The MoFo Top 100 Film Noir Countdown

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#10 Laura (1944)

Director: Otto Preminger
Production: Twentieth Century Fox
Cast: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price
447 Points, 31 Lists

'A police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating.'

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AndÖ.prediction fail. Laura was my 20. Itís a movie that sticks with me every time, but I have yet to give it 5 stars. I had to have it on my list. I just hear the word Noir, and I think I should watch Laura. Itís a great one and up this high for a reason.
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Laura was #12 on the MoFo Top 100 of the 1940s.
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My #6 was Laura...I pimped that movie when I mass mailed everyone. I used an animated gif from Laura on the message header. That was one cool gif, but I can't find it now. If anyone has a copy of that 'reminder to vote' in the noir countdown message, send it to me by hitting reply button.




Laura (1944)
Otto Preminger

I wrote a review of this nine years ago when I first joined MoFo...Time sure flies by. I want to write something fresh and brief because I love this film and could write 10,000 words about it but I won't do that. I'll just say thank goodness that Otto Preminger took over directing from Rouben Mamoulian and changed what would've been a run of a mill murder mystery into something more ethereal. A film that rises about it's script and imparts an almost magical feeling to the film. I credit Preminger, but mainly it's Gene Tierney who seems to be worlds away as if she's on another level of existences from the doldrums of this weary world.




Laura is great. I have a review on Letterboxd that will transfer here in a while, but I like it a whole lot. Great performances with Clifton Webb being the standout as Waldo Lydecker. If anything, I think I would've liked a bit more from the lead, Dana Andrews, but it doesn't hurt the film a lot. It's still a lot of fun. I had it at #13.


SEEN: 31/91
MY BALLOT: 16/25

My ballot  
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I would have voted for it, but...



Oh well. Glad it placed so high. Seeing the ways it inspired David Lynch makes it all the more enjoyable to watch as is how Twin Peaks references it beyond the obvious (there's a vet in the show named Dr. Lydecker, for instance).



LAURA
(1944, Preminger)



"Love is eternal. It has been the strongest motivation for human actions throughout history. Love is stronger than life. It reaches beyond the dark shadow of death."

Ever since I took an online course on film noir a couple of years ago, I've had my eyes on this one. But for some reason, I hadn't seen it yet, so thanks to @ApexPredator for bringing it up. The film has all the ingredients of a perfect noir: dark surroundings, shady characters, skewed and subjective points of view, a potential femme fatale, etc. and yet it feels unique in its own way.

Laura follows up Mark McPherson, a New York detective (Dana Andrews) investigating the alleged murder of the titular character, who was a successful advertising executive. Some of the potential suspects are Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a newspaper columnist with a quick wit and a vicious tongue, and Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a "kept man" that happens to be engaged to Laura. As Mark follows up the trail on Laura's murder, he wounds up finding twists and surprises in every corner while also developing a crush on the woman.

Laura, who we first meet through flashbacks, is played effectively by Gene Tierney. It isn't the "showiest" role, but she gets the job done. Similar things can be said about Andrews, who is cool and slick as the tough cop. He doesn't get to emote much, and him falling for Laura feels like a bit of a stretch, but I don't mind him. The show here belongs to Webb as Waldo Lydecker. From the first frame when you hear his narration, you know the film belongs to him. Webb does a perfect job in portraying a unique man; a man that is both confident and frail, strong but flawed. You never know what to expect from Lydecker, aside of his verbal attacks. Which is why we might tolerate absurdities like allowing a suspect to ride shotgun with a cop while interrogating other suspects.

I think I agree with Ebert, who said that the "absurdities and improbabilities somehow do not diminish the film's appeal. They may even add to it." Laura is not a perfect film, and yet it seems perfect in its own flawed way. It flows effortlessly, it pulls you in and keeps you in. Like Lydecker himself, a unique film it is: flawed, but perfect.

Grade:



I would have voted for it, but...



Oh well. Glad it placed so high. Seeing the ways it inspired David Lynch makes it all the more enjoyable to watch as is how Twin Peaks references it beyond the obvious (there's a vet in the show named Dr. Lydecker, for instance).
Ahh, the perils of using a phone to view the internet I don't know what web page that is in your screenshot....Here's IMDB's Laura page:

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Ahh, the dangers of using a phone to view the internet I don't know what web page that is in your screenshot....Here's IMDB's Laura page:

It's Letterboxd, which I used as a guide to writing my ballot. Notice that noir is missing from the list of genres.



List facts!

Laura is Otto Preminger's fourth entry, after three entries early in the backend: Where the Sidewalk Ends (#66), Fallen Angel (#80), and Angel Face (#86).

The film has a 100% RT score, which puts it in a tie with fifteen (15) other films that have perfect RT scores.

The point gaps between films will probably keep getting higher, but the 34-point gap between The Killing and Laura is the third highest.



