Dr. Rich Edwards

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

485 posts in this topic

One of my many all-time favorite movies. Great musical score and set of characters. Waldo Lydecker is introduced in an unusual way showing that he's been around and has the confidence that nothing phases him so much so that he can't be bothered to get out of the tub when a detective visits in regards to the murder of Laura...someone he knows.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

-- What examples do you see that fit with Nino Frank's contention that Laura is a "charming character study of furnishings and faces?" A: The settings are pure luxury and the affluent people in those surroundings might be considered 'the beautiful people'? I'm not really certain about the precise meaning behind the comment, "charming character study of furnishings and faces". But, perhaps the critic's meaning is that Preminger added beautiful people and beautiful surroundings as an example of his film's affluent characters who live lush existences and still they are just as twisted and as the low-down as the average crook or gangster in the average formulaic and drab police drama?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The scene and the movie can be summed up in one word....OBSESSION!!! Clifton Webb's character with Laura's Memory and Dana Andrews' character with Laura's Portrait. I've often wondered if I could fall in love with a woman's portrait or her photo and the answer is...I haven't....Yet!! This movie has always been one of my all time favorites and I highly recommend it to any of you who haven't seen it yet.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Before I answer my three questions a little preface regarding my thoughts on Laura.

When I first viewed that opening, my thoughts were: I'm not watching this wierdo movie with that shriveled up man in the tub.   :wacko:  I gave it another chance after hearing this was one of the best film noirs. Laura is one of my favorite movies. I'm glad a gave it a second chance. Over the years I've learned to give the classics  I initially dislike a second chance. I'm glad I haven't watched Laura in a few months so I can give my answers with fresh eyes.

 

 

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

Most definitely the opening, Lydekker's house is over furnished. Laura is a mystery, but my goodness is it a study of faces. There are so many layers to Laura. I'm not surprised at the number of comments in this thread as Laura is like an onion, so many layers to this film. 

 

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

Hindsight is 20/20. I'm not giving spoilers, but I can see the opening as  cliff notes to the movie. The overdone furnishings, the clock, the bathtub scene, the way Lydekker talks to the detective,  typing in the bathtub!!.  Oh what a character.  Even though the movie is called Laura it could well be called Lydo because he is the one that holds your attention

 

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

Laura is textbook noir.  Because we have the voice-over and we already know someone is murdered. The setting is not so dark, but it's definitely a somber mood
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Before we see anything, we hear Lydecker's voice-over narration.  His voice and words are self-absorbed and fussy.  He is obviously spying on the detective, but how?  He is not in the same room!  When he see him, he is like Marat in his bath.  Also, it is very suspicious that his inaccurate description of the older murder is the same modus operandi that will kill Laura.  A very suspicious and dangerous character!  The detective should not be smirking at this guy!  I think that Nino Frank saw immediately that this was not like the other crime films that he had been watching.  It had a lot of style and sophisticaition, began with a voice over, and presents lots of layers of mystery.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Before I answer my three questions a little preface regarding my thoughts on Laura.

When I first viewed that opening, my thoughts were: I'm not watching this wierdo movie with that shriveled up man in the tub.   :wacko:  I gave it another chance after hearing this was one of the best film noirs. Laura is one of my favorite movies. I'm glad a gave it a second chance. Over the years I've learned to give the classics  I initially dislike a second chance. I'm glad I haven't watched Laura in a few months so I can give my answers with fresh eyes.

 

 

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

Most definitely the opening, Lydekker's house is over furnished. Laura is a mystery, but my goodness is it a study of faces. There are so many layers to Laura. I'm not surprised at the number of comments in this thread as Laura is like an onion, so many layers to this film. 

 

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

Hindsight is 20/20. I'm not giving spoilers, but I can see the opening as  cliff notes to the movie. The overdone furnishings, the clock, the bathtub scene, the way Lydekker talks to the detective,  typing in the bathtub!!.  Oh what a character.  Even though the movie is called Laura it could well be called Lydo because he is the one that holds your attention

 

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

Laura is textbook noir.  Because we have the voice-over and we already know someone is murdered. The setting is not so dark, but it's definitely a somber mood

 

LOL.....your first impression of the movie....very funny.....

