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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.

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Laura (1944)


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#41 MCannady1

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Posted 06 December 2015 - 06:23 PM

I wonder how the book portrayed Waldo.    I know that in the book Waldo meets Laura for the first time in a court and helps her.  So I wonder how close the Waldo character in the book is to the one we see in the movie as played by Webb.   

 

But I do get your point here.    For a man to kill a women he loves because of rejection it usually takes a very strong sexual attraction and the associated rejection.    That type of attraction isn't found in the film.

I read the book several years ago and Waldo was just as acid-tongued there.  I think Clifton was remarkable here.  AS a young child I saw this one on TV and assumed the motive was jealousy because Laura was going to marry someone else.  So the physical side may be underplayed very cleverly, but the older man really cared for Laura.  Nope, he did not go for Andrews.  Sorry - not just the potshots he took at him, but we really get the picture as it unravels.  What a frightening thing to have happened!  (WHat a terrible way to exact revenge, but do not want to spoil it).  Though he is portrayed as a severe critic and lonely bachelor he was internally very lonely.  Laura had all the wonderful qualities he had ever wanted in a woman. 

Yes,  I read the other things years later about Clifton.  Aside from that, he enacted the top superb performance of his life when he actually became - for a brief time - Waldo Lydecker, the former cynic.


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#42 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 18 November 2015 - 06:53 PM

I wanted to add something (an analogy) to my criticism about Webb being miscast in LAURA. We would never expect little Herve Villachaize from Fantasy Island to be cast as Superman. He is not the man of steel type. Similarly casting Clifton Webb, an obviously effeminate man in the role of a jealous heterosexual like Waldo Lydecker seems equally strange. 

 

As I said earlier, he should have been more like a doting uncle to Laura Hunt, and he should have thought he accidentally killed her and then tried to cover it up. And at the end, afraid he'd go to jail for an attempted murder, and all these new complications with her back in town, he just decides to finish the job and commit murder. Instead, we have a story where a transparently gay man is obsessing over and not wanting any other man to have her-- why? It makes no sense, unless he wants access to her clothes and her men. Webb's persona and his attraction for Dana Andrews makes him wrong for this role as written.

 

I wonder how the book portrayed Waldo.    I know that in the book Waldo meets Laura for the first time in a court and helps her.  So I wonder how close the Waldo character in the book is to the one we see in the movie as played by Webb.   

 

But I do get your point here.    For a man to kill a women he loves because of rejection it usually takes a very strong sexual attraction and the associated rejection.    That type of attraction isn't found in the film.


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#43 TopBilled

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Posted 18 November 2015 - 09:12 AM

I wanted to add something (an analogy) to my criticism about Webb being miscast in LAURA. We would never expect little Herve Villachaize from Fantasy Island to be cast as Superman. He is not the man of steel type. Similarly casting Clifton Webb, an obviously effeminate man in the role of a jealous heterosexual like Waldo Lydecker seems equally strange. 

 

As I said earlier, he should have been more like a doting uncle to Laura Hunt, and he should have thought he accidentally killed her and then tried to cover it up. And at the end, afraid he'd go to jail for an attempted murder, and all these new complications with her back in town, he just decides to finish the job and commit murder. Instead, we have a story where a transparently gay man is obsessing over and not wanting any other man to have her-- why? It makes no sense, unless he wants access to her clothes and her men. Webb's persona and his attraction for Dana Andrews makes him wrong for this role as written.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#44 TopBilled

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Posted 16 November 2015 - 01:51 PM

How much of our perception of Webb is driven by our knowledge that he was gay?    Hey, maybe little to none but it is something we will never know. 

 

 

For me, all his screen work is driven by a knowledge that he is gay. I also feel this way with every Edward Everett Horton and every Franklin Pangborn screen performance. 

 

If they had modified the story to show that he was more avuncular, more pseudo-paternal and possessive of her time because he felt he had to protect her in an honorable sort of way (that backfired horribly) then I could go along with an effeminate actor. But the way Caspary wrote the story, he is supposed to be infatuated with, driven by lust for her, it is supposed to be a crime of passion. Laird Cregar would have projected that because you can see him lusting after women in some of his other roles. But we never see that with prissy Webb, so it takes me out of the story. Also, he does not succeed at muting his own desire for Dana Andrews, so that throws those scenes off and adds a layer of subtext unintended by the writer. 

 

I think after years of seeing this film people are conditioned to just accepting Webb in this role, but if you look closely, he is very miscast. It should be a man that lusts crazily after her, almost wants to rape Laura. He should be so driven to the extreme because he needs her sexually and she is not available to him, that he snaps. Webb just doesn't come to the table with that.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#45 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 16 November 2015 - 12:39 PM

He's fun to watch but it's clear that he's more attracted to Dana Andrews than Gene Tierney...which throws some of Waldo's motivation for obsessing about Laura right out the window. I think Laird Cregar would have been a bit more believable. 

 

How much of our perception of Webb is driven by our knowledge that he was gay?    Hey, maybe little to none but it is something we will never know. 

 

When I first saw Laura decades ago I didn't know 1\4 of what I know today about 'classic' films and stars.    But years later I saw The Razor's Edge.   Here Webb clearly is playing a gay character.   I saw Laura shortly after that and the viewing of 'Edge' change how I viewed Webb in Laura.    Later on I saw Webb as Mr. Belevedere.   After that experience how I viewed Webb in Laura changed yet again.

 

Webb plays a similar character to Waldo in the noir film The Dark Corner  (he owns a art studio and is stuffy but not the whiner he is in Laura).   Again,  Webb is the romantic partner of a much younger women (this time his wife),  who is fooling around.    To me Webb pulls of this role fine.  

 

So what does that tell me?   I can't nail it down,  but it would suggest that in Laura the director was trying to suggest something that wasn't hinted at,  at all,  in The Dark Corner. 

 

Related to the casting of Cregar;  If he was cast and you were the director would you have had him play the part differently?   e.g. less fussy?  Cregar was great at playing an obsessive character and Waldo was clearly obsessive but Waldo also had other traits (one being that he was an older man).    If Cregar was cast what other traits would you have had Cregar do differently than how Webb played Waldo. 



#46 TopBilled

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Posted 16 November 2015 - 08:16 AM

This is definitely one film noir that is one of my favorites. Anyone else think Clifton Webb was remarkable in this?

He's fun to watch but it's clear that he's more attracted to Dana Andrews than Gene Tierney...which throws some of Waldo's motivation for obsessing about Laura right out the window. I think Laird Cregar would have been a bit more believable. 


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#47 faceinthecrowd

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Posted 16 November 2015 - 06:47 AM

This is definitely one film noir that is one of my favorites. Anyone else think Clifton Webb was remarkable in this?

He was the best thing about the movie.



#48 NickAndNora34

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Posted 15 November 2015 - 10:52 PM

This is definitely one film noir that is one of my favorites. Anyone else think Clifton Webb was remarkable in this?


"Playing with matches, a girl can get burned." -Fiddler on the Roof 





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