Black screen. Voice from beyond the grave : « I'll always remember the day Laura died ». An epigraph which sounds like an epitaph. The story can begin.
A modern Pygmalion, Waldo Lydecker (a famous mundane aristocratic columnist) takes under his guidance a young advertiser, Laura . He makes her his « creature » and leads her to success and fame. She meets Selby, a womanizer, a gigolo who seduces her into marrying. Before it happens, she is murdered. Inspector Mc Pherson leads the investigation.
Laura is a movie about the power of creation and desire but also a landmark in film noir. Indeed, Peminger is one of the numerous Austrian directors exiled to Hollywood and who contributed so much to the history of cinema. Think about Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Eric Von Stroheim ! They were brought up under the double influence of German expressionism and psychoanalysis.
Let's come back to the plot. Of course, every clue leads to Waldo , the perfect culprit. He regarded Laura as his and couldn't stand her belonging to the weak, cheap and vulgar Selby. He looks like a British aristocrat, arrogant, superior and scornful.
Mc Pherson interrogates him first and it is through him, through his telling that we discover Laura. From an obscure desk clerk he made her famous, chose her dresses, hats, perfume, hairdo. He introduced her to important, influent people. Doing so, he fell in love with his creature. He speaks about her with an evident, but discreet passion. He is so talented that he creates her a second time with the sheer power of words and story telling. And this time, it is Mc Pherson who falls for her. The problem is that falling in love with a fictive character or with a dead woman is a delicate matter.
Indeed Mc Pherson isn't an intellectual like Waldo. He is the American common man, not brainy but clever, physical. He doesn't want Laura for her beauty, vibrance or the pleasure of her company. He wants her as a woman, as a creature of flesh and bone to be possessed.
He spends hours in her flat searching for clues but also looking at her portrait, reading her letters, smelling her perfume, touching her underwear. He desperately tries to « give a body » to his desire.
When suddenly, in the middle of the night, as he has just fallen asleep, Laura reappears. Revived by his desire ?
Anyway the investigation now takes a new direction : if Laura is alive who is the victim ? And who killed her ? And what if Laura was the killer ? An above all, who is Laura going to choose, now that she has three suitors ?
It is a movie about the power of creation and the importance of imagination in every desire (think about Scottie and Madeleine in Vertigo for instance).
But how can you lead an investigation when you're in love ? You arrest her just to be alone with her, you turn on a light to see the beauty of a face, you turn it off revealing your feelings.
The roles are perfectly cast. Clifton Web is Waldo, Dana Andrews is Mc Pherson and Vincent Price Selby. Last but not least, Laura is embodied (what an appropriate word!) by the sublime Gene Tierney.
You'll never forget the day you saw Laura !
- Otto Preminger
A police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he's investigating.