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.