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


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After careful examining of that scene. Its opening sets the tone of what's to come in this noir classic. He is recalling how he won't forget Laura. He was obsessed with her.  beyond just the physical furnishings and faces (masks) that appear within Lydecker's apartment. Lydecker describes his apartment as lavish.  He watches him trough the half open door as he eyes his clock the detective in a voyeuristic pose. Lydecker comes off as a vain man with no friends. Lydecker's attitude toward McPhearson reveal how elitist he is without telling the audience outright. I see Lydecker as a pompous, arrogant man who is so comfortable with himself that he has no problem bathing in front of a complete stranger.  His arrogance is supported when he states to McPherson that his version of the Herrington murder case was "obviously superior".  The clip ends with him saying that he doesn't bother with details.  He obviously likes to spin things in a way that sound more exciting and pleasing to him rather than stating what is actually true. It comes off as he is an arrogant man that people are not too fond about. The idea that the detective eyes the clock is a clue to the setup of its key trait to what's to come in this noir classic. The detective comes off as a guy looking to be a good guy trying to shine light into a dark world as he is trying figure out what happened to Laura. He meets a guy that is being arrogant as they come. hallmark of a classic opening scene of this noir classic that is a contrast to the a darker opening of many noir classics.  

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the eerie music, coupled with the eerie looks the detective gives the ornaments on the wall, set the tone for what's to come. Lydecker doesn't seem like he has much to hide, especially if he has no qualms about taking a bath in front of a complete stranger. it's almost as if he wants us to know that he's the guilty party, but doesn't want to let on too soon about it. the decor in the apartment is beautiful, so like some others have said it makes me wonder how this guy can afford such a place on a writer's salary (especially in 1944). 

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When posting late you get to read more before posting & after digesting many of the comments on the movie Laura I must admit I agree with a percentage of the comments but many I just don't understand. My feeling on the opening scene is twofold: it establishes that Leydecker is a collector of things & that which he collects he possesses, secondly that detective Mark McPherson is smart enough to size up this suspect as one who is sufficiently arrogant to believe (if need be) he is above the law. As much as I admire this movie and as a great example of film noir it is not without it's weaknesses. The character of Shelby Carpenter played by Vincent Price is hard to swallow. He is suppose to be weak but is he also suppose to be stupid! He says he knows only "a little about a lot of things" but he's not much on alibis, he thinks nothing of planting evidence, and in the key scene in which half the plot is explained he changes his story about the gun then suddenly spills all as to what happen at the apartment that night. He concludes by telling us he doesn't' think " he fully grasps the situation". And later he advises detective McPherson he was "incapable of thinking at all". Alas, we have the truth. And the truth is the plot of Laura is really about Shelby Carpenter as he meanders about the movie misleading everyone and hiding behind two skirts until he finds out which way the win blows and then makes his final call. Fortunately all this is lost in the battle of wits between the two antagonist and the dreamy love story between the two stars.

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The set sets the character of Lydecker long before we see him. A wonderful kind of introduction. It is kind of puzzling that Premingers "Where the sidewalk ends" is so different, you do not ever think of "lavish" in that film. A purposeful contrast, Preminger proofs he master both varieties?. The dialogue play between the men gives a stark impression impression of them both having the feeling of superiority. Already this early you long for "battle" between them. Noir? The tone of the voiceover, and of course the message.

This is a superb film!

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The only thing I remember about 'Laura' was I wasn't so taken by it. That's been years though. I'll watch it on TCM with new eyes and a whole new way at looking at film noir, especially.

 

A crime has been commited, a detective is involved, a arrogant man in a tub with a home that comes across very meticulous and possessive. Much like Laura being a possession of his. Like a statue that will not grow old, to be admired and possessed.

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How did I forget about Sweet Smell of Success? J.J. Hunsucker seems much more lethal than Lydecker does in Laura. Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) isn't to be scoffed at either. "I'd hate to take a bite out of you. You're a cookie full of arsenic," remains as one of my all-time favorite movie quotes.

I'll digress to that. SSS is near noir, darkness filled with dread and despair. Points off for no murder.

