsessed with the portrait of Laura while investigating her death. Clifton Webb, plays Waldo Lydecker, who's also as obsessed with Laura.

Gene Tierney's, was never more beautiful, in her small part as a advertising executive, but.. if you are expecting her to look like the glamorous woman in the painting, you might be a little disappointed.

I'm also a huge fan of Vincent Price. Although, it was very odd to see him play such a cad..

Many film noirs, try to keep the audience guessing, but.. this film noir, with it's many unexpected plot twists and turns, does a wonderful job keeping the audience guessing who the killer is until the very end...

Signed on to investigate the brutal murder of Laura Hunt, New York police lieutenant Mark McPherson goes to question Laura's good friend, columnist Waldo Lydecker in his lavish apartment. Waldo, has read about Mark and his arrest of notorious gangster in the newspapers. Mark knows that Waldo, wrote about a murder committed the very same way that Laura was killed.

Waldo, asks if he can join up with Mark on his investigation, because.. he wants to see everyone's reaction, while being questioned, maybe... he could use the information for his next project. They both call on Laura's aunt, the wealthy Ann Treadwell. He asks her if she approves of Laura's marriage to Shelby Carpenter. Mark, then asks about Ann's relationship with Laura's fiance Shelby, saying that he has evidence that she has been giving him money.

Shelby, a charming, creepy, womanizer.. and born suspect, arrives and says that he and Laura were to be married later that week. Waldo, corrects him and said that Laura had not yet decided to go through with the wedding. Mark asks Shelby, if he has a key to her country home? He says "no, but.. there might be a key in her apartment".

Shelby, Mark and Waldo, all go to Laura's well decorated apartment and after Shelby hands over the key, that he had hidden in his pocket. When they discover his lie, Waldo accuses him of murder.

Later, Waldo invites Mark to his and Laura's favorite restaurant, Algonquin. Waldo, takes this opportunity, to share his story about the first time he met Laura, five years ago on her 22nd birthday:

Waldo, was dining alone when he is approached by Laura, who asks Waldo to endorse a pen for her company, but... he quickly dismisses her. Right before she leaves, she calls him a selfish, lonely man. Sorry, for being so rude Waldo goes to see Laura at the agency where she works. He apologizes and agrees to the endorsement.

Even though they become close friends, their relationship is platonic. It seems very strange that Waldo, becomes jealous of all her suitors and uses his column to ruin their relationship.

At one of Ann's parties, Laura meets Shelby, who confesses that his family has been bankrupt for years. After, Laura gives him a job at the advertising agency, they become engaged to be married.

Of course.. Waldo has Shelby investigated and informs Laura that her fiance is dating a model, Diane Redfern. Laura, does not believe him until he shows her a gold cigarette case that she gave Shelby, saying he bought it at the pawn shop where Diane pawned it.

Back in the restaurant, Waldo tells Mark that Laura had lunch with Diane the day of her death and was planing to go to her country home for a few days to think things over.

The following night, Mark, who seems to be falling in love with Laura's ghost, returns to the apartment and continues searching through her letters and diary. Waldo, stops by and says he knows Mark, has put in a bid for Laura's portrait and accuses him for falling in love with her.

After, Waldo leaves, Mark falls asleep under the portrait. He wakes to the sound of someone entering the room...Could it be the killer?

Fun Facts:

Marlene Dietrich, expressed interest in portraying the title character.

Darryl F. Zanuck was opposed to casting Clifton Webb because of Webb's homosexuality, but producer/director Otto Preminger prevailed and the 54-year-old Webb, making his first screen appearance since the silent era, was nominated for an Oscar.

The portrait of Laura is, a photograph done over with oil paint.

The original choice for the role of Laura was Jennifer Jones, who turned it down.

One of the film's most durable legacies was its theme song "Laura," composed over one weekend by David Raksin. Otto Preminger had originally wanted to use Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady." According to Preminger biographer Gerald Pratley, Preminger tried to get the rights to George Gershwin's "Summertime" but was unable to.

