Most romantic film #40: Laura(1944)

This is a little film noir, no one ever pays much attention to it, but the cast and production team includes some of the best talent.

Laura is adapted from the popular best seller by Vera Caspary.

The story begins with Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigating the murder of Laura Hunt. She’d been shot in the face with a shotgun on Friday night and found by her maid Bessie.

McPherson gets Laura’s story from her mentor Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a popular and influential newspaper columnist; her fiance Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a no-good Louisville gigolo; her aunt Ann Treadwell (Dame Judith Anderson), and Bessie herself (Dorothy Adams). As he pokes and uncovers, he finds himself attracted to Laura’s beauty (seen in a portrait painted by a former lover hanging in Laura’s apartment) and her character, attested to by everyone.

Monday night he falls asleep in Laura’s apartment, only to wake up when she appears — not dead. Now everything is overturned, and McPherson has to start again, figuring out who the victim really is and who might have shot her. Or did they think it was Laura? Or was it Laura who pulled the trigger?

Andrews is great as the blue-collar hero falling in love with the uptown girl. This isn’t quite as good as The Best Years of Our Lives, which I think is Andrews’ best work, but it is good. Gene Tierney is beautiful and mysterious as Laura, the girl everyone loves. Tierney had great style and class, which is perfect for the ambitious young woman who rises quickly through 1940s advertising circles by her wit, charm and intelligence (think Mad Men without the liquor, infidelity and endless bad boy behavior–okay, there is liquor). Price and Webb are fantastic as the bickering wannabe boyfriends who can’t quite close the deal, while Judith Anderson again shows why she is a “Dame.”

Only about 90 minutes in length, this would be a great double feature with Double Indemnity or The Lady Eve (see next week) or The Best Years of Our Lives.

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