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In the opening scene of Laura, the viewer is aligned with Lydecker's voyeuristic perspective as we watch McPherson wander around his quarters.  Also, Lydecker's voice-over gains our confidence, implicates us.  The detective, who is often the character we're trained to identify with in crime films, has been replaced by a pompous, eloquent, and somewhat kinky writer (after all, he's interviewing him in a tub!).  Even in this opening scene, there's a lot to suggest that Lydecker is a repressed homosexual ... There's definitively tension between the two.  Dana Andrew's smirk when Lydecker steps out of the water is wonderfully ambiguous, dismissive, critical, and a touch leering.  This scene sets up their dueling obsessions over Laura.  All of this are tell-tale signs we're watching a noir.

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The opening slow pan of the Lydecker’s lavish apartment shows a man of wealth and eccentricity. I’m already pulled in and sense these objects have more of a story to tell. The lighting isn’t typical noir but the sense of something being “off” is present from the start. The voiceover (here we have a noir element) introduces a main character to be dead. Lydecker spying on our detective gives off a sense of distrust. The detective looks to be studying the objects as he moves through the rooms.


 


I was not expecting Lydecker to be in the bath! This brazen lack of boundaries intrigues me as to what this mans character is going to be like. The dialogue between the detective and Lydecker has tension. The detective is skeptical, Lydecker seems confident but maybe a little too knowledgable about our detectives background. I leave the scene wanting to know what so much was unspoken and what’s to come.


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As the camera pans across the room you see so many of Lydecker possessions, and as the movie progressed you realize that  is the ways he see Laura as one of his possessions. The way he spies on the detective walking around his apartment he spies on him in his own apartment. Calling him in the  bathroom after he berates him about  picking  up one of his possessions.He then tries to  emasculate him further by asking this strong /handsome man him to bring him his wash cloth and his robe.  When the detective see him getting out of the  tub he smirks . That scene defines their relationship. 

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Lydecker is first introduced because he has many of the classic film noir traits. He is smart, mysterious, and a step a head of everyone. He is also able to give a narration perfect to the story with a perfect opening line.

Laura's opening scene is important to the film noir genre because it starts the movie off with so much intrigue. You've come to watch a movie about Laura only to find out she's dead before the movie even be gain. It's a plot twist before their is a plot. It has the darkness and mystery that make film noir so wonderful.

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The opulent apartment is a study of furnishings, the actors are are a study of faces. I particularly liked how the detective smirked at Lydecker when he rose from the bath! Lydecker is effectively introduced when he is narrating about Laura's murder, then he introduces himself by name. This introduction is unusual in noir, because usually we see the character before we hear them.

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 Preminger's introduction of the character of Waldo Lydecker in the opening scene of "Laura" is not only interesting, it is a great use of narrative misdirection. Lydecker's account of Laura's death establishes that it was an event that Lydecker himself was not a part of. This use of the first-person account reveals only what the character, in this case Lydecker, wants us as the audience to know. The introduction of Lydecker and the use of his narration in the opening scene not only sets the scene and introduces us to him, but we immediately learn about the film's subject, Laura, and wonder who could have killed her? How? Why? Lydecker's account distance himself from the actual crime, leading the audience to believe that the suspect is one other than himself. 

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When I saw the introduction to the Otto Preminger film, ‘Laura’, I realized that I must watch this film again, soon. 


 


I was amazed at the audio-visual blend of the narration, paired with the various objets d’art, bric-a-brac, and tchotchkes in the house. It was a surreal juxtaposition to say the least. I must say that although such an evolved means of telling a story exists besides what we see in the opening scenes of ‘Laura’, really this is a subtle combination of techniques which might be more than what filmmakers of today would be willing to gamble on, in terms of conveying a message and/or feeling to the audience. 


 


And then we have the actors, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb, completing this compelling scenario, which has definitely got me signed up for a re-screening of Preminger’s ‘Laura’.


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Shortly after Frank Sinatra's death Pete Hamill wrote "Why Sinatra Matters." One of the reasons he gave is that Frank Sinatra taught men of the post-war era how to behave and handle their prosperity.  How true this is I have no idea, but it sounds good.

