We're excited to present a great new set of boards to classic movie fans with tons of new features, stability, and performance.

If you’re new to the message boards, please “Register” to get started. If you want to learn more about the new boards, visit our FAQ.

Register

If you're a returning member, start by resetting your password to claim your old display name using your email address.

Re-Register

Thanks for your continued support of the TCM Message Boards.

X

Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

X

Jump to content


Photo

Daily Dose of Darkness #5: Soaking in Noir (The Opening Scene of Laura)


484 replies to this topic

#1 roblevy

roblevy

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 55 posts
  • LocationSt. Louis, MO

Posted 12 July 2017 - 12:27 AM

1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  

 

​It is interesting how often times you do not actually see the person talking. You hear them nearby or she walks into a room and hears them speak. You also have her react when she hears things, like when she is holding the knife and gets jarred. 

2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 

He treats the film like a silent film in execution but allows little bits for dialogue and spoken word so that it can be used. You see her being staged in movement and body language as someone in a silent film, but then you hear sound. It is a bit of a shock sometimes when you actually hear spoken parts. This is because Hitchcock has done a great job of moving back and forth between the mediums.

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? 

​I think it was a necessity in the transition from silent film to talkies and would not be really needed for other films. In films today it would slow things down.



#2 Thief12

Thief12

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 123 posts

Posted 31 July 2015 - 07:39 PM

Although I was sidelined during most of the week, I got back to my rewatch of most of the DD's in the course. Looking back at the scene, I found it interesting how Lydecker's room is full of "faces". The face in the statue, the many faces hanging on the wall... Since I haven't seen the film yet, it makes me wonder if Lydecker is indeed a man of "many faces". Certainly the man narrating the story doesn't seem like the same man we meet in the bathtub, which is something that I think several here commented on.

#3 princesslovesreporter

princesslovesreporter

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 9 posts

Posted 18 July 2015 - 12:39 PM

I've always loved the opening line to "Laura." What a way to introduce a movie! I love how the opening camera shots sweep across the room and show you all sorts of interesting facts about the setting. I could definitely see what Nino Frank meant by this being a "charming character study of furnishing and faces." Just by looking at the surroundings, you can tell that Waldo Lydecker is going to be an interesting character for McPherson to interact with. You can tell that he is a very observant detective by the way he examines the objects in the room. I love how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker. The interview in the bathtub with the typewriter is so memorable. It tells you that Waldo is a very eccentric character who is probably uninhibited and will be interesting to watch in the film. 



#4 nattygann37

nattygann37

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 7 posts

Posted 18 July 2015 - 12:07 AM

How fortunate you got to see Laura for the first time when you were just 12 years old!  I was an adult when I first saw it, but it has since become one of my favorite noirs.  I liked how you referenced the Clute and Edwards podcast on Laura.  In it, Mr. Edwards says so poignantly that Laura has both "shimmering beauties" and "hideous and ugly truths" which to me is one of the reasons I really like it; not all noir pictures have "shimmering beauties" against which to contrast their darkness.  

 

Preminger was interested in the "gimmick" of this film--I regrettably don't have the source at the moment but that is what he said about why he was attracted to the film.  He liked the non-traditional plot twist at the center of the film, which I won't state here for those who haven't seen it yet.

 

Another point you might make with your brother is that as we learned in one of our previous units, noir isn't just about visual style.  It also has to do with narrative structure and components such as flashbacks and voice-overs.  Laura has both of these.  I also think the segments with Waldo, especially after Laura has started cancelling her dates with him, and he starts taking in personally, are the most noir-ish in the film visually, more so than those with Detective MacPherson, or Shelby, or the other characters.  Consider the scene where Waldo throws his cigarette in the fireplace, and when he goes out for a walk in the snow and spies Laura with someone in her apartment.  These scenes have remarkable play of light and shadow.  

 

Plus, Joseph LaShelle won the Oscar for cinematography for this film.  Yes, the film is classically staged and even static in some respects, a drawing room who-dun-it.  But as Clute and Edwards point out it is an important transitional film because it's translating light from Hollywood's Golden Age (just check out those Tierney closeups) toward a more skeptical and even sinister time reflected in later films such as Sunset Blvd. and Out of the Past.  LaShelle's cinematography leans more toward the classical than does say Musuraca's in Out of the Past.  But Laura has a Black Pony in her cabinet, so she's not all cream cheese and sunshine.



