|"Are you for real, it's so hard to tell..." Wait, wrong song.|
Andrews is the detective here, and yet for a role that is practically the straight-guy - that is, the one without the same levels of personality as Webb and Price - he delivers the goods as well. There's a scene where he is alone in Lydecker's apartment at night, pondering details, having drinks like any good private dick in a film noir, and stares at the portait of Laura. For a moment I almost wondered if Preminger would go into the surreal - is Laura's return for "real"? It's that convincing of a film noir world, of the unexpected, of the subterfuge coming up over and over, of the 'disguises', that it could have been plausible, if only for a moment.
Of course, this is Hollywood in 1944, a studio production under Zanuck, so it can't get TOO crazy. What Laura provides for the viewer, most so for someone looking for a solid example of what film noir was, is mystery and intrigue, and Motivations with a capital M. You know there are some slippery characters, and this includes an older woman who admits at a key point to the main character that she *could* conceive of committing murder (though she doesn't). When you have actors playing these people, becoming them even, you know something is up through the first half, you don't quite know what it is, and neither does Andrews' detective. And he may be tricky too: is he falling for her? One can hope, at this point, that it's not so - even if she may be what she appears to be... or she isn't, who knows?
You want to go along for the 'ride' in Laura because of the personalities, and what can turn on a dime in an instant. Preminger keeps the screws tight with the plot, but also manages to get a helluva lot of spectacular images. Sometimes it's just the placement of four people in a frame, showing the depth of the composition, with those blinds-through-the-window providing that light that gives everything a further mystery. One might find it a cliché today, but Preminger is among those creating the language of noir (at the same time as Wilder with Double Indemnity, at least in part with Hitchcock), and it all adds to the material.
|Clifton Webb of the Living Dead|