“That was Laura, but she’s only a dream”………lyrics from the soundtrack’s haunting theme sets the mood as the “dream” weaves through this 1944 film noir classic.
Confined to my lonely room because of that damn virus invasion, I think back to remembered gems posted on Reynolds Cinema Favorites list. Clicking on the projector, “Laura” appears, and (once again) I’m engrossed in this cleverly crafted, sophisticated whodunit shot in high-contrast black and white imagery.
The mystery of a beautiful woman seen in a framed painting above the fireplace in Laura’s Manhattan apartment, triggers intrigue as friends and admirers gather to make sense of her murder. Its a decadent and morally-corrupt group of upper-class society types engaged in taut and smart dialogue. Almost all are treated as suspects by a down-to-earth detective who also becomes entranced by Laura’s gaze in the painting.
Familiar screen stars of the era are cast in principal roles adding authenticity to the narrative:
Vincent Price as a self absorbed Southern playboy/gigolo. (The actor had a Hamilton connection starring in the 1971 television comedy series “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein” produced at CHCH-TV).
The veteran Judith Anderson is engaging as an aging, well-heeled, matronly socialite who lusts after the gigolo.
Clifton Webb, in his first screen role since the silent era, is stoic in the role of a cynical, mannered and prickly society columnist.
Laura, the beautiful career woman and ad designer is portrayed with glamorous sophistication by Gene Tierney.
Dana Andrews plays the street-wise dead-pan-speaking detective, (a stereotype of gumshoe cops in film noir flicks of the time). He’s a chain-smoker, hard bitten, unconventional and unemotional. His investigation is sidetracked by unexpected feelings towards the cultured beauty in the painting, his gruffness softening into obsession with the murder victim. Someone in Laura’s circle of acquaintances has the answer to her murder. How will the detective’s emerging passion for Laura influence his handling of the case?
“Laura” is a complex film noir narrative blended with romance that’s stylish, moody and gripping. The lush title theme by David Raksin (in his first major composing assignment) has been heralded as amongst the most memorable ever composed for cinema. (Lyrics were later added by Johnny Mercer).
Director Otto Preminger stirs tension blending passion, jealousy, blackmail, and murder in this smart chronicle. “Laura” stands out as a refined and elegant example of long ago (1944) film noir cinema art.
The title theme’s lyrics tantalize…..“She gave your very first kiss to you….that was Laura….but she’s only a dream”. “Laura” is alluring, reason enough for my occasional viewings of this classy cafe society fable.