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


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My appreciation of the movie inspired me to read the book some years ago (I found a copy on Amazon).  If you do pick it up, I don't think you'll be disappointed.  Definitely a good read.

I just found Laura, by Vera Caspary, it in my local library. I'm inspired to read it, too. I don't know if I'll be able to get to it before this class wraps up, but it's on my list!

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The intro of Waldo Lydecker is very telling . First he spies on the detective as he walks around his apartment . Then he invites him into his bathroom where Lydecker is sitting in the tub writing . Trying to put the detective off guard and make him uneasy . But the game seems to turn against him when detective McPherson seems to be more amused then uncomfortable . Lydecker and McPherson play this cat and mouse game throughout Laura . With Lydecker needling McPherson at every turn . 

 

The masks that McPherson looks at while he waits to talk to Lydecker signify the many false faces of the owner Lydecker .The movie seems to be more about the two characters ,Lydecker and McPherson, and the way one ,Lydecker , tries to hide and mislead the detective . And the other ,McPherson, tries to seek out the truth . Lydecker is very smarmy and tries every way to mislead McPherson . He is nasty to him,insults him and when that doesn't work he's nice to him . McPherson seems to see through Lydeckers' games .

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

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

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

 

 

Calm narration, starting off less dark. It takes us into the home and gradually introduces two characters that we like and seem to like each other right away.

 

I would say it paints Waldo Lydecker as someone very unassuming but very particular. 

 

I would say the opening scene starts off very poetic and mentions "laura" but we learn a lot of Waldo Lydecker and the detective but not Laura so it opens us up to wondering who was Laura.

 

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

 

The opening question, "I will never forget the weekend Laura died", alone, strikes a lot of questions. The opening of Laura can be considered an important contribution to the film noir style because it sets the audience up for a roller coaster of a ride with various twists, turns and questions as to where the story is going. The first time I watched this film, with its title being Laura, I did not expect for the first line to tell me that Laura had died. It grabs your attention, and keeps hold of it. Definitely,  one of my favorite films noir! :)

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 obsessed with Laura. Waldo believed that Laura should be forever grateful to him for making her a success.
It seems every man who sees or interacts with her falls for her hard! Even the detective fell in love with her just by seeing her picture and talking to her friends.

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I always felt because Laura was beautiful AND kindhearted was the reason all the men fell for her

 obsessed with Laura. Waldo believed that Laura should be forever grateful to him for making her a success.
It seems every man who sees or interacts with her falls for her hard! Even the detective fell in love with her just by seeing her picture and talking to her friends.

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The opening scene definitely draws you in and how Preminger introduces the character of Waldo Lydecker in this scene makes you feel a little uneasy. Spying on McPherson and inviting him into his bathing area makes Lydecker come across as overbearing. 

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the youtube link not working  :(  i wanted to see it

 

 

 obsessed with Laura. Waldo believed that Laura should be forever grateful to him for making her a success.
It seems every man who sees or interacts with her falls for her hard! Even the detective fell in love with her just by seeing her picture and talking to her friends.

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I get a sense that the deceased woman served, and still continues to serve as a femme fatale -- an agent of darkness, an embodiment of evil. Oddly enough, she seems to function in this role after her death, as a sort of disembodied embodiment of evil. It seems as if Lydecker is somewhat feminine (and not just gay). It's as if he, too, if fatale-ishly feminized. These are just impressions I get from the clip.  I haven't seen this movie in a long time. I'm looking forward to refreshing my memory of it on Friday.

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Beyond The mask on the wall is the one face/furnishing that grabs Det. McPherson's attention the most: the clock. Even in Lydecker's narration, he States that only two of them exist in the world, and both he and the murdered Laura own each. Clearly, one or both clocks play an important role in the story in some way later in the film.

Lydecker is introduced narrating first, mostly on his side of Laura's murder, then on McPherson looking at the "lavish" decor of his apartment. Once he's had his fill, Lydecker calls him in, retelling his side of what he's done through written word (that McPherson also has). It's clear that Lydecker is fixated far too much on murder story-telling, yet admits to his disinterest in details- the key ingredients in murder stories.

