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A hard-bitten detective (Dana Andrews) becomes fixated on the portrait of the beautiful woman (Gene Tierney) whose murder he is investigating in Otto Preminger's coolly glamourous and deliciously perverse film noir classic.
"Everybody's favourite chic murder mystery" (Pauline Kael), Laura can't be seen too many times, so profuse, perverse, and profound are its pleasures. Dana Andrews plays the necro-romantic detective Mark McPherson, who becomes fixated on the portrait of the woman whose death he is investigating. She is Laura (Gene Tierney), a vivacious beauty courted by two men, either of whom may have killed her: Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), an acidulous newspaper critic who "created" Laura, and Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), the sycophantic playboy to whom she was engaged. Preminger takes great pleasure in suggesting both suitors are gay — Waldo bathes as if he were auditioning for the snails-and-soak scene in Spartacus — and mixes into their murderous ménage Judith Anderson as Laura's vicious socialite aunt. A silky, insinuating noir, Laura seems to unmake the genre as it glides towards its finale, which turns a swish Manhattan cocktail soirée into a Clue game that unmasks the murderer. "Noir in a nutshell. Even by standards of the period, the lighting in Laura is a treat; if you let Rembrandt loose in a series of New York apartments, this is what you'd get" (Anthony Lane, The New Yorker); "Preminger's Citizen Kane" (Andrew Sarris).