LAURA (1944) B/W 88m dir: Otto Preminger
w/Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson, Dorothy Adams, James Flavin, Clyde Fillmore, Ralph Dunn, Grant Mitchell
In the course of a homicide investigation, a tough detective finds himself falling for the portrait of the dead woman. Pleasurable as both a suspense film and a love story, LAURA, based on the novel by Vera Caspary, is one of those happy accidents of compatibility that become Hollywood classics thanks to the perfect fusion of cast, director, screenplay, etc. The film is also blessed with David Raksin's haunting theme music and the ethereally lovely Tierney as Laura, "the face in the misty night."
From The Movie Guide: "The sleekest of Noirs, the chicest of murders, and deliciously twisted --- the detective is a necrophilliac, two of the title character's suitor's seem gay, and the Laura that all the men are vying for is a corpse with no face. Indeed LAURA goes the genre one further by taking apart the conventions, then putting them back together, and diving wholeheartedly into them for the finale --- a cocktail party denouement to name the killer. ...
"LAURA is a truly haunting story of obsession, with suitably poignant music provided by David Raksin (lyrics by Johnny Mercer). Originally, Otto Preminger was assigned only as producer, with [Fox] studio chieftain Darryl Zanuck offering the directing chore to Rouben Mamoulian. Part of the way into production, however, Zanuck fired Mamoulian and handed the reins over to Preminger. Preminger reshot Mamoulian's footage, replaced cinematographer Lucien Ballard with Joseph La Shelle (who won an Academy Award), and scrapped the Mamoulian costumes and sets --- including a portrait of Laura which Mamoulian's wife had painted."
Besides La Shelle's Best Cinematography Oscar, the film was also nominated for Best Director, Supporting Actor (Webb), Screenplay (Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein and Betty Reinhardt), and Art Direction (Lyle Wheeler, Leland Fuller, and Thomas Little).