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I cannot like Waldo Lydecker. He is pompous and one of those people better than everyone else. Yet his narration that begins "Laura" tells us what has happened and sets the scene. Setting the scene is essential in noir. Often we are informed on what had happened on is happening in one way or another. Lieut. McPherson is a policeman doing his job. He is detached yet curious - his actions examining Lydecker's "collection" tell me that. He is too professional to like or dislike Lydecker at this point. How any kind of relationship or communication proceeds between these two is yet to be determined as the story progresses.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lydecker's voice is heard, but the screen is black.  Then we see his apartment full of objets d'art, masks on the wall, cases, the clock (which is chiming).  All the time he is talking about Laura's death.  Then we see MacPherson standing on a shag rug.  You see his face as he looks into the case and touches an object.  Then he follows Lydecker's voice to the bathroom.  The camera quickly pans to Lydecker in the tub.  The entire scene shows Lydecker's personality.  He mentions he is the most misquoted man in America.  He becomes interested when he realizes MacPherson was a topic of his article.  Lydecker is someone who looks down on someone he is not interested in.  When there is interest, he changes.  He is also like a cat that likes to play with others just for the sake of doing it.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This noir opening attempts to lull you into complicity.  Film Noir loves off-putting.

The long pan around the room full of antiques establishes WL as a collector.

Preminger is setting us up for what is to follow - but the clues are subtle.

We are watching WL turn Tierney into :Laura" who, in the beginning, does not exist.

You are watching Pygmalion.  WL is so self assured that he knows that he can

manufacture Laura but he proves as the plot continues to prove that Laura was

unworthy of his creation and he "broke" the statue".  Great stuff!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The beginning of Otto Preminger’s Laura introduces the viewer to Waldo Lydecker through a voice-over of Lydecker giving a flowery description of the unseen meterological conditions outdoors while the camera pans slowly through the objets d’art in his luxurious, museum-like apartment.  The voice-over establishes the recent, horrible death of the titular Laura Hunt and the relationship Lydecker felt he had with her: “I . . . was the only one who really knew her.”  Lydecker also calls attention to the unusual standing clock in his apartment and notes that the only other one like it in the world is in Laura’s apartment.  It seems almost as if Lydecker views her as a precious objet d’art that has been taken from him.

 

 

Detective Mark McPherson wanders through the “museum” of Lydecker’s living area, and Lydecker’s dialogue with the detective begins when McPherson opens a glass case to pick up a fragile object displayed there.  As McPherson proceeds into the inner sanctum, we are surprised to see that Lydecker receives him while sitting in a bath.  And this is not just any bathtub!  No, it is situated like a throne commanding a spacious room replete with full-length windows, armchairs, fresh-cut flowers, and everything necessary for Lydecker to read and  compose while seated in his marble bath.

 

 

I feel that this introduction to Lydecker does support Nino Frank’s contention that Laura is “a charming character study of furnishings and faces.”  While Lydecker may be a supercilious æsthete, he is certainly an interesting character who awakens our curiosity about Laura and pulls us into the story.  I think it is interesting that the opening voice-over belongs to Lydecker and not to the detective, as one might find in many other films noir.  Finally, one cannot comment on Laura without mentioning the beautiful, haunting David Raksin theme that begins just three seconds into the movie as soon as Lydecker utters the words “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died.”  I’m not sure whether Raksin’s score can be considered a contribution to film noir, but it was certainly an unequaled contribution to film culture of that era.