#5 spelcastr_max

spelcastr_max

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 12 posts

Posted 16 July 2015 - 02:31 AM

Laura is literally one of my favorite films of all time thanks to my mom sitting me down to watch it when I was 12. Interestingly, my old brother did not see it until we were both in our 30s. He is a huge fan of Noir (Fritz Lang is his favorite director) so it surprised me that it took him so long to watch Laura. And when he did - he said it was good, but it wasn't noir!

 

I was annoyed, but I didn't know how to properly back up my defense of Otto Preminger's brilliant, subtle murder mystery. Then, I listened to the Noir podcast about Laura and watched the Daily Dose of Darkness. What I loved the most was that the podcast stated straight out that Laura is an Noir that was meant not to look like a Noir. It was dressed up as a typical Hollywood love story or drama with lush sets and charming characters. Then, enter this gruff and quiet detective and suddenly you notice the strategically placed shadows, the blurred faces, and the darkness underlining every aspect of a film trying to catch its audience off-guard.

 

What do you all think? Did Preminger do this to trick the censors or to sneak a noir under the noses of a new audience? Or do you think he did it simply as a way to dress up the story and better present the characters?


  • nattygann37 and Mom of 4 Great Ones like this

#6 roblevy

roblevy

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 55 posts
  • LocationSt. Louis, MO

Posted 15 July 2015 - 06:03 PM

One difference is there is a conversation between the characters throughout. so this scene is not as desolate in texture. there is a lonely road and darkness but it is secondary to what is happening with the cars.

 

Second, the other scenes did not have a car chase or even a sequence involving other cars that was this intense or seemingly perilous.

 

The twist is that they were ordinary people corrupted as it were by having a bag of money thrust upon them.

 

The idea of a normal couple resonates with the idea that Postwar America was full of working ordinary folks trying to get by. America emerged form the war as a nation of good and decent people, so moviegoers wanted to see good people who were not shades of grey. Also the movie and to appeal to a broader audience.

 

The style of using darkness, shadow and moving cameras is intrinsically noir. The theme of desolation and isolation are also important as well.

 



#7 She_Believed

She_Believed

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 11 posts
  • LocationMinneapolis

Posted 14 July 2015 - 11:52 PM

Laura is the movie that started it all for me -- It was the first classic movie I ever saw, and I fell hopelessly in love with classic hollywood, Dana Andrews, film noir, and black and white movies all in one fell swoop. It was love at first sight and I never looked back! 

 

But, in all seriousness... This has to be one of the most unusual opening scenes. The voiceover pulls us in with a sense of magic and poetry, all fluff and a writer's vocabulary. Then the camera pans over the most exquisite and lavish hall that you first think you're looking at a museum, until you're invited into the gentleman's equally lavish bathroom along with the surprised detective and you proceed to watch them circle each other with well-written dialogue until a mutual respect fills the air. And all the while your eyes are treated with more furnishings to look at than one knows what to do with, especially since all one truly needs is their attention on the magnificent acting going on center screen. I think this is what Nino Frank meant when he said Laura was a "charming character study of furnishings and faces". There's beauty in every frame, be it the art on the walls or the actors themselves. This movie is eye candy, if you ask me. But like I said, I fell for Dana Andrews years ago -- I may not be the most objective party here to make that observation! 

 

Laura is one of those movies that no matter how many times I've seen it, if it's playing on TCM I'll watch it. It never gets old, and it never loses its appeal. It is a brilliant example of noir, and of classic hollywood at a turning point in film history. Andrews plays a brooding, misunderstood but vulnerable and eventually lovable character, while the rest of the cast is perfectly matched in their roles as the quintessential and necessary noir lot of characters. Each actor is like a puzzle piece and when they play their roles on screen in this movie they fit right into their place in the puzzle. Barely a misstep the whole movie through... but now I'm just gushing, and no longer analyzing.

 

I think I need to watch it again and report back... it's been a few months since I saw it last. I must be a bit rusty, eh?   