This movie is famous for the haunting "Laura Theme". When asked why she had turned down the part of Laura, Hedy Lamarr said, "They sent me the script, not the score."

Gene Tierney, originally did not want to make this film but did it under contract obligations.

The famous theme song David Raksin wrote for the film was originally entitled "Judy" in honor of Judy Garland.

According to her auto-biography, Rosalind Russell was offered the role of Laura, she felt the part was too small and turned it down.

Gene Tierney's, best movie performances in my opinion all took place in the 1940's. Starting with her movie debut playing a reporter for the newspaper, The Denver Star. In the film, The Return of Frank James (1940).

Later, She landed a small role in, Hudson's Bay (1941). A historical drama, about a couple of French-Canadian explorers who formed the Hudson's Bay Company..

In 1941, Tierney co-starred in the comedy, Tobacco Road, directed by John Ford.

At the age of 20, she also had a title role in, War film, Sundown. The film's an adventure story, set against a World War II in British East Africa, earning three Academy Award nominations. I enjoyed this film much better than I thought I would.

Video: in my opinion is when she looked her best.


Next, she went on to film one of my favorite films: The Shanghai Gesture. This early film noir is about the lives and secret pasts of the leading characters, who enjoy gambling in a luxurious casino owned by "Mother" Gin Sling. The Shanghai Gesture received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction (Boris Leven) and Best Original Music Score.

The following year, she performed in, Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake, along with the dual role in the screwball comedy film, Rings on Her Fingers, Thunder Birds, China Girl and in the 1943 comedy, Heaven Can Wait.

In 1944, she starred in what became her most famous role in the film noir, Laura.

After performing in the film, A Bell for Adano (1945) as a blonde, she played in one of my favorite characters of all time.. the jealous, narcissistic femme fatale Ellen Berent Harland, in the film version of the best-selling Ben Ames Williams novel... Leave Her to Heaven, a performance that won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (1945). Leave Her To Heaven was 20th Century-Fox's most successful film of the 1940's. It was cited by acclaimed director Martin Scorsese as one of his favorite films of all time.

In 1946, Tierney starred in the film, Dragonwyck. That same year, she starred in another favorite film, The Razor's Edge, an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel.

She followed that performance with her role in another one of my favorite films, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), which many critics have noted to be her greatest performance besides Laura (for which she did not receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

The following year, Tierney starred in the screwball comedy, That Wonderful Urge (1948). As the 1940's came to a close, Tierney performed in the classic film noir, Whirlpool (1949).

This is my contribution to the Classic Movie Blog Association's Fabulous Films of the 1940's Blogathon. Please click on poster located on the side bar to see all participating blogs.


  1. Such a moody, wonderful movie. It's no wonder Clifton Webb became such an unexpectedly popular leading man with this role and the way he had with a sarcastic line.

    I showed my daughter this movie when she was a teenager and she fell in love with Dana Andrews. She has a friend whose parents named him after the actor and it impressed him to finally meet someone his own age who knew who Andrews was.

    I really enjoyed your look at this 40s classic.

  2. Dawn, the first time I saw "Laura" was in a film class in college more than three decades ago. I was mesmerized! I loved the exquisite film score and felt like such a voyeur in Laura's apartment as Mark was going through her beautiful things. Her portrait was so elegant and then when we saw Laura in her flashback scenes we met a beautiful, young woman who was quite vulnerable. This is one of my favorite film noirs and I am so happy you shared it with us today.

  3. If there's such a thing as a perfect movie, then "Laura" would be right at the top of the list. I wouldn't change a thing and I can't imagine a more perfectly cast movie.

  4. Great post about a terrific movie, Dawn! It's one of my faves of both Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. I had no idea Jennifer Jones may have played the title role. Had she done so, I probably wouldn't have liked the film, as I don't like her and find that she ruins everything for me (like "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing", with my man Bill Holden and "Indiscretion of an American Wife, with my beloved Monty).

