Replying without reading the others, looking forward to catching up with the discussion
What examples do you see that fit with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces?"
Well the first scene features faces as furnishings and the opulent, priceless, clearly collected objects around Lydecker's apartment speak to his character as someone who wants to possess beautiful and rare objects. This combines with the voiceover and the title to hint at his relationship with Laura from the very first scene.
-- What do you think about how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker in this scene?
Preminger builds to the visual introduction of Lydecker, throwing in a lot of fairly unsubtle coding about his effeminacy, introducing him naked in the bath in front of the police detective which again makes you wonder about what his relationship with Laura was, that it was unlikely to be a straightforward romantic one. His letting the detective go through his vitrines before stopping him when he was worried that he would break a precious object suggests that he is happy to stand back and take his own pleasures in manipulating the police but that he is possessive of his things and sees others as clumsy and beneath him and people who might accidentally break his treasures. This conveys his relationship with Andrew's character from the first. He is a voyeur but he has things the police might break/uncover.
-- In what ways can the opening of Laura be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?
The voice over, the cinematography, the clear and obvious dark secrets behind outward urban respectability. The starting of the movie after what would at face value be the climactic event, the murder of laura, to poke holes in peoples psyches and what led to that point.