'Laura' - Movie Review

I spent 30 years not bothering to watch this movie because I knew it was by Alfred Hitchcock and I'd already seen it (and liked it). It was only about two weeks ago in conversation with a friend about the actor Dana Andrews (we'd just watched "The Best Years of Our Lives") that I finally separated Preminger's "Laura" from Hitchcock's "Rebecca."

Andrews stars as police detective Mark McPherson, who's been assigned to solve the murder of rising advertising executive Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney). The movie opens on McPherson visiting and interviewing Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) - who we first see in the bath with a typewriter on a stand over the tub. It's both an absurd and brilliant character introduction, as Lydecker is a newspaper writer and all-around personality and asshole who was a close friend of Laura's. He trails McPherson throughout the film as McPherson interviews Laura's fiancée (a very young Vincent Price) and her various society friends.

The movie is sometimes referred to as "Film Noir" these days and it certainly has elements of that - an obsessed detective, a bitter friend, a beautiful dead woman - but I think it's better seen simply as a mystery. Great dialogue, very good acting (Webb hadn't made a major film in 14 years, but he got a well-deserved Oscar nomination for supporting actor), and some unexpected twists amount to what I think is one of the best movies of the time. Great stuff.