  • claudia22 likes this

-- 

molly murphy
 
"She 
 believed
 she could.
 So, 
 she did."
      - Unknown

 


#8 moovipassion2

moovipassion2

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 17 posts

Posted 14 July 2015 - 12:21 AM

I believe that Frank's references to the film being " a character study of furnishings and faces," is in the overt lavish style of the room's decor. As the camera pans around the room we see exquisite paintings, sculptures,crystal and a wall ladened with masks of ancient gods/ goddesses. As the camera opens to the two characters (Lydecker and McPherson) dialogue,we are better able to see into their personalities by the way they talk to each other and in their facial expressions.From Lydecker's narrative we assume that he is a wealthy, pompous,well bread,elitist. When we see him,all of our assumptions about him are confirmed by his mannerisms and in the superior way he speaks to McPherson. However, McPherson's verbal responses and facial expressions, particularly, do not fall short in reflecting great disdain for the rich and famous, either. I believe opening the scene with these two characters was to establish a basis for the ensuing conflict (where differences are made between the social status of the haves/ have-nots) where desire,temptation and passion for the taste of opulence would build and collide to the ultimate tragic demise of Laura.
Lydecker's introduction was a unique way of showing the audience an in depth view into the soul of the character who would ,perhaps, be the catalyst that brings everything to a head--- and quite possibly may have caused the death of Laura. Or, at the very least may have contributed to it in some way. Lydecker's flare for the theatrical certainly let's us know how much he was emotionally invested in her (in his reference to her having the same clock and in his grief strickened tone of voice). Could it be that he mistook their friendship to mean much more?

The opening was a twist in getting the audience involved into the lives of these characters. In seeing the lavishly styled decor as the character goes on and on in the narrative about what has transpired we get a different take of the point of view perspective, we don't just look through his eyes; this time we see his soul. We see what motivates him, his drive, ambitions...what makes him tick.

#9 forlorn_rage

forlorn_rage

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts

Posted 13 July 2015 - 11:00 PM

Lyddecker’s apartment is “lavish,” spotless, and devoid of humanity; more akin to a museum than a home. It is filled with “priceless” clay and glass items, hanging decorations, statues, antique grandfather clock (identical to the only other one which would have significance later on), lamps, ornate furniture, etc. Even his bathroom is huge, the size of a master bedroom, fully equipped with furnishings.

 

Many film noir contend with the seedy underbelly of a particular city. Laura does the opposite in exploring the deeper, personal aspects that lay underneath the polite, civil veneer that make up the upperclass social circle of Laura Hunt. Mark McPherson is the one “face” that’s essentially from the outside looking in. In investigating the murder, he gradually starts unmasking the characters as they are. McPherson even, at one point, goes from being the outsider to being swept away with the case, himself.  

 

Back to the introduction, it is interesting that despite being in a (for other people) normally “compromising” position of being naked in the tub, Lydecker doesn’t show alarm, modesty, or even surprise. In fact, he had been watching McPherson survey his house through the “half open door” and is very well-prepared when he invites the detective in, to keep him from messing with one of his precious artifacts. The audience is treated to a premeditated, calculated introduction of Waldo Lydecker, to the point where he even had statement ready to read in the bathtub. When McPherson asks why he had his statement typed out, Lydecker insists he is “the most widely misquoted man in America” and would find it “intolerable” to be misquoted by the police.   

 

Another interesting aspect of the introduction is, visuals aside, McPherson and Lydecker are fascinating characters, revealing so much with so little, including what they do or don’t have in common. Both men are very snarky. With Lydecker, it is expected since he is a newspaper columnist, but McPherson is just as equipped at holding his own against Lydecker. McPherson is already familiar with who he is and is amused by him. When Lydecker finds out the detective’s identity and reputation, he is equally intrigued.

 

Eventually, Mark does get down to business when he confronts Lydecker with a description of a past murder victim, which while false for that particular person, matches the description of Laura Hunt’s murder. Considering the film’s ultimate conclusion, the introduction does an excellent job steering away suspicion form a particular suspect. It also effectively draws the audience in to follow the two men who have and will have such prominent influences with the central subject: Laura. 



#10 arblas

arblas

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 9 posts

Posted 09 July 2015 - 03:44 PM

I love the dialogue in the opening scene of Laura.



#11 Osfan

Osfan

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 59 posts

Posted 03 July 2015 - 06:10 PM

The camera moves languorously over  his extremely well appointed apartment as we hear Waldo Lydecker's voice say, "I'll never forget the weekend that Laura died". We see detective McPherson surveying the belongings, giving a slight sneer as he views a group of masks hanging on a wall. We hear Lydecker reprimand McPherson for touching an object and then command him to enter an adjoining room, which turns out to be a lavish bathroom and Lydecker is soaking in cool water to beat the heat. Preminger's decision to introduce us to Waldo in this way was very bold- most likely the first time that a male character played his opening scene in this manner. In giving us such wide shots to take in the surroundings, Preminger is telling us that this is a well educated, well travelled erudite individual. And we can ascertain from his dialogue that he is superior, condescending and quite persnickety. McPherson, on the other hand, seems distant and reserved- taking it all in and keeping his judgements to himself. Preminger also gives us a great bit of foreshadowing when Lydecker makes mention of the clock, and McPherson's attention to it.    



