Laura (1944) is the story of a New York City police detective's (Dana Andrews) obsession with a murder investigation of a young woman named, you guessed it, Laura. Directed by Otto Preminger, the film noir has brilliant one liners, a haunting soundtrack and great sets. And the design all starts with a portrait.
Art Directors Leland Fuller and Lyle Wheeler (Gone With the Wind) and Set Decorators Thomas Little and Paul Fox received an Academy Award nomination for the film. Little and Fox were literally the Parish/Hadley of film decor at that time. Little worked on an astonishing four hundred plus films (Snows of Kilimanjaro and All About Eve were some of the best) and Fox survived Cleopatra (I will write a future blog on the making of that film. It's a great behind the scenes story.) and Desk Set. Between the two of them, they had nine Oscars for their work.
The antique and Aubusson filled sets are stylish, elegant and reminiscent of cosmopolitan Manhattan interiors of the forties.
The painting was an actual photograph painted over with oil and reused for On the Riviera and Woman's World.
Acid tongued critic Waldo Lydecker's luxurious bathroom. Played by Clifton Webb, he utters one of the film's more memorable quotes "I don't use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom."
Wide angle view of sets on the studio soundstage
Photo Credits: Margaret Herrick Library, Twentieth Century Fox