Laura

Otto Preminger, USA 1944, 88 minutes

Detective Mark McPherson is investigating the death of Laura Hunt. He first interrogates Waldo Lydecker, an old dandy and a failed journalist feared by all. Secretly in love with her, he gave Laura her first big break in advertising and helped her build a successful career. Next, McPherson finds Shelby Carpenter, the lover of Laura's aunt, a cowardly and deceitful poseur who was meant to marry the victim. As he slowly untangles past events leading up to Laura's murder through the recollections of those close to her, McPherson gradually gets to know this enigmatic and bewitching woman. Even when gone, she is omnipresent, and as McPherson gazes at her portrait hanging in her apartment, he begins to fall in love with her. Haunted by her, his determination to solve the murder is coupled with an obsession with the victim; he looks through her wardrobe, touches her clothes, reads her letters and private thoughts.

The strength of this film lies in the superb script and in the performance of the cast. Everyone but Otto Preminger were sure it would be forgotten shortly after its release but its success was phenomenal and it went on to gain classic status. Dana Andrews as the sceptical, down to earth, detective gives one of his best performances, and Gene Tierney is sublime as the beautiful and elusive femme fatale. After the film, she would always be identified with Laura, which, she laughed, "was better than not being identified at all". Vincent Price is as sickly and contemptible a Shelby Carpenter as could be, but Clifton Webb as the misanthropist Waldo Lydecker is the real revelation: a pure, delightful mixture of arrogance, grace and cutting black humour.

A masterpiece, and shot entirely indoors, the interaction between characters is intense and gripping as McPherson follows the trail from one to another. Watch it and let Laura captivate you too.

"The film's deceptively lesuirely pace at the start, and its light careless air, only heighten the suspense without the audience being conscious of the buildup." - Time Out

Review by Katia Saint-Peron
Taken from EUFS Programme 1996-97