Laura (1944)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Film Noir, Romantic Mystery, Detective Film, Psychological Thriller  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

With its collection of decadent New Yorkers embroiled in a murder mystery, Otto Preminger's hit Laura (1944) stands as an early, elegantly crafted film noir. Preminger's low-key approach to a story of lethal obsession allows the suggestions of sexual deviance emanating from Clifton Webb's epicene critic Lydecker, Dana Andrews's cynical yet besotted necrophiliac cop, and the pragmatic Vincent Price-Judith Anderson couple to permeate the seductively cool atmosphere. David Raksin's famously bewitching theme invokes titular mysterious beauty Gene Tierney, but it is questionable if the real woman can measure up to the power of portraiture and Lydecker's memory. "Proper" love may triumph but it is a compromised victory. One of the most popular suspense films of the 1940s, Laura earned Oscar nominations for Best Director, Supporting Actor for Webb, "Interior" (now Art) Direction, and the sharp screenplay based on the Vera Caspary novel, winning the prize for Joseph LaShelle's black and white cinematography. Released the same year as Billy Wilder's caustic noir Double Indemnity, Laura was another intimation of the wave of cinematic darkness that would crest post-World War II.