A Movie A Day: Quint loves LAURA (1944)
When a dame gets killed, she doesn’t worry about how she looks.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we jump from yesterday’s decent, but dull romantic triangle melodrama DAISY KENYON to today’s noir whodunit thriller LAURA via director Otto Preminger and actor Dana Andrews
And it’s a vast, vast improvement over yesterday’s offerings. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I loved the movie.
This is what I’m talking about. Just like in DAISY KENYON there’s a group of men fighting over the love of a single woman, the title character Laura, played by the inhumanly ravishing Gene Tierney. The difference is in this movie she’s been murdered, a shotgun was unloaded into her… both barrels… to the face.
And one of the men who falls in love with her does so after the fact.
Yeah… nice and fucked up, edging in on creepy territory.
I might edge into some spoiler territory here, detailing a plot twist that happens midway through the picture, but it’s one that I can’t discuss this film without bringing up. If you haven’t seen the picture and plan on doing so, it comes with my highest recommendation, but I’d advise going into it not knowing as many of the twists and turns as you can.
There are three men in Laura Hunt’s life. Two of them preceeded the shotgun blast and one is the main detective trying to solve the murder. Let’s start with him.
Dana Andrews plays this guy, Dt. McPherson, who begins as kind of a no nonsense man’s man, referring to girls as “dames” and “dolls,” even our poor victim. It’s a bit sudden and I don’t know if I buy it entirely, but over the first 40 minutes of the movie he falls in love with Laura thanks to some tales he hears from the prime suspects in the case and her stunning portrait, painted by a man supposedly in love with her.
That painter was run off by elder columnist Waldo Lydecker (what a name, huh?) played to the hilt as a sarcastic, educated, jealous old fart by Clifton Webb. You see, Waldo discovered Laura and while they don’t ever really make it explicit he’s kind of her suitor. In flashbacks we see Laura distracted by other men and he does his damndest to shoo them away. The painter, for instance, receives a horrible evisceration in Waldo’s column as being a man of ill repute and a hack painter.
The third man is a charming socialite that she ends up engaged to. It’s actually a little apt that this film bridges us into next month’s all Horror AMAD as this third man is played by noneother than Vincent Price. It’s nice seeing him play up the semi-loser, yet charming side and not the creep.
That’s the core of the film.
What makes this an atypical whodunit is the twist that the murder victim becomes a prime suspect when Laura walks back through her door 3 days after supposedly getting a faceful of buckshot.
So who was killed? Why was she killed? And who did it?
LAURA is the perfect mixture of adult, complex storytelling and popular entertainment. Joseph LaShelle’s cinematography is crisp, high contrast black and white. Otto Preminger’s direction is sublte, but masterful. He hits the sweet spot of being heavily stylized while not taking the viewer out of the story. David Raksin’s music is lovely, haunting and thrilling. The writing by Jay Dratler, Betty Reinhardt and Samuel Hoffenstein (adapting Vera Caspary’s book) is particularly sharp, keeping the story clear without making it simple.
Final Thoughts: LAURA is a pretty incredible picture, the kind of movie that keeps me searching out film of this era. It marks my introduction to the great leading lady, Gene Tierney, and I’m now making it a point to seek out her work. I watched the Biography Special on her (extra feature on the DVD) and it seems she led a rather tragic life, but she really made an impression on me. Vincent Price is also worth a look here, showing a range that most don’t give him credit for. Andrews as well is perfectly suited to play the rather confused Detective. All in all LAURA is one instance of lightning captured in a bottle, every aspect of filmmaking hitting the right notes at the same time.
The titles up for grabs during the randomly picked Horror Movie A Day October:
Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here!
Tomorrow begins the All Horror Month of AMAD! Holy crap! This is going to be a lot of fun. I’ve written down the titles of each of the 50 (and counting) titles in contention on similar sized strips of paper and have put them in a plastic bag. I’ll let the movie gods guide me, adding new horror titles as they arrive. I have a few more on order and am open to any suggestions. Just let me know in the talkbacks below, especially if it’s a particularly fun ‘80s horror flick. I’m a big fan of that era and I don’t know what I’m really missing out on, but know that I love stuff like SLEEPAWAY CAMP, ALONE IN THE DARK (original, good non-Boll version), CHOPPING MALL, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, CRITTERS, BLOOD DINER, etc. If you have any thoughts, let me know!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Oct. 1, 2008, 7:11 a.m. CST
Dear God I did it!
Oct. 1, 2008, 7:12 a.m. CST
Not as good as the "Gone with the Wind" one but still a classic.
Oct. 1, 2008, 7:42 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
C'mon, somebody had to say it. Quint, keep up the good work. I was rather disappointed the Battle of the Bulge talback didn't catch on. That is a classic.
Oct. 1, 2008, 8:27 a.m. CST
maybe these aren't all great and you've seen some of them already, in no order: Visiting Hours, Prowler, Splatter University, Girls nite out, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Slumber Party Massacre, Terror Train, My Bloody Valentine, Funhouse, ETC.----> Bring ON H-MAD!!!