 

The opening sequence of Laura and some of our earlier viewings made me think that Film Noir  how men should conduct themselves in a world of duplicitousness and corruption where success and failure are buy one get one free..

 

This opening sequence is beautiful.  Waldo Lydecker's New York apartment is like fine china.  As we pan across this antique showroom we come to Detective McPherson, shabby and disheveled hat worn back.  A fly on the teacup.

 

Lydecker's self absorbed dismissive voiceover is as pretentious as the apartment.  Dana Andrews only gets his attention when the voyeuristic Lydecker sees him pick up an antique from its showcase.  For some reason Preminger chose to obscure Andrews face in this shot.  I don't know why and assume there is an expressive reason.

 

The by-play between Lydecker and McPherson shows that McPherson is a tough character of significant courage and accomplishment. Lydecker on the other hand makes a lot of money writing lies (embellishments). Look at the New York penthouse it got him.  

 

Still McPherson has his job to do and he shrugs off Lydecker's barbs and pretentiousness to do it.

 

So in this opening sequence there's significant social commentary (Hey guys it's a corrupt world of moneyed jerks. Ignore them) along with the set-up for the story to follow.

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Shortly after Frank Sinatra's death Pete Hamill wrote "Why Sinatra Matters." One of the reasons he gave is that Frank Sinatra taught men of the post-war era how to behave and handle their prosperity.  How true this is I have no idea, but it sounds good.

 

The opening sequence of Laura and some of our earlier viewings made me think that Film Noir  how men should conduct themselves in a world of duplicitousness and corruption where success and failure are buy one get one free..

 

This opening sequence is beautiful.  Waldo Lydecker's New York apartment is like fine china.  As we pan across this antique showroom we come to Detective McPherson, shabby and disheveled hat worn back.  A fly on the teacup.

 

Lydecker's self absorbed dismissive voiceover is as pretentious as the apartment.  Dana Andrews only gets his attention when the voyeuristic Lydecker sees him pick up an antique from its showcase.  For some reason Preminger chose to obscure Andrews face in this shot.  I don't know why and assume there is an expressive reason.

 

The by-play between Lydecker and McPherson shows that McPherson is a tough character of significant courage and accomplishment. Lydecker on the other hand makes a lot of money writing lies (embellishments). Look at the New York penthouse it got him.  

 

Still McPherson has his job to do and he shrugs off Lydecker's barbs and pretentiousness to do it.

 

So in this opening sequence there's significant social commentary (Hey guys it's a corrupt world of moneyed jerks. Ignore them) along with the set-up for the story to follow.

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I'm gonna try real hard to not sound pretentious here (something I hate), but the opening of Laura reminds of a term I just came across recently in a film noir book. This term, German in it's origin, is strassenfilm; which consists of street tales that deal with the relationship between the upper class and the lower/middle class. And like everyone has already established on the thread, Waldo Lydecker is an obviously materialistic man. Hell, the very first image we see is an Asian statuette that more than likely costs quadruple what Mark McPherson makes in a year.

I also love the choice to have Lydecker be the character that addresses the audience - a simple trick that constantly makes us reevaluate whether we find him a possible suspect or not. But I won't get too far into this great movie, I'll stick with the opener. The image of Lydecker luxuriously typing in his bathtub while McPherson toys with his little baseball game is perfection, and immediately establishes these two men as opposing forces from the word go. One the fancy free intellectual, and the other a single minded public servant.

This notion gets pushed even further into the scene as McPherson fetches the elder writer's bathrobe and smirks caustically as he exits the tub. It's a subtle little piece of action as we listen to the establishing questions of the case, but it's done so well that we sense this imbalance without even consciously knowing it. I'm excited to see this movie again come Friday!

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Really looking forward to watching "Laura" this Friday.

 

Waldo Lydecker seems like the sort of character that is bigger than life.

 

Sometimes these character actors make the character bigger than the picture.

 

Not being familiar with this film, I'm focusing on "determining whether film noir is a genre, a style, or a

 

movement" as the professor said in his lecture.