"Laura" helps continuing the contribution of opening a noir film by narration to the basic premise/plot, but more so on how characters are introduced: mysteriously set up, yet Lydecker unwittingly gives away how he's illustrated by his prior knowledge (and fascination) of McPherson- giving us details on a previous case he'd worked that Lydecker would write about.

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Beyond The mask on the wall is the one face/furnishing that grabs Det. McPherson's attention the most: the clock. Even in Lydecker's narration, he States that only two of them exist in the world, and both he and the murdered Laura own each. Clearly, one or both clocks play an important role in the story in some way later in the film.

Lydecker is introduced narrating first, mostly on his side of Laura's murder, then on McPherson looking at the "lavish" decor of his apartment. Once he's had his fill, Lydecker calls him in, retelling his side of what he's done through written word (that McPherson also has). It's clear that Lydecker is fixated far too much on murder story-telling, yet admits to his disinterest in details- the key ingredients in murder stories.

"Laura" helps continuing the contribution of opening a noir film by narration to the basic premise/plot, but more so on how characters are introduced: mysteriously set up, yet Lydecker unwittingly gives away how he's illustrated by his prior knowledge (and fascination) of McPherson- giving us details on a previous case he'd worked that Lydecker would write about.

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

 

In the basis of darkness, the darkness of the script, the darkness of the material, the darkness of the circumstance and the darkness of the human soul.  Before "monsters" were only a part of horror films, but with noir, they became a part of everyday life. There is nothing more foreboding than encountering "monsters", especially when they are within.  For me, for the first time, life was filmed in this genre, not aligning feelings one way or another, but in both directions simultaneously.  Just the way life usually works itself out on a day by day basis,   a little good with the bad.

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This is how I interpreted Frank’s quotation. Prior to film noir and this revitalized formula for crime movies, detectives were often cut-outs for the audience while the suspects were made more interesting. I could compare it to a Nancy Drew novel, she’s smart enough to figure out the mystery but lacks the complexity or depth of any of the people she interacts with, she is supposed to be us. What film noir did was give their detectives an “emotional life,” a shade of backstory and more intensity, making them a formidable mind and foe for the “furnishings and faces” they study.

 

I think Preminger’s introduction of Lydecker is fascination. He’s not our gumshoe detective and it isn’t the scene of the crime, the “murder” of Laura Hunt. [spoilerS] Why would Preminger introduce the film with the voice of the killer when the protagonist is clearly Mark McPherson. I imagine it is because Waldecker is the most colorful character, and by far the most vocal, and as the “perverse writer,” the most eloquent and the most inclined to use poetic and macabre verse. It’s interesting because he commits these acts out of some kind of “love” for Laura as an extension of his love of himself, and yet he exposes himself to McPherson. Just puts his stuff right out there. A film is only as good as its villain, and Lydecker is a complex one. His first words serve the introduction of the tone of the film as much as the sound design of M, the trains of Le Bete Humaine, and the false sense of security of The Letter. Lydecker's first words are on Laura as will be his last, proclaiming how well he knew her, how telling her story was meant for him alone, and finally how much he loved her.

 

In the larger context of noir, the style in which the opening is done is not unique, the use of voiceover is commonplace. However, using the villain’s voice to introduce the film is uncommon and the unusual sexual component in the interaction between hero and villain, both of which are male, is unorthodox considering the time period. Villains are important, and like the detectives of noir, they were revitalized. They aren’t just heavies anymore, but something far more depthful and sinister.

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Much like many other films that fall under the umbrella of film noir, Otto Preminger's Laura uses the decadent setting of Waldo Lydecker's lavish, yet ominous home in order to heighten the intensity of the atmosphere. As the camera pans over the room, the placement and antiquity of the objects help contribute to the inauspicious nature of the general environment, as well as Lydecker himself. Lydecker's room almost becomes a character of the film, similar to the decaying Hollywood mansion of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

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One contribution Laura makes to film noir style is Waldo's voice over. One famous aspect of film noir is that a character (usually one of the main characters) is not only a part of the story, but is the one who tells the story. Waldo is the one telling the story, is the one who controls the narrative and what we (the audience) see and hear. It adds a personal touch, a reminding that what we are seeing is not just a movie; it is part of someone's life, a story that the character feels is worth telling. This is one aspect of film noir that draws in people; we are being invited by a character to hear their story, to be part of their life by witnessing their life.

