Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Laura" Starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews

Laura (1944) is set among New York City’s upper crust, with Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigating the murder of beautiful advertising executive Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney). The suspects are some of her closest friends and associates including fiancé (Vincent Price), aunt (Judith Anderson), and mentor (Clifton Webb).

When production on Laura  started, no one believed that the end product would be worth seeing. From the beginning the project was problematic. Arguments between studio boss Darryl Zanuck and the original director, Rouben Mamoulian ended in Mamoulian being fired. Zanuck then assigned Otto Preminger, already the film’s producer, to be its director too. The only problem: Preminger had limited experience as a movie director. 

Under Preminger’s supervision, what began as a fairly ordinary murder mystery, turned out to be a critical and box office success. Tierney in the title role became a superstar and was forever identified with the beautiful, enigmatic Laura Hunt. Andrews, as Detective Mark McPherson, established himself as a major star and popular leading man. Webb, who hadn’t made a movie since the early days of talking pictures, earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Waldo Lydecker. Thomas M. Pryor, in his October 12, 1944 New York Times review called Laura “a top-drawer mystery.”

With some of the sharpest and wittiest dialogue ever recorded on film, Laura set the standard for 1940s film noir. Andrews’s portrayal of McPherson became a prototype for what would become known as the hard-boiled detective, influencing a generation of movie actors. Pryor from the Times put it this way: “Mr. Andrews is fast proving himself to be a solidly persuasive performer, a sort of younger-edition Spencer Tracy.”

The musical score by David Raksin is one of the most hauntingly beautiful movie themes ever recorded and will forever be associated with the enigmatic Tierney.


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