Laura (1944 film)

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Laura is a 1944 film about a police detective who falls in love with the woman whose murder he's investigating.

Directed by Otto Preminger. Written by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, and Betty Reinhardt, based on the novel by Vera Caspary.
The story of a love that became the most fearful thing that ever happened to a woman!
Spoiler warning: Plot, ending, or solution details follow.

Waldo Lydecker

  • I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. A silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass. It was the hottest Sunday in my recollection. I felt as if I were the only human being left in New York. For with Laura's horrible death, I was alone. I, Waldo Lydecker, was the only one who really knew her. And I had just begun to write Laura's story when - another of those detectives came to see me. I had him wait. I could watch him through the half-open door. I noted that his attention was fixed upon my clock. There was only one other in existence, and that was in Laura's apartment in the very room where she was murdered.
  • I know you'll have to visit everyone on your list of suspects. I like to study their reactions.
  • To have overlooked me would have been a pointed insult.
  • If you know anything about faces, look at mine. How singularly innocent I look this morning. Have you ever seen such candid eyes?
  • This is our table, Laura's and mine. We spent many quiet evenings here together.
  • [to Laura] Young woman, either you have been raised in some incredibly rustic community where good manners are unknown or you suffer from the common feminine delusion that the mere fact of being a woman exempts you from the rules of civilized conduct, or possibly both.
  • [to Laura] I don't use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom.....I'll neither consider, endorse, or use the Wallace pen. I hate pens. If your employers wish me to publish that statement in my column, you may tell them that I shall be delighted to oblige.
  • She had something about her, that girl. I had to speak to her again. I had to see her.
  • [to Laura] I wish to point out that you caught me at my most difficult moment. Ordinarily, I am not without a heart...Shall I produce X-ray pictures to prove it? I wish to apologize...And now, for reasons which are too embarrassing to mention, I'd like to endorse that pen.
  • Her career began with my endorsement of the pen. I secured other endorsements for her, introduced her to important clients. I gave her her start. But it was her own talent and imagination that enabled her to rise to the top of her profession and stay there. She had an eager mind always. She was always quick to seize upon anything that would improve her mind or her appearance. Laura had innate breeding. But she deferred to my judgment and taste. I selected a more attractive hairdress for her. I taught her what clothes were more becoming to her. Through me, she met everyone - the famous and the infamous. Her youth and beauty, her poise and charm of manner captivated them all. She had warmth, vitality. She had authentic magnetism. Wherever we went, she stood out. Men admired her. Women envied her. She became as well-known as Waldo Lydecker's walking stick and his white carnation. On Tuesday and Friday nights, we stayed home, dining quietly, listening to my records. I read my articles to her. The way she listened was more eloquent than speech. These were the best nights.
  • Then one Tuesday, she phoned and said she couldn't come. It didn't matter really. But when it happened again the following Friday, I was disturbed. I couldn't understand it. I felt betrayed and yet I knew Laura wouldn't betray anyone. I walked for a long time. Then, I found myself before her apartment building. The lights were on. It pleased me to know she was home 'til I saw she was not alone. Well, I waited. I wanted to see who he was. It was Jacoby who had recently painted her portrait. I never liked the man. He was so obviously conscious of looking more like an athlete than an artist. I spent the rest of the night writing a column about him. I demolished his affectations, exposed his camouflaged imitations of better painters, ridiculed his theories. I did it for her, knowing Jacoby was unworthy of her. It was a masterpiece because it was a labor of love. Naturally, she could never regard him seriously again. There were others, of course. But her own discrimination ruled them out before it became necessary for me to intercede.
  • Laura, dear, I cannot stand these morons any longer. If you don't come with me this instant, I shall run amok.
  • What came of it I hoped to hear that night. I alternated between moods of over-optimism and over-pessimism. When the phone rang, I had a foreboding of disaster.
  • It was the last time I ever heard her voice. I was sure she had too much pride to forgive him....I shall never forgive myself for letting her become involved with Shelby. It was my fault. I should have stopped it somehow.
  • You better watch out, McPherson, or you'll end up in a psychiatric ward. I don't think they've ever had a patient who fell in love with a corpse.
  • Perhaps our friend can weave all the loose ends into a noose, eh, McPherson?
  • [on the radio] And thus, as history has proved, Love is Eternal. It has been the strongest motivation for human actions throughout centuries. Love is stronger than Life. It reaches beyond the dark shadow of Death. I close this evening's broadcast with some favorite lines...Brief Life - They are not long, the weeping and the laughter, love and desire and hate. I think they have no portion in us after we pass the gate...They are not long, the days of wine and roses. Out of a misty dream, our path emerges for a while, then closes within a dream.
  • Goodbye, Laura. Goodbye, my love.