#12 Monty

Monty

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 17 posts

Posted 27 June 2015 - 03:26 PM

One advantage of starting a movie out with a first-person voice-over is that it allows a film to establish a character before they've actually done anything. The first character on screen in Laura is a detective who doesn't do much right away aside from look at a clock. But Waldo Lydecker is already drawing the audience's attention the through his narration, even though he doesn't appear for a few minutes.

 

The frame of the camera is very important in the opening scene. The characters can see to where the audience can't; Waldo is offscreen, but talking to us. The detective can see Waldo's naked body, but we can't. Even when Waldo tells the detective to take a seat, we expect him to sit in the comfortable chair we can see, but he walks to a wooden chair we couldn't. The whole movie turns out to be about things the characters know but that the audience (at first) doesn't.



#13 felipe1912t

felipe1912t

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 59 posts

Posted 27 June 2015 - 11:19 AM

The cahrming characters are there indeed! Instead of a number of players already known by its preominence in many other releases, Otto Preminger's 'Laura' presents us with an excentric bio right at the beginning of the plot. The writer not only receives the detective while taking bath, but also contradicts him wisely after being questioned about a murder. It is a clever way to put audiences in doubt about what happened so Laura was killed. There is not a clear good/bad guy distinction here, what this is what makes it more interesting than anything.

For me, the great contribution to noir style is exactly that: to question the audiences and to make the narratives more and more seductive and complex. The basic formula was getting improved!



#14 skootie116

skootie116

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 36 posts

Posted 25 June 2015 - 05:48 PM

 

1. What examples do you see that fit with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces?"

 

Some examples of a character study of furnishings and faces in Laura come from Lydecker, and some from McPherson. Lydecker's narration reveals him to be a self-important, verbose snob, wedded to trappings of taste, but his "lavish" (his word) abode shows ostentation among his ecelectic collection, which includes masked faces.

 

Or are they death masks? He wears a mask himself which McPherson sees through, as when McPherson reads him a column written 2 years ago that Lydecker wrote about which had a similar M.O. that killed Laura: a shotgun, point-blank. This indicates the research done by the detective, something the 2 previous detectives overlooked. Lydecker refers to him admiringly because McPherson carries gun wounds in his leg as a reminder of his past courage.

 

Although McPherson himself has no taste (he's intrigued by double-blown glass, dose not close the glass door after opening the case of "treasures" nor does he actually stop to admire the grandfather clock; he merely checks his own watch against the time on the piece.

 

The idea is to demonstrate that one man lacks "taste in furnishings" while the other has bought every taste he could, to give an impression of good taste and character. They are opposites in both furnishings and character.

 

 

2. What do you think about how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker in this scene?

 

Preminger knows his audience will at first be taken in by W.L. as the narrator, the wealthy wit, the extravagant collector who is seemingly comfortable in his own skin while still puffing up his ego with self-congratulatory recognition of Mark McPherson's history.The director depicts W.L. sitting above others (his bath has a step), exalted by his power of the written word to influence, yet he assures us that W.L. is essentially harmless, as we glimpse his lightweight anatomy. Had Preminger excluded that angle, we'd have not seen the bony chest.

 

 

3. In what ways can the opening of Laura be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

Many noir films begin outside, much as we viewers are "outsiders," and then "enter" a noir world, the way we watch ourselves go inside the mind and matter of the main character.

 

Laura, on the other hand, opens within the world of the narrator, not only withIN, but he is IN a tub, naked, so the viewer sees him truly from the inside-out, not the outside-in. Despite this, we wonder about his vulnerability.

 

Thank you for this well-observed post.  And...thank you for your work.



#15 Tura

Tura

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 6 posts

Posted 25 June 2015 - 03:51 PM

Laura is a charming character study of objects and faces, largely because objects and faces are what Preminger decided to focus on, at least in the film's first scene. Without showing us Lydecker himself, the visuals tell us everything we need to know about him. He is wealthy, well travelled, and has feminine tastes. There is a portrait of Laura over his fireplace, which tells us that she was important to him - but the portrait is nearly eclipsed by the other items in his collection which may mean that he considered Laura part of that collection.

 

-- What do you think about how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker in this scene?

