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Film Noir: "Laura" (1944)- Otto Preminger


Otto Preminger’s 1944 film noir “Laura” is one of the first films to exhibit the topic of murder mystery along with several other films such as “Double Indemnity”. Compared to earlier film noirs, also known as “black” films, “Laura” has one of the most complicated storylines of any of these earlier “black” films. In addition, this film had obvious clues how the American culture was like during the height of World War II as well as some Freudianism within the plot between the main character, Laura and other protagonists and antagonists.


Back in 1944, American cinema was experiencing a small revolution where previous films almost always had positive resolutions to them, except for some gangster and pre-code films from the early 1930s. This was because there were no rating systems and absolutely anyone including children and infants were allowed to just go with their families to the movie theater to watch one movie per week. As a result of that, these films had standards to block out visual content that may be disturbing to the audience, such as showing blood and gore. Then, in 1944, these black films such as “Laura” were films that had negative resolutions due to this genre almost always having a murder involved within the plot.


In “Laura”, specifically, the story’s structure was like previous films such as “Citizen Kaine” (1941) and another black film, “Double Indemnity” (1944), where the end of the story was shown at the beginning of the film and then was backtracked leading up to the ending of the film. Viewers may find this storyline to be very confusing because the dialogue was too heavy without showing flashback footage of the past and it’s so important for viewers to see images of the characters’ past, with an insertion of flashback footage. What was shocking was that a conversation with the two guys talking about Laura, the film cut immediately to the beginning of the story of Laura and how she was involved with their lives from when they met to her death.


“Laura” can be a controversial film to many viewers because the characters’ behaviors and relationships among each other have Freudian behavior, as, for example, when Laura and the detective kiss each other when they leave each other after a conversation. Other examples were when the detective blended in with the rest of the household at a family gathering and when Laura was taken for integration by the detective. The film was so informal and unrealistic today for how murder mystery films can solve issues properly.


Otto Preminger was able to successfully produce an innovative film, receiving influence from previous black films, and it was obvious that so many things were going on in America while viewers watched this film. The “The End” title card had a stamp on the right corner stating that food stamps were available in the lobby of the theater, and that gave clues that this film had a purpose the way it was made. In addition, there were not many young men starring in the film since most young men were overseas fighting the Nazis and Japanese. In Europe, these black films, were not seen until after the war, and viewers over there were impressed with how well these films came together and were impressed with how the American film industry changed in as little as 5 years.

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