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