Det. Lt. Mark McPherson

  • When a dame gets killed, she doesn't worry about how she looks.
  • [to Laura] If anything should happen to you this time, I wouldn't like it.
  • Dames are always pulling a switch on you.
  • [to Shelby] You took that poor girl in Miss Hunt's apartment. You knew all along it was she who was murdered. Didn't you know Laura Hunt would come back any day and spill the whole thing? Or did you plan to kill her too and hide the body someplace and cover up your first crime?...You took a bottle of Black Pony to her house Friday night...Where's the key to her apartment?
  • [on the phone] Don't worry. I told you I'd bring in the killer today. Yeah, I was just gonna make the arrest when you called. No, I can't tell you now. I'm not alone. You'll see when I come in.
  • [to Laura] I was 99% certain about you. But I had to get rid of that 1% doubt...I'd reached the point where I needed official surroundings.
  • [to Laura] The doorbell rang and Diane Redfern went to the door in your negligee. She opened the door. The room was dark. Waldo saw a girl standing there and he assumed it was you. He figured that if he couldn't have you himself, he was gonna make sure that nobody else did, so he let her have it with both barrels right in the face. She fell here. Waldo heard Shelby running from the next room so he hid in the stairway outside. Shelby was scared so he ran out as fast as he could. Then Waldo came back and placed the gun in that clock.
  • [to Laura] For a charming, intelligent girl, you certainly surrounded yourself with a remarkable collection of dopes.

Shelby Carpenter

  • I can afford a blemish on my character but not on my clothes.
  • I also read palms, I cook, I swallow swords, I mend my own socks, I never eat garlic or onions. What more can you want of a man?
  • Then there was a moment's silence and then a shot. It was an awful explosion. By the time I reached her, the door was closed. She lay there on the floor....I was too confused, too horrified, incapable of doing anything. The room was dark. I saw only a vague heap lying on the floor. I don't think I fully grasped the situation. I think I called her name, but I'm not sure. I-I remember kneeling on the floor, feeling her heart. My first instinct was to call the police....I was afraid, not only for myself but for Laura. In a panicky sort of way, I felt that I must keep out of this to keep Laura out of it. Oh, I know now how foolish and hopeless it was, but there was only one thing on my mind - the safety of a person whose life was dearer to me than my own. Don't you understand that?
  • I was groping for some way to keep Laura's name out of it. I was heartbroken about Diane and panic-stricken about Laura. I haven't slept a full two hours since this thing happened.
  • [to Laura, about McPherson] I see he's taking a new tact...Trying to make you like him, to make you talk.
  • [to Laura] You don't have to lie to me, darling. I'll stand by you.

Anne Treadwell

  • Shelby, why don't you come to your senses? You know it's all over between you and Laura or it soon will be. You haven't lost me. Why don't we get married - now?...You need me. We'll get the best lawyer that money can buy. And when it's all over, we'll go away - anywhere you want - and forget about all this.
  • [to Laura] McPherson suspects Shelby...Oh, I don't think he did it, but he's capable of it....Anybody's better for you than Shelby. Anybody is. Shelby's better for me...'cause I can afford him and understand him. He's no good, but he's what I want. I'm not a nice person, Laura, and neither is he. He knows I know he's just what he is. He also knows that I don't care. We belong together because we're both weak and can't seem to help it. That's why I know he's capable of murder. He's like me.

Laura Hunt

  • I never have been and I never will be bound by anything I don't do with my own free will.
  • He didn't really kill Diane Redfern. I killed her...I did as sure as if I'd pulled the trigger myself...I'm as guilty as he is. Not for anything I did but for what I didn't do. But I couldn't help myself. I owed him too much.
  • [to McPherson] I was nearly frantic with fear you'd arrest Shelby. I knew he wasn't guilty. He hasn't enough courage to kill a fly. And Waldo was doing everything he could to incriminate him. It was his way of getting rid of Shelby just as he did Jacoby.

Dialogue

McPherson: Nice little place you have here, Lydecker.
Lydecker: It's lavish, but I call it home.

Lydecker: Yesterday morning after Laura's body was found, I was questioned by Sergeants McAvity and Shultz. And I stated: [He reads from his typed statement] 'On Friday night, Laura had a dinner engagement with me, after which she was ostensibly going out of town. She phoned and cancelled our engagement at exactly seven o'clock. After that...
McPherson: ...you ate a lonely dinner, then got into the tub to read.' Why did you write it down? Afraid you'd forget it?
Lydecker: I am the most widely mis-quoted man in America. When my friends do it, I resent it. From Sergeants McAvity and Shultz, I should find it intolerable. Hand me that washcloth please, Mr. __ , Mr. __ ?
McPherson: McPherson.
Lydecker: The Siege of Babylon, Long Island. The gangster with a machine gun killed three policemen. I told the story over the air. Wrote a column about it. Are you the one with the leg full of lead? The man who walked right in and got him.
McPherson: You have a pretty good memory, Mr. Lydecker.
Lydecker: I always liked that detective with a silver shinbone.
McPherson: Thanks. I hope you won't have any reason to change your mind about me.