 

 

A final, random observation — For some reason I was reminded of the voice-over opening of Hitchcock’s Rebecca, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” and the atmospheric Franz Waxman score.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

as I watch Laura for the umteenth time I notice each lavish piece of furniture but the clock has a starring role. I'm looking at the clock now as a clue but for some reason I never see Waldo as a suspect. He loves Laura. I sympathize with him and not this arrogant detective.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That part of the movie, obsessing over a picture. I never got it either.. The same technique was in the Woman in the Window.. Guys going goo goo over a portrait.  Maybe someone in cyper-world knows the historical background of falling in love with a painting.  Guess its like how the teeny boppers obsess over pictures of the heart throb that they see on magazines ???

The scene and the movie can be summed up in one word....OBSESSION!!! Clifton Webb's character with Laura's Memory and Dana Andrews' character with Laura's Portrait. I've often wondered if I could fall in love with a woman's portrait or her photo and the answer is...I haven't....Yet!! This movie has always been one of my all time favorites and I highly recommend it to any of you who haven't seen it yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

 

Based on the opening scene’s setting and dialogue, one gets the impression that Waldo is very wealthy, self-entitled, self-absorbed, arrogant, extremely intelligent (but in reality, perhaps not quite as intelligent as his ego allows) and fancies himself as possessing an Oscar Wilde caliber wit.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Several people have mentioned that Lydecker is writing an article. I should like to point out that he is actually writing Laura's story, as he states in the voice over.

 

Several people have caught Lydecker's "super power" of being able to see what the detective is handling in the next room through the partially opened door. But I don't know if anyone mentioned detective McPherson's "super power." He remembers that Lydecker wrote a column TWO YEARS ago and and the very bottom he switched to talking about a murder and got the murder weapon wrong. Talk about being well-read! Obviously McPherson has an encyclopedic memory or has thoroughly researched Lydecker before their encounter.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For better or worse, this meeting of adversaries reminds me of Columbo meeting one of his wealthy targets, right down to just one more question.

 

The wall of masks is an obvious reminder that people are not always as they seem.

 

The switch from voiceover to dialogue, and the rapid pan to the tub, are both breaks from the typical reality effect film style, but they are also subtly disturbing. This is not how things are supposed to be, which supports the plot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That part of the movie, obsessing over a picture. I never got it either.. The same technique was in the Woman in the Window.. Guys going goo goo over a portrait.  Maybe someone in cyper-world knows the historical background of falling in love with a painting.  Guess its like how the teeny boppers obsess over pictures of the heart throb that they see on magazines ???

Well, it is the ultimate in objectifying someone isn't it. A painting of a woman ISN'T that woman. A painting allows someone to project their own ideas of the "ideal woman" onto the picture. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Several things here. Waldo's apartment is decorated with attention to frills and finery (check out the lampshades) that are echoed in the decoration of Laura's apartment, which is somehow darker, and with an improbable curtain treatment that looks like a theater's proscenium arch. But, I digress.  In the opening, Lydecker asks McPherson for a washcloth, then his robe while naked in his bath. At a certain key moment in the dialogue, Waldo shoves his typewriter aside, thus exposing his midsection in the bathtub.  The smile of recognition from McPherson is about his knowledge that he may be being seduced.  Later in the story, Vincent Price (Shelby), Waldo, and Mark go to Laura's apartment in search of a key.  It falls on the floor, Shelby kneels to retrieve it, and Waldo remarks that he looks best on "all fours."  They register embarrassment.  The gay subtext is further established.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, it is the ultimate in objectifying someone isn't it. A painting of a woman ISN'T that woman. A painting allows someone to project their own ideas of the "ideal woman" onto the picture. 

Well, we cannot ignore that this is a woman of unusual beauty.  Of course this doesn't appear in the first clip we viewed this morning, but the indication that this lady is something really special is out there before we ever get a view of her or her portrait.  We don't know at this point either the manner in which she died.....which says alot about her killer.....should we spoil it for those who haven't seen this magnificent movie?  Discussion on this film could go on for days I think.....

