'You forced me to give you my word. I never have been and I never will be bound by anything I don't do of my own free will' (Laura Hunt, Laura)
A lighter noir this time, young advertising executive Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) is stylish, charming and adored by almost everyone- so why was she murdered and who done it?
Both her friend, cynical journalist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), and kept-man fiancé Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) love her, and detective Mark MacPherson (Dana Andrews) investigates her murder and he is in great danger of falling under her spell.
It’s a great whodunnit with some sparkling wit to lighten the sinister undertones. The mystery itself is well-crafted, with the requisite twists and turns and a great finale, but the enjoyment comes from the larger-than-life characters as well as the shadowy melodrama.
Webb is caustically witty as Lydecker, although he’s not above sentimentality as he is lovingly proud of how he transformed Laura into the sophisticated woman she was always meant to be.
Price is delightfully use weak-willed Shelby, who can’t do anything unless a woman can pay for it. It’s one of the film’s many subversions, along with Lydecker’s critique of MacPherson referring to women as ‘dames’- the cliché term used by hardboiled detectives. Sure it’s a film noir but it doesn’t drown in its own moodiness.
Tierney is wonderful as the maybe not so lovely Laura, remaining enigmatic until MacPherson has puzzled out the mystery. Her charm is irresistible and it only gets better-later in the week, I’ll be reviewing Tierney at her most enigmatic and disturbing in Leave Her to Heaven.
Director Otto Preminger doesn’t plumb the depths of sin but there’s enough twistedness to push Laura beyond a cosy murder mystery.