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I've never seen the movie Laura, but plan on seeing it tomorrow. Usually the person narrating is the detective, this one is different using who I'm assuming is the bad guy. I can see why Nino Frank's called it a charming character study of furnishings & faces. The opening focused more on the room than the characters. Also gives you some insight into who Waldo is or who he wants you to think he is.

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I am so behind!  Whenever I see Laura, I always feel so bad for her.  I mean she seems like a nice person who wouldn't hurt a fly.  I mean what kind of aunt not only would go after her niece's fiancee, but also say she could have easily murdered her to get to him?!  

 

Waldo Lydecker is one of my favorite film noir narrators.  His voice and his quill pen is filled with such snark and poison!

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One contribution Laura makes to film noir style is Waldo's voice over. One famous aspect of film noir is that a character (usually one of the main characters) is not only a part of the story, but is the one who tells the story. Waldo is the one telling the story, is the one who controls the narrative and what we (the audience) see and hear. It adds a personal touch, a reminding that what we are seeing is not just a movie; it is part of someone's life, a story that the character feels is worth telling. This is one aspect of film noir that draws in people; we are being invited by a character to hear their story, to be part of their life by witnessing their life.

I like what you say here about the personal touch of the subjective shot. As you eloquently stated, it is as if we are watching psrt of a character's life. This is particularly emphasized with the camera work. We start of with a medium to close focus through the glass cabinet and pillar ony to "open up" into a larger shot of the full room when we encounter the detective.

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"...yet he exposes himself to McPherson. Just puts his stuff right out there." Indeed he does, especially when he rises out of his opulent bath tub and asks McPherson for a towel. The smirking look on McPherson's (Dana Andrews') face is classic, when he gives a little glance at the off-camera, naked Lydecker. The character of Lydecker is a puzzlement. Is he comic relief? Is he straight or gay? He appears to be a man who defines himself through his wealth and possessions. Is he really in love with Laura or does he just want to possess her, or even be her? The painting of Laura is a possession, and since she is deceased, it is all that is left of her. Through McPherson, she comes to life as he becomes more and more determined to discover who she was.

This is how I interpreted Frank’s quotation. Prior to film noir and this revitalized formula for crime movies, detectives were often cut-outs for the audience while the suspects were made more interesting. I could compare it to a Nancy Drew novel, she’s smart enough to figure out the mystery but lacks the complexity or depth of any of the people she interacts with, she is supposed to be us. What film noir did was give their detectives an “emotional life,” a shade of backstory and more intensity, making them a formidable mind and foe for the “furnishings and faces” they study.

 

I think Preminger’s introduction of Lydecker is fascination. He’s not our gumshoe detective and it isn’t the scene of the crime, the “murder” of Laura Hunt. [spoilerS] Why would Preminger introduce the film with the voice of the killer when the protagonist is clearly Mark McPherson. I imagine it is because Waldecker is the most colorful character, and by far the most vocal, and as the “perverse writer,” the most eloquent and the most inclined to use poetic and macabre verse. It’s interesting because he commits these acts out of some kind of “love” for Laura as an extension of his love of himself, and yet he exposes himself to McPherson. Just puts his stuff right out there. A film is only as good as its villain, and Lydecker is a complex one. His first words serve the introduction of the tone of the film as much as the sound design of M, the trains of Le Bete Humaine, and the false sense of security of The Letter. Lydecker's first words are on Laura as will be his last, proclaiming how well he knew her, how telling her story was meant for him alone, and finally how much he loved her.

 

In the larger context of noir, the style in which the opening is done is not unique, the use of voiceover is commonplace. However, using the villain’s voice to introduce the film is uncommon and the unusual sexual component in the interaction between hero and villain, both of which are male, is unorthodox considering the time period. Villains are important, and like the detectives of noir, they were revitalized. They aren’t just heavies anymore, but something far more depthful and sinister.