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Every time I see this film, the first two things that catch my attention are the clock as well as the wall of masks - indicative of both time as well as faces (or the fact that people are not who they seem), I suppose.   Ok and then the next thing that gets me is that Lydecker is so casual about greeting the detective while he's in the bath.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The establishing shot of the Chinese statue in Lydecker's apartment sets the tone immediately of his character; this is an eccentric, educated, wealthy man as his museum quality collection shows. The camera pans through his collection. We also see he has a rooftop patio. Although at times gaudy, we see that Lydecker has gone to a lot of expense to furnish his home, even though his home is a museum which is shown in the collection on glass shelves in glass cases. The French clock to me doesn't seem to match the ancient artifacts he owns and then we find out Laura has the only other one in the world that he gave to her, tying them intricately together. (In hindsight we see why both the camera and McPherson look at the clock, and even Lydecker makes a point that McPherson is attracted to the clock.)

 

 

On the other hand, there is the offish detective McPherson who seems to smirk at Lydecker's mask collection and doesn't realize that one should only look and never touch the priceless items at the museum, as he reaches for an ancient double-headed bottle. McPherson is not the type to peruse museums on his days off. McPherson is from a different class of people than Lydecker and probably never studied ancient Greek art history in college, if he even went to college, as he probably took night classes at the local community college. The detective first meets Lydecker while Lydecker is seated in his marble tub, the king meets all his subjects this way. (It made me wonder if he met the two other detectives this way too.) Lydecker tells McPherson to sit down, and he does not sit on the leopard skin upholstered chair but takes a regular chair and turns it around, bar chair fashion, and sits down.

 

 

Ah, these are the two opposing forces in Laura's life.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

The beginning of Otto Preminger’s Laura introduces the viewer to Waldo Lydecker through a voice-over of Lydecker giving a flowery description of the unseen meterological conditions outdoors while the camera pans slowly through the objets d’art in his luxurious, museum-like apartment.  The voice-over establishes the recent, horrible death of the titular Laura Hunt and the relationship Lydecker felt he had with her: “I . . . was the only one who really knew her.”  Lydecker also calls attention to the unusual standing clock in his apartment and notes that the only other one like it in the world is in Laura’s apartment.  It seems almost as if Lydecker views her as a precious objet d’art that has been taken from him.

 

 

Detective Mark McPherson wanders through the “museum” of Lydecker’s living area, and Lydecker’s dialogue with the detective begins when McPherson opens a glass case to pick up a fragile object displayed there.  As McPherson proceeds into the inner sanctum, we are surprised to see that Lydecker receives him while sitting in a bath.  And this is not just any bathtub!  No, it is situated like a throne commanding a spacious room replete with full-length windows, armchairs, fresh-cut flowers, and everything necessary for Lydecker to read and  compose while seated in his marble bath.

 

 

I feel that this introduction to Lydecker does support Nino Frank’s contention that Laura is “a charming character study of furnishings and faces.”  While Lydecker may be a supercilious æsthete, he is certainly an interesting character who awakens our curiosity about Laura and pulls us into the story.  I think it is interesting that the opening voice-over belongs to Lydecker and not to the detective, as one might find in many other films noir.  Finally, one cannot comment on Laura without mentioning the beautiful, haunting David Raksin theme that begins just three seconds into the movie as soon as Lydecker utters the words “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died.”  I’m not sure whether Raksin’s score can be considered a contribution to film noir, but it was certainly an unequaled contribution to film culture of that era.

 

 

A final, random observation — For some reason I was reminded of the voice-over opening of Hitchcock’s Rebecca, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” and the atmospheric Franz Waxman score.

 

Yes, Raksin's gorgeous score can certainly be considered a contribution. and a huge one. Where would Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho be without the  haunting Bernard Hermann's gorgeous and unforgettable soundtracks??

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Several people have caught Lydecker's "super power" of being able to what the detective is handling in the next room through the partial door. But I don't know if anyone mentioned detective McPherson's "super power." He mentions that Lydecker wrote a column TWO YEARS ago and and the very bottom he switched to talking about a murder and got the murder weapon wrong. Talk about being well-read! Obviously McPherson has an encyclopedic memory or has thoroughly researched Lydecker before their encounter.