    Clifton Webb was perfect in the role! His portrayal of Lydecker was brilliant, really. I love how he tells Laura that he has something more important to attend to...his lunch. No one could have delivered that line quite the way Mr. Webb did. I'm glad the part went to him.

    Great post!!

  5. Caftan Woman had the right word for this film, "moody." The cast is wonderful especially Clifton Webb as Waldo. I have not seen the film in a long time but his performance still stands out. A great job here Dawn!

  6. Dawn, I love your description of LAURA as a film "about a woman who has three different types of men in love with her." Indeed, Waldo, Mark, and Shelby are all markedly different...except in their infatuation with Laura (I'm not any of them are truly in love with Laura, though Mark could grow to be). I can't imagine Marlene in the title role! And thanks for including the pic of Gene in that funky hat...that always makes me smile. Finally, I can't imagine LAURA with David Raskin's haunting haunting.

  7. Beautiful post, Dawn. I know this film by heart, I love it so much. And thanks for adding the picture of Gene in one of my favorite hats! You picked a wonderful film to write about.

  8. Dawn, "Laura" is a perfect film in every way, one of those classics that will endure and endure. I didn't know that "Sophisticated Lady" had been considered for the theme - that wouldn't have been at all bad either. Thanks for a fine tribute to one of my favorites and for all the fascinating background (I learned a lot!).

  9. Dawn, a great choice for the blogathon, as it's one of the archetypal film noirs of the 40s. Gene Tierney was never more gorgeous than in this film, and never more alluring. I often express the opinion that Otto Preminger is overrated, but this film is a masterpiece. The part of Waldo Lydecker was originally to have been played by Laird Cregar, who died of a heart attack just before filming began. Clifton Webb was a hasty replacement, but he created one memorable screen character.

  10. Ick--I can't see Dietrich playing Laura. Love this movie. Clifton Webb is awesome in this.

  11. Caftan Woman, I agree.. it is a moody film. Even though, Clifton Webb did a fantastic job in this film, him sitting in the tub, is a scene I would like to forget..

    toto2, I saw this film for the first time about 5 years ago.. I thought Laura's apartment was absolutely gorgeous, it was kind of weird to watch Mark, going through all her things. This is one of those films I wish were in color.

    Kevin Deany, I agree.. the perfect film noir.

    Patti Gardner, Thank you. If Jennifer Jones, had played the part, it would have been a different movie. Even though, I like Jennifer Jones I'm glad that Gene Tierney, landed the part.

    Although, I'm not a big fan of Clifton Webb, I can not see anyone else in the part. He was perfect for the role!

    John/24Frames, Thank you. Moody, is a perfect way to describe this film.. Clifton Webb, playing the creepy Waldo, was perfect casting..

    Rick29, I agree, Shelby, was not in love with her, although, I do not think his character could love anybody, but himself.

    I thought Waldo, was in love with her, but.. because of his homosexuality, did not know what to do with his feelings for her.

    I also, can't imagine Marlene in the title role. I do not think she was soft enough to play Laura.

    FlickChick, Thank you. I watch this film a couple of times a year. It is a film, that you will never tire of.

    The Lady Eve, I agree.. the song "Sophisticated Lady", would have also, been a wonderful choice, for the the film, "Laura".

    R. D. Finch, Thank you, for stopping by and sharing more background info. with us.

    KimWilson, Marlene, would have been a terrible choice. I'm surprised in a way, that she had any interest in playing "Laura".

  12. Dawn, I was so surprised at the possibility of Marlene Dietrich -- I think Waldo would have feared Laura given that casting! But, as with all great films, the right actors get cast in the right parts. Gene Tierney has quite a filmography for the 1940's, too bad there was no Oscar to accompany it!

  13. Dawn,
    Like Gilby, I was surprised to read that Dietrich showed interest in the role of Laura. That would have been an interesting choice. So glad that Gene was able to appear in her most iconic film.

