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Laura (1944)

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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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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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He was the best thing about the movie.

 

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.

Me too!  Mom and I loved Clifton in everything.

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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. 

I am Laird Creegar's fan too.  Years ago I was quite beguiled when I saw my first Film Noir;  I Wake Up Screaming.  Laird playing this part sensitively with marvelous acting.  He had fallen hopelessly in love with a beautiful girl who became a murder victim (played by the wonderful and tragic Carole Landis).   He was also great in Joan of Paris as a Nazi sympathizer who hounds Paul Henreid and Michele Morgan.  So while I like Laird in his roles and feel sad about his untimely death,  I do still admire CLifton as Waldo. 

 

But I do understand that you would like it the other way with the casting.  I would probably have thought so too  had I not seen Clfton's magnetic performance,

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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.

 

Thanks for the info related to the book.   As TopBilled mentioned Webb's persona doesn't convey the notion Waldo desired and required a physical relationship with Laura;  the type of relationship that when denied would lead a man to take such a drastic action as murder.      Being a lonely bachelor just reinforces this point;   a lonely bachelor is use to not getting his physical desires meet.   i.e. being lonely is something he is use to.     It might have been more convincing with Webb as Waldo if there was a scene that showed that Waldo had a "friends with benefits" type women in his life and dump her because of his infatuation with Laura.      

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Thanks for the info related to the book.   As TopBilled mentioned Webb's persona doesn't convey the notion Waldo desired and required a physical relationship with Laura;  the type of relationship that when denied would lead a man to take such a drastic action as murder.      Being a lonely bachelor just reinforces this point;   a lonely bachelor is use to not getting his physical desires meet.   i.e. being lonely is something he is use to.     It might have been more convincing with Webb as Waldo if there was a scene that showed that Waldo had a "friends with benefits" type women in his life and dump her because of his infatuation with Laura.      

Great post. I feel that Price and Webb should have switched roles. If Cregar was not available, then Price would have been acceptable. Price is paired with Tierney at the beginning of LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, and they do have some chemistry. Price could definitely have played the madness that is required with Waldo being spurned. See Price in SHOCK and DRAGONWYCK-- he could do it very convincingly. Webb is almost a caricature in this role and in THE DARK CORNER where he plays another villain. Fortunately, the brass at Fox realized he was miscast in these roles and they handed him parts in comedies after this.

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Great post. I feel that Price and Webb should have switched roles. If Cregar was not available, then Price would have been acceptable. Price is paired with Tierney at the beginning of LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, and they do have some chemistry. Price could definitely have played the madness that is required with Waldo being spurned. See Price in SHOCK and DRAGONWYCK-- he could do it very convincingly. Webb is almost a caricature in this role and in THE DARK CORNER where he plays another villain. Fortunately, the brass at Fox realized he was miscast in these roles and they handed him mostly comedy roles after this.

THough I liked Clifton a lot here, Vincent Price would have been great as the "man scorned" person seeking revenge.  Here he was flaky and cheating on Laura.  Even in the face of murder he was not going to tell that he knew about the murder because of being there.  He was busy two-timing Laura and his aunt (Judith Anderson) sure had more than an indulgence for him! 

 

It is true that we don't see any evidence that Clifton had a former girlfriend that he dumped for Laura.  He simply was portrayed as the secretly lonely bachelor who had hoped to marry Laura eventually?  He certainly was enraged to behave the way he did.  Jealousy knew no bounds here.

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Great post. I feel that Price and Webb should have switched roles. If Cregar was not available, then Price would have been acceptable. Price is paired with Tierney at the beginning of LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, and they do have some chemistry. Price could definitely have played the madness that is required with Waldo being spurned. See Price in SHOCK and DRAGONWYCK-- he could do it very convincingly. Webb is almost a caricature in this role and in THE DARK CORNER where he plays another villain. Fortunately, the brass at Fox realized he was miscast in these roles and they handed him mostly comedy roles after this.

Love Clifton's comedies like Mr. Belvedere and For Heaven's Sake.  Serious Film Noir, The Dark Corner was always pretty scary to me.  He certainly put one over on thug William Bendix. A very scary scene nearly gave me nightmares it was so realistic.  Not to spoil anything for anyone who has not seen the film, just wanted to share with everyone how good this film is.   So he was able to play all sorts of roles; in this case a snobby and wealthy art dealer letting another man pay for his crime.  So this guy had class.

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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.

Now another funny or strange thing is that Shelby (Vincent's character) did not flip out that much when he saw Laura was not the victim..  He knew what had happened really, but it was strange that his reaction was not so powerful.  A normal person would be in shock practically from seeing a murder close up (like that one).  And this was an old girlfriend. Okay, so Laura was making a decision whether to marry him or not and had decided not to.  He didn't know her answer, and at the time I did not realize that Laura's model friend had been borrowing Laura's apartment to rendezvous with Shelby.  That had gotten by me when I first saw the film.

 

I guess in a nutshell I am still rather naive.  I really inferred that the viewer is supposed to assume that this overly cynical and dapper bachelor suddenly went crazy and felt compelled to annihilate this lovely young girl because he had given up. He had tried to convince her that this young man was not for her.   In his mind was the thought that he had done so much for her endorsing her pen and taking her to swanky nightclubs and museums. She was intellectual and well-read and Waldo assisted her with meeting the right people.  Suddenly Waldo is aware of all he might lose.  (And it is possible that he had denied himself a relationship earlier in his life  thinking he didn't like women much).

