Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Forgotten Movies: LAURA



Well, certainly not forgotten. But I hadn't seen it in 30 years and I was again swept away what must surely be one of the greatest films of the genre. Beautifully cast with Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, and Judith Anderson, Preminger brought a magic touch to it. Such good dialogue and so little fat in it. Great theme song by Raksin with help from Ravel. It couldn't be better.

A little info about the painting here.  

And this from THE ART OF THE FILM-LAURA. 
This portrait is truly stunning. But there's more to the story of it. The movie is based on the book by Vera Caspary, published in 1942. The description of the portrait in the book is significantly different than this portrait. Notably, the description reads, in part, "Jacoby had caught the fluid sense of restlessness in her body, perched on the arm of a chair, a pair of yellow gloves in one hand, a green hunter's hat in the other." The difference is significant because the book version of the story paints (if you'll pardon the pun) quite a different picture of the three main characters: Lydecker, McPherson and Laura. In the film, Laura is all feminine elegance (as she is portrayed in the portrait) and McPherson is all masculine bravado. But the book (written by a woman, mind you) emphasized that Laura was a "modern woman" which was code at that time for a woman who lived with the freedoms of a man. And while the movie alludes to McPherson's leg injury, the book tells us that he spent a year in the hospital recuperating and that during that time, he read many books and became more cultured and sensitive, as a result. This book is about two people stepping out of their assigned gender roles and being intrigued by each other as a like-minded, fully evolved human. Part of McPherson's fascination with the portrait (one might assume from context) is that it was NOT traditionally feminine or elegant. Laura has gloves and a hunter's hat, meaning she is ready for sport, not an evening on the town. She is active, athletic. And it is significant that she (and the artist) chose to portray her in this way and NOT in elegant evening wear. So, beautiful as this portrait may be, it is an example of Hollywood watering down an interesting, complex and progressive story into tired old gender cliches. Read the book. It's way more inter

12 comments:

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Raksin, not Raskin, an easy mistake to make. I love his music. In fact I like everything about this one.

George said...

I want to drop everything and watch LAURA again! They just don't make movies like this any more. Inside we get trash like SUICIDE SQUAD.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm an old man but I don't think I've ever watched a movie made before 1950 or so.

Richard Robinson said...

This is a gem, certainly. There was a colorized version, but I think it may have been short-lived.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

I've looked all over the Internet for a copy of that portrait of Gene Tierney, and haven't found one. It is breathtaking. I gather it was a fake, paint daubed on a photograph for the movie. But I'd buy a copy in a heartbeat if I could. Study it, if you will, and discover the most stunning portrait you've ever seen. You can Google it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

So easy to see why he fell in love with her.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow, Charles. As a kid, didn't you watch movies on TV? Or old movies replayed at your local theater. I would say I have seen as many movies before 1950 as after. What about the Tarzan movies?

Jennifer Croissant said...

Patti, Danny Peary included LAURA in his first book of 100 cult movies from 1981 (a marvelous book by the way) alongside other classics like THE WIZARD OF OZ and SINGIN` IN THE RAIN, i think it was the greatest complement ever paid to that movie because Peary is a true film connoisseur and movie buff.

Jennifer Croissant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, my, Patti, this was my mother-in-law's top film! Such a treat to see it here.

Yvette said...

Good news! LAURA is currently being streamed over at Netflix.

Kathy D. said...

I saw this movie again a few years ago after it was discussed on a blog. And I noticed things I hadn't noticed before.

But I think I should see it again soon. Everything about this film is well-done, the cast superb.

Gene Tierney was,of course, stunning, although she had a troubled life. But the movie is a classic, one of the best of them.