1944’s Laura is a brilliant example of film noir to come from the era of predominantly black and white cinema. It was produced and directed by Otto Preminger. Its principal cast includes Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson and a few others. It takes the classic “whodunit” genre of murder mystery films and turns it on its head. It is based on the fictional novel of the same name by Vera Caspary published in 1943.
The plot follows New York City police detective Mark McPherson. He has been assigned to investigate the murder of Laura Hunt, a high profile advertising executive. Laura’s face has been severely disfigured from a shotgun blast at point blank range. The detective’s only link to her is a beautiful painting that McPherson becomes increasingly drawn to.
As McPherson investigates the murder, he finds that Laura had made several enemies in her career and her private life. As he interviews her friends, he also begins to read private letters and her diary. He finds himself growing increasingly infatuated with the murder victim, almost to the point of obsession. As he pries into her life and the eccentric friends she surrounds herself with, McPherson starts to flounder on the case.
I have never read the book, so I will not compare it. This movie however is a brilliant piece of artistic work. The American Film Institute has it at number one 10 best mystery films and it has been selected by the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
I would have to agree. Every detail, the acting, the music, even the lighting, pulls you into this film as you follow McPherson on the case of his lifetime.
FAVORITE QUOTE: I shall never forget the weekend Laura died.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Violence, thematic elements
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