Friday, October 17, 2008

Movie Review: Laura (1944)

The Good:

There are some interesting parallels here between this film and "Rebecca". In both the title character is absent and it is only objects and opinions that inform the audience on the personality of both women. Dana Andrews becomes obsessed with Laura as does Joan Fontaine with Rebecca. You'll also notice that Judith Anderson who played Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca" is in this film as well, playing Ann Treadwell.

It's interesting to see that Vincent Price and Clifton Webb were made to seem somewhat effeminate in order to make Dana seem more masculine. Vincent seems more imposing (read: masculine) as the tallest male cast member but this is Dana's picture. This same technique was also applied to Fred Astaire films. Fred was a slim man of average height and in order for his "leading man" role to be believable, he had to come off as the alpha male of the film. For example in "Follow the Fleet", Randolph Scott who plays his navy buddy, has a physically imposing presence, a very All-American body type but his character is a total jerk. As such you identify more with Fred who ends up with the girl.

Interestingly both Jennifer Jones and Hedy Lamarr turned down the part of Laura. Even Gene Tierney who ended up in the role, didn't want the movie but had to for contractual reasons.

The Bad:

I didn't really feel Dana's obsession throughout the film. Supposedly he's captivated by this woman who's beautiful, charming and the best at everything she does. I was looking for something more along the lines of James Stewart's obsession in "Vertigo". This doesn't come across during the film and because Dana isn't enthralled by Laura, neither am I. This makes the story far more tedious than I think it's meant to be. In fact, Dana seems far more intent on doing his job by solving the mystery of Laura than losing himself in her story. I did however like his slight smile after hearing about Shelby's marriage.

This is billed as a classic noir film but I didn't find it compelling until the end and this was probably because of Dana's failure I was looking for more tension and perhaps a better plot.

The Ugly:

Somebody find Eli Wallach.

Rating: 3/5

Here's a trailer for the movie. It's interesting to see how long trailers were back then and how short they are now.

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