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The opening scene of Laura establishes one of the main conflicts of the film: the power struggle between Waldo Lydecker and Mark McPherson.  As we hear Lydecker’s narration and view his rather opulent home, we see McPherson looking out of place.  However, rather than looking intimidated by his surroundings, he walks around unselfconsciously (and not completely following the cues in the narration: although Lydecker claims his interest is focused on the clock, it doesn’t really seem to interest him any more that anything else in the room).  He even opens up cabinets and touches things, before he is summoned to the bathroom. 

 

Once he and Lydecker are face to face, they inhabit opposite sides of the frame, and the struggle for the upper hand can be seen. Although Lydecker is the one who summoned him in, McPherson makes himself at home by taking the chair and sitting on it backwards, a breech of etiquette that does not go unnoticed by Lydecker.  Each time Lydecker tries to establish that McPherson is someone beneath his notice (by treating him like a servant).  McPherson does what is asked, but with a carelessness that seems to indicate that Lydecker has not succeeded in making him uncomfortable: i.e. the way he simply tossed the washcloth and the robe to Lydecker, or the smirk when glancing at the (presumably) naked Lydecker as he gets out of the tub.  Every moment seems to indicate that McPherson does not belong in the world we see him in, yet he remains unphased by it all.

 

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As the camera pans across the room you see so many of Lydecker possessions, and as the movie progressed you realize that  is the ways he see Laura as one of his possessions. The way he spies on the detective walking around his apartment he spies on him in his own apartment. Calling him in the  bathroom after he berates him about  picking  up one of his possessions.He then tries to  emasculate him further by asking this strong /handsome man him to bring him his wash cloth and his robe.  When the detective see him getting out of the  tub he smirks . That scene defines their relationship. 

I agree.

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Based on the introduction of Waldo Lydecker; His narrative, the panning view of his apartment, the exotic souveniers decorating the place and the fact that he recieves his guest while still seated in the bathtub, I easily draw the conclusion that Lydecker is a bit eccentric.

 

The director took pains to illustrate that Lydecker had a fine collection of exotic stuff. The panning view of the appartment along the shelves of artifacts and memorabillia and finally settling on the wall of masks that detective was standing in front of showed the viewer the scope of Lydecker's decor. In Douglas Adams book, "LIfe, The Universe And Everything", The protagonists are introduced to the captain of a spaceship who never leaves his bathtub. Waldo Lydecker immediately reminded me of Captain character in Adams' book.

 

In this scene, I didn't really notice many facial studies as much as accentuation of the decor and props. The character of McPherson bears the look of a Noir detective: Suit, fedora, chain smoking cigarettes. Once Lydecker recognizes McPherson's name, the audience is treated to a brief tale of McPherson's "daring do" which spells him out as a bit of a "tough guy" to the audience. Having never seen "Laura", I am envisioning McPherson to be the protagonist.

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Though it's been a long time since I've seen it, the opening of this movie reminded me a bit of Citizen Kane. I think the panning of the furnishings sets the tone of the movie well - what dark secrets are lurking behind all these lovely things? Lydecker certainly seems like an unlikely hero for this story, so how does he really figure into it? I love that we are seeing him for the first time in a bathtub - a place that should make him seem supremely vulnerable, but he's so in control of the conversation that it really doesn't feel that way.

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Waldo Lydecker's unctous, precise voiceover begins on a dark screen.  The delicate, costly, well-polished and meticulously placed decorative items in the rooms we are shown under that voice reinforce the impression of the unseen speaker as an effete elitist.  The voice and the furnishings have given us a vivid picture without face.

 

The camera glides smoothly through the bric-a-brac crammed spaces, eventually finding Detective McPherson, who appears as underwhelming as a brown shoe with a tuxedo.  As the guest moves through the rooms crowded with glass-shelves holding glass objects, he appears to be moving through a carnival house of mirrors; nothing is seen clearly.  McPherson's face is a mask as inscrutable as any seen in the ornamental masks seen on Lydecker's wall.

 

As he makes his way to his quarry he comes upon Lydecker bathing; a typewriter on a mobile bath desk.  This is a working man, too, it seems.  The detective's face belies no surprise.  He appears a dim cipher until he interrupts Lydecker's prepared statement of Laura's death, perfectly finishing the statement himself.  His sidelong downward glance and small smirk as Lydecker, off-camera, lifts his naked self out of the bath, shows this flatfoot is too smart to be caught flatfooted by a clever upper class prig.