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Someone may have already mentioned this, but in the clip from Laura we see yet another clock, and the irony is that it's a duplicate of the one in Laura's apartment that hold the shotgun used to murder her.

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Examples of "charming character study of furnishings and faces" are the sumptuous apartment filled with fine furniture and artwork.  The masks on the wall might signify that everyone is wearing some type of mask, clocking their real  personalities and motives.  The clock indicating our inability to control the length of one's life caused by unforeseen circumstances -- murder.  The haunting music the accompanies Lydecker's narration.

 

Preminger's introduction of Waldo Lydecker presents this character as arrogant with a superior, condescending attitude.  Lydecker carries on a conversation with McPherson while in his bath and acts as if he receives all his visitors while bathing.  Physically he looks small and frail almost effeminate against McPherson's more masculine stature.

 

"Laura's" important contribution to noir is that it changed the roles of the characters in the mystery type films making them more interesting with more dimension and more intriguing to learn about these characters.

 

Linda Splker-Chew

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Waldo Lydecker... snobbish, aloof, ostentatious, and interestingly suspicious.  He is quite a curious character, and I have to wonder just what does he have to do with the "murder of Laura".  Again, we are introduced to a crime, the seedier side of life, despite obviously finding ourselves in an expensive apartment.  Things are not what they seem.

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In the opening scene of LAURA, director Otto Preminger establishes the tone, mood, setting and characters all at the same time. By starting the film with a narration that gives away the major plot point of the death of the title character before the audience has even seen her while at the same time letting the camera pan around the opulent room, the filmmakers put the audience in a frame of mind to observe every and any thing being carefully shown and told to them. Within the first minute the audience has been shown almost every inch of Lydecker's place and by Clifton Webb's first actual line we know that some things there are "priceless." The observation of the audience is then taken up a notch by introducing Waldo nude in his bathtub. Unabashed and perhaps even a little flirty with Detective McPherson, Waldo commands both the attention of the police detective and the audience. Even before Waldo rises out of the tub, Detective McPherson's distinct point of view sitting across from the tub after Waldo has pushed his typewriter table aside, allows him to see Lydecker fully naked lying in the tub practically showing off for the handsome man in his bathroom. The observational reaction McPherson has as his eyes purposefully look over the body of the off-screen nude Lydecker rising from the tub permits the audience to interpret his reaction and make their own internal observation (what exactly McPherson is smirking about before throwing Waldo a robe will never have just one answer). Preminger's excellent use of camera angles and point of view coupled with two talented actors creating real tension make this one of the most compelling opening sequences in film noir, if not in all of film.

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Waldo Lydecker is a delicious character from the minute we lay ears on him. His voice, the tone matches the the visuals; superior sounding and superior upper class appointments in the apartment. He is arrogant, challenging and dismissive of the detective . Something is off. As in a lot of films noir the detective is seen by other characters as slow and unworthy of much consideration in the beginning of the film. Mary Astor treats Humphry Bogart that way in the Maltese Falcon. This is usually a major mistake. Arrogant Wald may be making such a mistake.

 

It was great reading all the comments. Some comments mentioned that Wald might be a homosexual. I talked to my Dad who is 88 and asked him about how characters like Waldo and other potentially gay characters were perceived in the '40s. Now I know this is just one mans opinion, but he said that it was something that was not in people's consciousness. He always thought Wald was an effeminate, effete man nothing more.

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I'm really struck by the fact that we first see Lydecker speaking to McPherson as he's soaking in the tub! I think things like that seem to be more of a femme fatale trait in noir.

 
But, I suppose Lydecker just doesn't mind because he's too full of himself; he uses his wealth and "intelligence" as his power over people. Perhaps Lydecker wants to give the illusion that he quite literally has nothing to hide from McPherson, so he might as well bathe right in front of him! 
 
Preminger introduces Lydecker in such a way that we know right off the bat something is odd about him, and his relationship with Laura isn't at all what he claims.
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