It's Letterboxd, which I used as a guide to writing my ballot. Notice that noir is missing from the list of genres.
At the risk of sounding repetitive now at the end of the countdown, NOIR is not a genre per se and won't appear as a genre in most apps and platforms, including Letterboxd or TMDB. IMDb does have it, but not many others. That's why in the Neo-noir countdown, we used the "Themes" part, which you can see in the lower part of your screenshot, where it is labeled with "Noir and dark crime dramas".



At the risk of sounding repetitive now at the end of the countdown, NOIR is not a genre per se and won't appear as a genre in most apps and platforms, including Letterboxd or TMDB. IMDb does have it, but not many others. That's why in the Neo-noir countdown, we used the "Themes" part, which you can see in the lower part of your screenshot, where it is labeled with "Noir and dark crime dramas".
Got it. Oh well. I'll remember this when we do Noir/Neo-Noir II.



From the near misses, I voted for The Hidden Room/Obsession. I had it at #20, and didn't think it was going to make the Countdown, so I'm glad it was at least close!

Laura, on the other hand, I knew would be here somewhere - the question was just where it would wind up. Happy to see if make the top 10, since it was my #1. I saw it in the 1940s Hall of Fame, and wrote this at the time:


Laura
(1944)
Dir. Otto Preminger
Starring: Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Gene Tierney

Laura
is a film I've been looking forward to watching since it was nominated. I like film noirs, and I love Vincent Price, though it's strange to see him in something that's not a horror film. Also for once, Price wasn't my favourite performance. Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker was particularly great, stealing the show and keeping my attention even though I didn't like his character. He was still well written and a great part of the story, I just mean that I thought he was a despicable, unlikeable person.

Unfortunately I can't say much about the cinematography. I was too busy listening to the dialogue and being mesmerized by the actors, which is definitely a big plus for Laura because that's not normally the case when I watch these kinds of films. It wasn't until the final act when I started paying attention to the visuals. My favourite shots were rather late in the film: Lydecker and his shadow in the stairwell, and the image of the clock and it's shadow growing as the door opens behind it. The cinematography in the whole final act was great, so I'll definitely have to watch this again sometime soon and pay attention to the composition of the rest of the film.
Unfortunately I don't really have anything to add about either film, and can't even find a good gif of The Hidden Room/Obsession either. I'm going to have to start making those myself it seems!

Seen: 39/91

My List: 18
01. Laura (1944) - #10
02.
03. Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) - #92
04. Murder My Sweet (1944) - #28
05. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - #12
06. Detour (1945) - #24
07. Rebecca (1940) - #35
08. Ministry of Fear (1944) - #75
09. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) - #40
10.
11. This Gun for Hire (1942) - #78
12. Mildred Pierce (1945) - #15
13. Odd Man Out (1947) - #47
14.
15. Strangers on a Train (1951) - #18
16.
17. The Asphalt Jungle (1950) - #16
18. Night and the City (1950) - #25
19. Phantom Lady (1944) - #69
20. The Hidden Room/Obsession (1949) - DNP
21.
22. The Killing (1956) - #11
23.
24. Kiss Me Deadly (1955) - #14
25. The Stranger (1946) - #38



Got it. Oh well. I'll remember this when we do Noir/Neo-Noir II.
NEO-NOIR II: NEO-NOIR BOOGALOO!!

Then again, Citizen didn't include Letterboxd among his options for confirmation, whereas I did. That's probably the most persistent issue that we had in the countdown and the thorn on Holden's side Since NEO-NOIR is not a genre per se, we had to find ways to sorta limit the scope and not let people vote for anything like Aladdin or Fast and the Furious.

The "best" way I could think of was to ask for confirmation from at least two sites out of four (IMDb, Letterboxd, Wikipedia, and TMDB), but it was inevitable that some films that aren't necessarily considered as neo-noir would slip through the cracks; be it because they do have neo-noir elements, albeit limited... or because they're genre hybrids... or because someone was "creative" enough to label it as such in some of these sites. That's why, for every entry, I've tried to include legitimate articles and quotes from critics and reviewers that saw *some* neo-noir on every film, because at the end of the day, it's a matter of appreciation. Like I've said before, if experts and film scholars themselves still argue about what is noir, what is neo-noir, we can't expect to fully agree on a film forum either.

Personally, I think we've done as best as we could, and I think that for every shady Neo-noir or Neo-noir "outlier" that we've gotten, we've gotten at least one or two genuine Neo-noirs. I think the list is more balanced than some might think.



Personally, I think we've done as best as we could, and I think that for every shady Neo-noir or Neo-noir "outlier" that we've gotten, we've gotten at least one or two genuine Neo-noirs. I think the list is more balanced than some might think.
I agree, the list came out really well. There was never not going to be some wonky stuff with such a hard genre to nail down.

I specifically tried to avoid stuff I just considered crime thrillers. Even having that mindset I have looked sideways at my list a few times the last couple months. It would look much different today, and no doubt again tomorrow, if I started over from scratch.



1 for 1 today (I guess the Top 10 reveals will be single day affairs which makes sense). But I didn't have Laura on my ballot. Didn't really remember it till it was too late. I'm not sure which of my picks I would have jettisoned in favor of it but it's more than worthy of inclusion.

57 of 91 seen so far.