 

Laura disrupts everything by announcing that she might marry Shelby.  Realizing the true nature of Shelby's character and his great own great love for Laura, Waldo snaps.  So yes, it is possible to have this happen, though she had done nothing to encourage Waldo.  This is more of a rare occurrence in films today, but this is how I saw it.  Waldo felt that Laura was betraying him personally.  IF he couldn't have her no one else would.....  Of course at the time Waldo does not know Laura's decision, nor that Shelby was at Laura's apartment with another girl.    Later we observe with interest that she falls for the charming and tough Mark McPherson and Waldo feels that he is disgustingly "earthy".   So he will lose her anyway.   There are some great one liners here,

 

Back to Laura's relationship with Waldo, they had developed on the surface a very nice friendship.  I

n the course of a

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I think with LAURA, it boils down to a suspension of disbelief. Is the viewer willing to suspend disbelief in certain instances, to continue buying the story as presented? In the case of Webb's casting, I am unable to do that because he is so obviously effeminate. And it's not that I have anything against him personally being that way. But in terms of this role, an effeminate man has much less motivation to covet a beautiful young girl, because the sexual attraction angle is zero. It should have been cast with someone who was straight, or who at least had more sexual ambiguity and whose screen persona conveyed more intrigue or mystery. 

 

The only way this story works for me as presented is if I regard it as high camp, with this version of Waldo jealous of Laura, because he is planning a sex change and wants to take her place. That way, he can wear her clothes, enjoy her position in society and have her men. I don't think that is what screenwriters of 1944 had in mind.

 

Probably Preminger cast Webb in the role because he knew Webb would come across as a homosexual on screen and wanted to test the code. The production code office went along with it, because in their conservative view, a homosexual would definitely be a societal miscreant, capable of vile acts, like deception and murder. So ultimately, all this film does is reinforce stereotypes.

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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 bought Webb's performance and his unmasking as the killer.  Noir by nature is twisted; the human psyche defies rational explanation.  He may have been humiliated by Laura's rejections.  Perhaps he was fighting within himself to embrace and accept (or not) he who was.   

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Regardless of the sexual preference of the character vs. actor, men who have huge egos do not like to be rejected by anyone.  As such, I totally buy Webb's character -especially in a noir that, as has been mentioned, is a twisted genre anyway.

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Regardless of the sexual preference of the character vs. actor, men who have huge egos do not like to be rejected by anyone.  As such, I totally buy Webb's character -especially in a noir that, as has been mentioned, is a twisted genre anyway.

 

A common noir theme is obsession and while Waldo was obsessed with Laura the film doesn't suggest his obsession is a strong sexual one.    This isn't because of Webb's actual sexuality and his ability as an actor but instead based on the script and direction.

 

I don't see non sexual rejection leading someone to perform such a gruesome murder.     Maybe if there was one very brief scene where Waldo tried to kiss Laura,  on the lips,  in a highly sexual manner and was rejected by Laura (e.g. she says 'I'm not ready for that yet,,'),   the film would have more strongly conveyed Waldo's sexual obsession for Laura and the fact he could NOT let her be with any other man.   Of course maybe this wasn't done because it would have been too strong of a clue that Waldo was the murderer.

 

Note that in The Dark Corner there is a scene at a party where the Webb character makes it very clear about his strong sexual attraction to his much younger wife,  as well as an older man's insecurity of having a beautiful much younger women.     This brief scene communicates to the viewer the motive for the man actions against the younger man bedding the older man's wife.   

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Webb plays sort of the same type of character as the husband of  Barbara Stanwyck in a film I watched yesterday Titanic (1953).

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Webb plays sort of the same type of character as the husband of  Barbara Stanwyck in a film I watched yesterday Titanic (1953).

I've seen that version of Titanic, but not in a few years.  I'd forgotten that.  I will have to re-watch it.

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Peckfan, I hope you get a chance to see "Titanic" again.  It's really quite good.

I hope so too.  I really enjoyed this version.  I enjoyed the film that looked at the disaster from the perspective of the other ship that actually saw them but thought that their use of fireworks to get their attention was actually just a party.

 

They did not realize it was an S.O.S.

 

 

 

Webb had quite a long career and I've enjoyed his performances most of the time, even  when the overall film did not impress me.  There are several actors and actresses who give good performances even when the material is lacking.  Webb was one of them.

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I hope so too.  I really enjoyed this version.  I enjoyed the film that looked at the disaster from the perspective of the other ship that actually saw them but thought that their use of fireworks to get their attention was actually just a party.

 

They did not realize it was an S.O.S.

 

 

 

Webb had quite a long career and I've enjoyed his performances most of the time, even  when the overall film did not impress me.  There are several actors and actresses who give good performances even when the material is lacking.  Webb was one of them.

Your thinking of the other Titanic film A Night to Remember (1958), this one did have the rockets shot off, but didn't show the crew of the Californian just 10 miles away thinking they were celebrating something, nor the ship the Carpathia that got the radio signal and was steaming towards the Titanic.

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Your thinking of the other Titanic film A Night to Remember (1958), this one did have the rockets shot off, but didn't show the crew of the Californian just 10 miles away thinking they were celebrating something, nor the ship the Carpathia that got the radio signal and was steaming towards the Titanic.

That's the title. Thanks Cigarjoe.  I thought that someone would come up with the title for me.

 

:)

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