 

I love the introduction of Lydecker. We meet him first through his voice, then through his posessions, and by the time we get around to meeting him in person we have already formed an oppinion. Waldo Lydecker is an efeet snob who believes he is more clever than everyone else in the world. He is an unreliable narrator who is more interested in ideas and emotions than in facts- and although the censors would never have allowed him to admit it, he is also a homosexual. This is made clear by his effeminate decorating style, the disregard he has for appearing nude before a male stranger, and the way that the detective reacts when asked to hand him the washcloth. He tosses it disdainfully, and does the same with the robe. 

 

-- In what ways can the opening of Laura be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

I think it is important because of how well it sets the stage for the rest of the film, also the idea of having a narration over the opening scene rather than just jumping into the action seems like a hallmark of noir.



#16 magpie55

magpie55

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 12 posts

Posted 23 June 2015 - 06:54 PM

Lydecker is arguably the most important character in the film (aside from Laura herself) and the catalyst for the action. The film introduces us to him through his surroundings, and his voice over. Narration leading us into the character's world is a standard noir device, we expect the protagonist to be a Chadler style "hard boiled" detective, or cop, and we expect a dark, or high contrast, "street" type environment. In this case we see an elegant, expensively furnished apartment, letting us know that the narrator is well off, and a man of somewhat sophisticated and "refined" tastes. He contrasts with the next character to appear in the film, the police detective investigating the case. The detective, played by Dana Andrews, is more stereotypically noir-ish. Unimpressed by Lydecker's elegant surroundings, and not taken in by Lydecker's initial recounting of events, the detecting isn't even thrown off course by Lydecker receiving him in his bath. In this way, he resembles Philip Marlowe in the opening sequence of the Big Sleep, without the irony and humor of Marlowe.



#17 Heserrano

Heserrano

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 10 posts

Posted 23 June 2015 - 11:16 AM

Usually, in films noir, we are asked to identify with the detective, the one who is trying to figure things out, and we follow him around, as he investigates. But with 'Laura' the v/o of Waldo Lydecker, who is "the only one who *really* knows Laura* puts us at odds with our usual way into a film noir. We aren't the least bit like Waldo (unless you're watching the film in a fancy marble soaking tub), but we are asked to identify with him instead of the investigator, the one we feel more like.



#18 billybaker

billybaker

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 12 posts

Posted 21 June 2015 - 12:23 AM

Our introduction to Lydecker is his voice, but our visual introduction is not to him, but rather to his things.  These things are lavish, but they are also fragile; the first words Lydecker says to the detective are, "Careful there, that stuff is priceless."  When Lydecker tells the detective, "My version was obviously superior" and "I never bother with details you know," you receive clues that Lydecker is perhaps an unreliable narrator.  At 0:54, Detective McPherson seems to hold pose with the masks, all looking the same direction; we soon realize he is looking at the clock.  The camera follows McPherson's slow but deliberate steps.  We first meet him after a slow pan across the room.  In contrast, there is a very quick pan to our first visual encounter with Lydecker.



#19 Marianne

Marianne

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 709 posts
  • LocationGreater Boston area

Posted 20 June 2015 - 03:46 PM

I am glad you brought up the differences in job classifications and social placement. for years I have been doing mental math about Laura's entry and then subsequent success in the design field. I know things might have been different in the 40's, but first, she was a woman trying to enter the field. Maybe because of the year the movie was made, or when Vera Caspary wrote the book, ladies were able to jump into job opportunities because most of the men were in the military fighting the War. But then, from all that I can surmise, she seems to be about 17 (!!!) as she tries to make her first inroads, and then with the "right contacts," transforms into a successful top designer of imagery for advertising, quick as a bunny! Wait! When did she have time to learn keyline and paste up or was she just able to jump over these lower job tasks? Shall we take her to be the precursor of Peggy and Joan of Mad Men, but without the late nights and client rejections?

I just picked up a library copy of Laura -- an edition published in 1943. The author bio for Vera Caspary on the back cover is hoot:

". . . gone free to nearly every New York night club"; "A genius in selling things by mail . . . ."

And underneath that is a logo of a soldier with the following: "For Victory Buy United States War Bonds and Stamps."

I'm almost (almost) afraid the pages will tear in my hands, but I am really looking forward to reading it.



#20 Glad

Glad

    Newbie

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 6 posts

Posted 19 June 2015 - 09:08 PM

This fits into descriptions of Noir through the contrast of the viewer being able to carefully examine the room's furnishings before swing the characters. During this time there is the voice over by the narrator informing of his POV.



Reply to this topic



  


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users