Oct. 1, 2008, 9:05 a.m. CST
Lots of people learned that from this week's Family Guy!<br><br> QUAGMIRE: "Peter, who are you dressed as?"<br><br> PETER (dressed as a woman): "I'm Laura Bush."<br><br> QUAGMIRE: "And what about you, Lois?"<br><br> LOIS (dressed in a suit with a tire mark across it): "I'm the man she killed."<br><br> http://tinyurl.com/5xlpy5
Oct. 1, 2008, 9:12 a.m. CST
Keep up the good work. This column is one of the first things I read in the morning. You've uncovered some real gems. I hope that The Changeling, with George C. Scott, finds its way into your October line up. Watch it late at night. I promise, it WILL creep you out.
Oct. 1, 2008, 10:25 a.m. CST
by Ninja Nerd
I was sure you'd like this movie a lot. And you picked up on the great turn by Vincent Price. Engaged to Laura AND stroking the sugar mama for walking around money. Definitely in my Top 20 film list! Looking forward to the Horror movies.....great job on this stuff, dude.
Oct. 1, 2008, 10:28 a.m. CST
When I was very young and first saw "Laura" I watched the credits and didn't know which of the actors was Laura or the detective what with names like Gene and Dana *grin* Quint is right - Tierney had a hard life with one tragedy inspiring Agatha Chrisitie to write "The Mirror Crack'd".
Oct. 1, 2008, 10:34 a.m. CST
by Oliver Queen
finishing a contest for once? Or is it a hobby to post them and never do anything about them?
Oct. 1, 2008, 10:53 a.m. CST
I love this flick. Seen Laura probably 3 or 4 times, and it always amazes me how once in a while you can find a movie made 60+ years ago, and it still holds up so well to movies of today. Great story, great plot twists, good acting, awesome cinematorgaphy.<P> I'm definitely more of a genre guy at heart, Star Wars, LOTR, blah blah blah, but Laura is still probably in my top 25 or 30 all-time favorite movies.<p>One little touch I like is the detective always playing his pocket baseball game. It's like the 1940s equivalent of carrying around a gameboy or PSP. The guy's kind of a dork- I think in 1940s era even though he was a detective he was maybe a geek like many of us here, and so in part showed why he was able to fall in love so quickly with the woman whose murder he was investigating.
Oct. 1, 2008, 11:14 a.m. CST
Couldn't help noticing all the Twin Peaks connections. There's the obvious (Laura,) but then there's Waldo (as in the Myna bird at Leo's cabin) Lydecker (the last name of the on-armed man's best friend) Bob Lydecker happens to be a vet, and it is at his office that Cooper and company discover Waldo. Justin saying
Oct. 1, 2008, 11:14 a.m. CST
Oct. 1, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST
Okay, you've probably already seen that one. Still, it's a trash classic.
Oct. 1, 2008, 12:04 p.m. CST
That's more camp than horror. Funny, but really stupid funny, and that was when I was 17. It makes Evil Dead 2 look like straight horror by comparison.
Oct. 1, 2008, 12:13 p.m. CST
After falling in love with stills of Tierney I hunted down this movie since it is so famous and was actually disappointed. Then I saw another Price/Tierney pairing called DRAGONWYCK and it was everything I had hoped Laura would be. Scary, romantic, gothic etc. It was just released on DVD so I encourage everyone to check it out. (Also another Price/Tierney flick called Leave Her To Heaven in which she's as psycho as she is sexy. No small thing.)
Oct. 1, 2008, 12:20 p.m. CST
You should consider watching The Changeling with George C. Scott. It's one of the best haunted house movies ever. Also I highly recommend the imaginative 1987 horror explosion that is THE GATE. Sadly the DVD is in moratorium, but it's coming on several times in October on Showtime. DVR that sucker and enjoy.
Oct. 1, 2008, 12:29 p.m. CST
would be a perfect next step - a much grittier piece of work from the creative team.
Oct. 1, 2008, 1:06 p.m. CST
Nobody would argue that Laura isn't ten gazillion times better than Daisy Kenyon, but I have to say I found Daisy more interesting than you did. Here's why (I posted this at NitrateVille): "Somewhat imperfect though it is (I still didn't entirely figure Fonda's character out-- I guess he just has Olympian detachment when it comes to stepping back and letting less self-aware people figure out what the hell it is they want in life, even if what they want happens to be his wife), it has rich characters, Dana Andrews as a "Master of the Universe" type who's really sort of a big baby, yet not entirely caddish or detestable, Crawford as a career gal whose armor of self-sufficiency is about 1/256th of an inch deep, and Fonda as a guy who came back from the war seeing things in a way he knows he'll never be able to explain to anyone who wasn't there. What's great about the clash of these three characters is that this is the one old Hollywood movie you'll ever see in which love doesn't conquer all; they're falling in and out and back again into love all the time, but that just means they have to fret and think and agonize about it all over again."
Oct. 1, 2008, 1:11 p.m. CST
Get with the program, Fox... a high-profile noir collection would sell like gangbusters.
