Laura - still the face in the misty light

Laura, as a highly celebrated film noir from the 1940s, very much disappointed me when I finally caught up with it on YouTube recently. Yet it still manages to remain 'haunting' despite that, a mystery certainly more intriguing than the one presented in the film itself.

The solution can only be that the movie lingers on beyond reality, has become one with the elusive dream of the Laura of David Raksin's haunting song. Under pressure from the studio, he composed the melody specially for the film in a weekend; it was only afterwards magically enhanced by the wonderfully evocative lyrics of Johnny Mercer. Since, it has been recorded hundreds of times, by jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Woody Herman and as a standard by the top vocalists of their generation - Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London and, among many others, Johnny Mathis, who gives the best version of all for me.

Laura, the song, says so much more about Laura the woman than the film ever did. The performances of Gene Tierney, a beautiful but open book in the lead, and Dana Andrews, a one-dimensional detective investigating her mystery, do not rise to the occasion at any point. Clifton Webb is the star of this film and deserves the plaudits he received for his avant-garde performance as a gay possessive driven to femicide. He sits ground-breakingly in his bath during his first meeting with Andrews' colourless detective. No doubt that was the only way in those days to suggest the unmentionable.

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