 

This may be an important aspect of the movie later on. If McPherson is smarter than he looks (or pretends), I can see how he'll quickly start tying things together under the shadows. I also was struck by the observation, and I think that the contrast and hubris of Lydecker in his comment about the piece being better writen, sets us up for a later conflict between reality and fantasy. Very excellent first scene. A lot to think about.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The establishing shot of the Chinese statue in Lydecker's apartment sets the tone immediately of his character; this is an eccentric, educated, wealthy man as his museum quality collection shows. The camera pans through his collection. We also see he has a rooftop patio. Although at times gaudy, we see that Lydecker has gone to a lot of expense to furnish his home, even though his home is a museum which is shown in the collection on glass shelves in glass cases. The French clock to me doesn't seem to match the ancient artifacts he owns and then we find out Laura has the only other one in the world that he gave to her, tying them intricately together. (In hindsight we see why both the camera and McPherson look at the clock, and even Lydecker makes a point that McPherson is attracted to the clock.)

 

 

On the other hand, there is the offish detective McPherson who seems to smirk at Lydecker's mask collection and doesn't realize that one should only look and never touch the priceless items at the museum, as he reaches for an ancient double-headed bottle. McPherson is not the type to peruse museums on his days off. McPherson is from a different class of people than Lydecker and probably never studied ancient Greek art history in college, if he even went to college, as he probably took night classes at the local community college. The detective first meets Lydecker while Lydecker is seated in his marble tub, the king meets all his subjects this way. (It made me wonder if he met the two other detectives this way too.) Lydecker tells McPherson to sit down, and he does not sit on the leopard skin upholstered chair but takes a regular chair and turns it around, bar chair fashion, and sits down.

 

 

Ah, these are the two opposing forces in Laura's life.

 

Interesting viewpoint......the two different classes viewpoint....my impression what the detective isn't particularly impressed by the objects d'art throughout the apartment.  He is more interested in what's inside a person and a student of people.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Q1: Lauchpoint "charming study of furnishings and faces" circumvents the importance of the 1st person POV (Point of View). As we see Det. McPherson flinch as he realizes that he is being watched, by us and Lydecker, we are studying a face.

 

We are in Lydecker's head, we are not pontifiticated to as earlier Hollywood style films, we know there is action and a puzzle to be had.

 

Q2: We snap from POV of Lydecker to nude, pretentish embodiment of a sociopath, someone who likes to toy with people. He knows perfectly well he is rude and exposes himself to Det. McPherson. McPherson is up for the challenge and doesn't flinch this time. We are drawn further into this world, as we know this will be a cat and mouse game.

 

Q3: I see that you think that NOIR is a style, from this question. I will go with genre. The 1st person POV is essential to this genre and workes well to draw the audience into the game; there will be non-stop action as the chase has already begun; and we want to solve the puzzle and learn more about the dark side of human nature.

 

Anticipation is the key to the Noir hook, and my endorphines have already begun to fire!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

 

Furnishings and faces being how the environment and the characters reflect double meanings. McPherson's smirks or Lydecker's masks and his clock. It all seems boyish and innocent, but as the scene closes as the characters discuss the article, the darkness surrounding the case and Lydecker deepends.

 

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

 

It's very humorous and smart. The typical self-absorbed rich guy that can read McPherson from behind closed doors, that is a talented artist and an art and history conoisseur. It also highlights the affluence that will mark the film and the mystery as contrast to McPherson's more gritty and realist charater.

 

I think this is an incredibly strong opening scene, and one that packs more in its punch that some from last week. For example, I loved The Letter, but Laura packs way more in less minutes. The decorations, the two men, the murder, all leave the reader expecting the story to be incredibly complex due to the different opposing forces involved in the matter. We also see a protagonist that is smart and down-to-earth; that will be an asset in a case involving two people that perhaps go back and forth between absurdity (through their wealth) and reality (through one's mortality).

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us