Oct. 1, 2008, 1:24 p.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
Not a horror movie, but the ending scared the fuck out of me. <p>Then slingshot it and watch Troll 2. Holy fuck.
Oct. 1, 2008, 1:40 p.m. CST
Noir was done best in the 1940's and this is a classic example. Up there with Murder my Sweet and This Gun for Hire. And Dana Andrews is awesome as usual.
Oct. 1, 2008, 1:51 p.m. CST
David Lynch said that LAURA was his primary inspiration. Look it up if you don't believe me.
Oct. 1, 2008, 2:32 p.m. CST
by Lang The Cat
Clifton Webb really makes Waldo the slimy creep. Brilliant film, it is easily to see why Steve Martin used it in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. First off, Chopping Mall and Night of the Demons. I would suggest missing both, but definately the latter. Some of the films you might try watching:<br> Nomads - Chilling film with Pierce Brosnan. Like most of his independent stuff, quite good.<br> The Frightners<br> Dead Alive<br> Meet the Freebles<br> Ed and His Dead Mother - Steve Buschemi<br> Seven Footprints to Satan<br> Dracula - with Frank Langella<br> Wicker Man - with Christopher Lee<br> House <br> House 2<br> The Tingler<br> Fiend without a Face<br> Night of the Demon<br> The Thing with Two Heads - because it sucks so badly<br> Trog - Joan Crawford in her crappiest role<br> Needful Things<br>
Oct. 1, 2008, 3:29 p.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
I also. This is not exactly a genre horror film and maybe the most unlike all the others on your list, but I love it. I respect your "choose at random" approach that's giving every film a 50/50 chance of being reviewed, but I hope you do this one and, if you miss it, I hope you add it to the regular AMAD list wherever it fits in.<p>Alan Arkin and Jack Weston playing against type in a crime thriller. Brilliant. Arkin's Roat is one of my all time favorite film villains.
Oct. 1, 2008, 3:38 p.m. CST
by greigy just wanted to say
Gene Tierney was a goddess..... absolute must see.... The Ghost and Mrs Muir... and with Dana Andrews again in Where the Sidewalk Ends.....
Oct. 1, 2008, 3:44 p.m. CST
Any update on the Star Wars Comp?
Oct. 1, 2008, 4:27 p.m. CST
Any idea when you'll announce something? It's been a while.
Oct. 1, 2008, 7:29 p.m. CST
Laura is an excellent noir and the cast truly consistently excellent. Another really good Tierney noir, but in color, of all things, is Leave Her to Heaven with Cornel Wilde. She plays one gorgeous but twisted, crazy woman. Highly recommended (it's available at Amazon & Neflix).
Oct. 1, 2008, 7:34 p.m. CST
Good call justpin & Prague23
Oct. 1, 2008, 7:35 p.m. CST
oops! sorry. tired
Oct. 1, 2008, 9:08 p.m. CST
While I like Laura, I don't really think it is the masterpiece most people seem to regard it (I guess I have a very hard time imagining Clifton Web having the hots for Gene Tierney so bad he would commit murder). I prefer Preminger's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" with Dana Andrews. Still, it reminds me of something that James Elroy once wrote about how the Laura and Double Indemnity where the two quintessential cop love stories. In Laura they fall so in love with the victim the feel compelled to solve the crime at any cost; in Double Indemnity, they so desire the women they are seduced into helping them commit a crime. Plus, Mr. Elroy had the best, most concise description of film noir ever: "you are fucked".
Oct. 2, 2008, 1:32 a.m. CST
Oct. 2, 2008, 3:09 a.m. CST
Richaed Matheson wrote the screenplay based on his novel, "HELL HOUSE." It's a 1973 film starring Clive Revill and Roddy McDowall. Lots of Hammer-ish atmosphere. As Roddy says, “Hell House doesn't mind a guest or two. What it doesn't like is people who attack it.”
Oct. 2, 2008, 10:24 p.m. CST
by Max Meanie
A classic film noir mystery that contains all the clues you need to follow the detective along as he solves the murder. The writing puts the sorry state of current filmaking to shame. All the actors give impeccable performances & it's a highlight to see Vincent Price in dashing romantic role. Regarding Waldo's relationship with Laura, it's not hard to see how a bitter man past his prime could become obsessed with a gorgeous young girl (she begins the movie as 17 yrs old) that has great personality and admires him. His whole world changed now that he had this angel to mold into a distinguished lady and to have her as his companion at cocktail parties made his massive ego even bigger. To think that any man could physically love her while he (probably) couldn't is enough motive for him to do the things he did. I've seen this film probably 20 times and the fun part is looking at the clues and the layout of how the pieces fall into place. It's a great mystery, a fun character driven piece and just a DAMN GOOD MOVIE!
Oct. 3, 2008, 7:23 a.m. CST
Whenever someone says the above line I usually roll my eyes, but then I watch a film like Laura and realize that things have changed. I love dumb action films as much as the next guy but where are my smart thrillers and great neo-noirs. There was a time when film could simultaneously be great art and great trash. Now when it's trash there's nothing great about it.
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