    I love so many things about Laura and one of those things is getting to see Vincent looking so handsome and taking on a role so different than what we remember him for now. He had so much range and his earlier films give us a glimpse into that, especially with Laura.

    Another interesting review with your gorgeous photo selection and fun trivia.

    A perfect contribution to the Blogathon. Oh, I adore your new blog layout. Very stylish! I need to redo mine but I can't get the header photo to change.

  14. Loved your review. I'm glad you chose this film for the blogathon.

    Also, I wanted to say you always post such great photos in your blogs.

  15. Gilby37, You are right about Marlene Dietrich, scaring poor Waldo, to death.. and that would have not worked well for the story line..

    Gene Tierney, in my opinion was was in her prime in the 1940's. She is my favorite actress and would have loved her to win an Oscar for my favorite film, Leave her to Heaven. Which, is the film that actually gave me a the idea for naming my blog.. Noir and Chick Flicks.. :)

    Page, Thank you. I'm glad that you enjoyed Vincent's performance.. I had a hard time accepting it. Good thing.. that this was not my first Vincent Price film, or.. I don't think, I would have bothered watching anything else of his.

    I thought, I should tone N and CF down a bit.. the sidebar was getting a little too busy looking.

    silverscreenings, Thank you. I find my photo's from Bing

  16. Если бы это видео было на русском или украинском языке - я бы с удовольствием его посмотрел. А так, видимо я его понимаю ровно настолько, на сколько вы понимаете мой комментарий без переводчика...

  17. Man, I never heard that about either Rosalind Russell or Marlene Dietrich and with no disrespect to both actresses, I'm very glad they didn't get the part. Tierney has a gentleness to her that makes her believable as the object of so much manipulation. The whole cast in this is one of the best ever assembled, with Andrews as the darkly obsessed (but still heroic) lead, Judith Anderson as the ice queen, Vincent Price as the weak playboy (I really love the offbeat idea of him as the "male beauty in distress"), and of course, Clifton Webb. Still a favorite of mine after many years and your post shows a lot of the reasons why.

  18. I do love this film. Gene Tierney didn't think it was her best performance, but she is wonderful as the lead and is a favorite of mine. I've seen this one so many times I don't know where to begin, so thank you for your assessment!

  19. Aubyn Eli, I'm with you.. Rosalind Russell or Marlene Dietrich, are not soft enough to play a fresh out of college, advertising young executive.

    I will never forget.. Andrews, character playing with the child's toy to settle his nerves.. It makes me smile just to think about it.. I can not remember another time that was done in a classic film.

    I struggled with Vincent Price's part... I always think of him a as a strong character..

    Clifton Webb, was perfect in this film.. I don't think anyone else could have done a better job.

    Classicfilmboy, I think because the part was so small, it wasn't her favorite part.. I'm just guessing..

  20. Dawn, congratulations on a wonderfully engaging and fascinating post about LAURA, one of my (and others, of course!) favorite films of all time! Much as I love both Rosalind Russell and Marlene Dietrich, neither of them would have been right for the role of Laura Hunt. I've always felt the whole point was that Laura as a character was something of a blank canvas, and I assure you I DON'T mean that as an insult! A young woman like Laura Hunt is the type that men could easily fall in love with and even become obsessed with, because in a strange way, everyone in her orbit sees themselves in her. As we see in LAURA, that can lead to dangerous obsession, or at the very least, plenty of unwanted pestering from well-meaning would-be suitors. Nowadays, Laura might simply say, in her nice way, that she's just not that into him - or maybe her cop sweetie Mark would save time and kick those pests to the curb himself! :-) All playful ribbing aside, Dawn, BRAVA to you on your wonderful LAURA post; it's perfect for the CMBA 1940w Blogathon!

  21. DorianTB, Thank you for your thoughts.. I can see why you think Laura's character was a blank canvas. Her part was very small and did not have much on screen time to show us who she really was..


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