Laura (1944)

"Laura" is very similar to another film of the 40s—"Rebecca". Hitchcock's piece was a film of complete absence while Otto Preminger's "Laura" is never quite so cerebral, bracing the moments of oddity with realism.
The movie begins with an acknowledgement of murder by our smug and highly dislikable narrator, Waldo Lydeker (Clifton Webb), who is a columnist and a figure of prominence. Laura, the title character played in flashbacks by Gene Tierney, is dead. She has been murdered in her apartment and the media has jumped on the story, crying out for her murderer to be arrested.
Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews, delightfully droll) has been assigned to the case and in the movie's first scene, which ushers in the noir cigarette stained feel of the film, he is present at our narrator's house. Lydeker is a curious man, the sort of person that most people would avoid and be happy with avoiding. He is known for his written word, but his spoken verbal barbs are also a delight. He has the disposition of being a nonchalant sadist and certainly is one of the many that would inspire characters that we love to hate.
McPherson is determined to find Laura's killer in a resigned sort of way. He's just going to do his job; but the people he comes across are very...difficult.
You have Lydeker himself, whose tongue is silver and attitude is oily. He is an intelligent man and he always is correcting McPherson on what to do and how to do it. We somehow empathize with Lydeker at first; but it is nice to see McPherson tell him off.
Then you have Laura's fiance, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) and her aunt Ann (Judith Anderson) who both seem not too grieved over the loss of their loved one.
Instead of being a movie without Laura's figure, we have flashbacks...told mostly by Lydeker and we come to understand Laura as our own character instead of recreations by other people. I appreciate the genius of "Rebecca" and was kind of hoping for a repetition of that; but "Laura" wins you over eventually.
Preminger is a very forward director and his brashness plays to his favor here. This movie goes hand in hand with "The Big Heat" and films of that nature—"The Maltese Falcon" inspired movies and the whole noir ambiance.
McPherson is met with stubbornness time and time again. He has lies to shift through, deceit to peer into...somewhere in there is the truth; but by the time he gets close, that may not be what he's interested in anymore.
Clifton Webb is wonderful as the pious and dedicatedly odd Lydeker. Waldo was in love with Laura, as was everyone who knew her. She seemed to exude charm, which brings up the question why was she murdered?
A murder mystery wonderfully crafter, "Laura" is a pleasure to watch simply because it's very entertaining. Preminger's movie walks along at a great pace and tells a very interesting story.

Score: ★★★½

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