 

As the two spar verbally to end the scene, the Film Noir style element of this not being a detective film, but a criminal adventure seems to be in play.  Viewers have been introduced to and intrigued by a working class detective with a heroic backstory to pull for, and a cagy writer whose pedigree is hard to pin down but who clearly has at least some of the answers to the mysterious death of Laura Hunt.

 

The salient fact of the story, the murder, has already been committed, giving a promise that the time travelling, flashback element of Noir is also imminant.

 

Something ugly has happened in this rarified atmosphere and it will take a realist to make sense of it, if he can do it without losing himself in the funhouse in the process.

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The open scene dialogue in Otto Preminger’s, “Laura” establishes Waldo Lydecker’s disdain for the investigation into Laura Hunt's murder and specifically the detective Mark McPherson.  The scene opens with McPherson walking through Lydecker’s spacious NYC apartment, which is well appointed with furniture, antiques, art, objets d’art and curio cabinets.

 

This tour into the world of the wealthy is a common theme in film noir.  Frequently, the rich are viewed as having different behavior and habits from “normal” folks that go beyond just having more money.  Psychiatrists, quacks, drug use, homosexuals and know-all servants are subtlety or overtly portrayed along with gamblers, con artists, thieves and murderers.  See films such as, “The Big Sleep,” “Murder My Sweet,” and later, “The Long Goodbye” and “Chinatown.”  Frequently, the morals of the wealthy come into question and the detective, along with trying to solve the crime, represents a relatively “acceptable” moral objective in the film even if the detective frequently works outside of the law.

 

After being scolded, McPherson enters Lydecker’s roman bath sized bathroom where it appears to double as his office.  In the tub, Lydecker’s body is nearly nonexistent.  He’s so woefully thin that you get the sense that, like an alien from another planet, he’s all head, brain and as we’ll soon see, acidic conversational wit.  What he doesn’t look like is someone who is physically dangerous.  He’s the opposite of a hardboiled tough guy.  Visually, he's no Moose Malloy.  In the world of mysteries things are often not what they appear to be and, at the outset of the film, Preminger uses Lydecker’s behavior and appearance to reinforce that concept.

 

Thanks - Mark

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Nino Frank’s essay, "A New Kind of Police Drama: the Criminal Adventure”, written in 1946, explains how the formula of most Hollywood films have the story unravel at the end of the film where the audience becomes less interested in the story and characters.  Otto Preminger’s Laura, takes you right into the heart of the matter as Detective McPherson interrogates the first suspect, Waldo Lydecker.  With no previous plot or story to follow, the first impression of the movie automatically has the audience investigating and judging Waldo by trying to find clues and get a sense of his character by observing his furnishings while listening to his narration and the attitude of Detective McPherson’s facial expressions and curious hands as he studies objects in the apartment while Waldo observes him voyeuristically.

 

 

Waldo Lydecker narrates the opening scene as a voiceover, which gives him a sense of mystery right off the bat.  He mourns over Laura’s recent death in a poetic manner and can sense he is somewhat of a hermit, making several references to being alone, the only one, etc… As the camera pans the apartment, we see that he is a cultured man, a writer, an antique collector – one of prestige.  

 

He says he is the “most widely misquoted man in America” and I believe this correct even by Frank’s essay.  Frank described Lydecker as prosaic, which means having a more direct way of communication without all the poetic fluff.  Yes, he was this way talking to Detective McPherson, by reading off his statement, but some of the first words you hear from Waldo Lydecker explains the emotional impact over Laura’s death, “a silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass” proves that he is more poetic than prosaic in his own sense.  He sits in the bathtub as Detective McPherson enters his quarters and the audience already knows he is a bit eccentric to greet someone for the first time in the nude.

 

 

I believe that Laura’s formula of introducing the film was quite genius.  The exposition of the story immediately surfaces and the plot begins within the first five minutes of the film.  I think that this hooks the audience’s attention, as well as the peculiar and cynical attitude of Lydecker and curious and atypical personage of Detective McPherson creates characters that keep viewers interested.  

 

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