Investigating the murder of Laura Hunt, Detective Mark McPherson (Andrews) interrogates Waldo Lydecker (Webb), an misanthropic journalist everyone fears. Secretly in love with Laura, he gave her her first big break, helping her successful advertising career.
McPherson next questions Shelby Carpenter (Price), Laura's aunt's lover, a lying poseur who was to marry the victim. Slowly untangling the events leading to the murder through the memories of the people close to the victim, McPherson gradually gets to know the enigmatic, bewitching Laura. Even deceased, she casts a spell; McPherson feels her presence. Seeing her portrait, he begins to fall in love with her. Haunted and obsessed as he looks through her closet, touches her clothes, reads her letters, and learns her innermost thoughts, he resolves to find her killer.
Everyone but director Preminger thought the film would be forgotten, but it became a classic, due largely to the superb script and the cast's work. Andrews, at his best, is a skeptical, down-to-earth detective, Tierney is the sublime, beautiful, elusive victim, and Pricem in a rare non-horror role, is just right as sickly, contemptible Shelby Carpenter. Webb as misanthropic Waldo Lydecker delightfully mixes arrogance, grace, and black humor.
A masterpiece, shot entirely indoors, its characters' interaction is intense and gripping, as McPherson follows the trail from one suspect to another. The film's deceptively lesuirely beginning pace and light, careless air heighten its suspense yet the audience isn't aware of the buildup.
Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, Betty Reinhardt, based on novel by Vera Caspary
Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson, Grant Mitchell,
Progressive female lead; mystery; Preminger; insightful inte
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