McPherson: You said Harrington was rubbed out with a shotgun loaded with buckshot, the way Laura Hunt was murdered, the night before last.
Lydecker: Did I?
McPherson: Yeah. But he was really killed with a sash weight.
Lydecker: How ordinary. My version was obviously superior. I never bother with details, you know.
McPherson: I do.

McPherson: Were you in love with Laura Hunt, Mr. Lydecker? Was she in love with you?
Lydecker: Laura considered me the wisest, the wittiest, the most interesting man she'd ever met. And I was in complete accord with her on that point. She thought me also the kindest, the gentlest, the most sympathetic man in the world.
McPherson: Did you agree with her there, too?
Lydecker: McPherson, you won't understand this. But I tried to become the kindest, the gentlest, the most sympathetic man in the world.
McPherson: Have any luck?
Lydecker: Let me put it this way. I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbors' children devoured by wolves. Shall we go?

McPherson: Did you approve of Miss Hunt's coming marriage to Mr. Carpenter?
Anne: Why? Shouldn't I approve?
McPherson: I don't know. What is your relationship with Mr. Carpenter?
Anne: What do you mean?
McPherson: What I mean is he's been a frequent guest in your home. Is he an acquaintance, friend? Are you in love with him?
Lydecker: This is beginning to assume fabulous aspects.
Anne: Oh, shut up, Waldo! What are you driving at?
McPherson: The truth, Mrs. Treadwell. Are you in love with him?
Anne: Why no. I'm - I'm very fond of Mr. Carpenter, of course. Everybody is.
Lydecker: I'm not. I'll be hanged if I am.
Anne: Oh, don't be so annoying, Waldo.
McPherson: Did you give Mr. Carpenter money?
Anne: What do you mean?
McPherson: A couple of checks went through your account endorsed by him...
Anne: [laughing embarrassingly] Oh that. I asked him to do some shopping for me. That's all.
Lydecker: Shelby's a very obliging fellow.
McPherson: For some time also, you've been withdrawing various amounts in cash, sometimes fifteen hundred, sometimes seventeen hundred at a clip.
Anne: Yes. I needed that money.
McPherson: The day you took out fifteen hundred dollars, Mr. Carpenter deposited thirteen hundred fifty. When you withdrew seventeen hundred, he deposited fifteen hundred fifty.
Lydecker: Maybe they were shooting craps?
Anne: Oh, must I be insulted like this! Shelby needed some money and I lent it to him. That's all. Well, after all, it is my money. I suppose I can do as I please with it.

Lydecker: Laura had not definitely made up her mind to marry him. She told me so herself, last Friday when she called up to cancel our dinner engagement. As a matter of fact, she was going to the country to think it over. She was extremely kind, but I was always sure she would never have thrown her life away on a male beauty in distress.
Shelby: [to McPherson] I suppose you've heard losers whine before, especially in your profession, eh?

Lydecker: Have you ever been in love?
McPherson: A doll in Washington Heights once got a fox fur out of me.
Lydecker: Did you ever know a woman who wasn't a doll or a dame?
McPherson: Yeah, one. But she kept walking me past furniture windows to look at the parlor suites.
Lydecker: Would you mind turning that off?
McPherson: Why? Don't you like it?
Shelby: It was one of Laura's favorite. Not exactly classical but sweet.

Lydecker: Will you please stop dawdling with that infernal puzzle? It's getting on my nerves.
McPherson: I know, but it keeps me calm.

Lydecker: In my case, self-absorption is completely justified. I have never discovered any other subject quite so worthy of my attention.
Laura: But you write about people with such real understanding and sentiment. That's what makes your column so good.
Lydecker: The sentiment comes easy at 50 cents a word.
Laura: Well, if that's the way you really feel, you must be very lonely.
Lydecker: Will you kindly continue this character analysis elsewhere? You begin to bore me.
Laura: You're a poor man. I'm very sorry for you.

Laura: I'm not alone. [She looks back toward Lydecker]
Shelby: Oh him! I thought he's still doin' the polka.
Lydecker: Excuse me, please. Yes, Betsy Ross taught it to me.

Laura: By stooping so low, you only degrade yourself, Waldo.
Lydecker: Did you know that he almost went to jail for passing rubber checks? That he was suspected of stealing his hostess' jewels when he was a house guest in Virginia?...
Laura: What of it? I know his faults. A man can change, can't he? People are always ready to hold out a hand to slap you down but never to pick you up. All right, I'm helping Shelby. His past is his own affair. I only care about the present.
Lydecker: Speaking of the changed Mr. Carpenter in the present tense, he's now running around with a model from your own office. Her name is Diane Redfern.
Laura: I'm closer to despising you than I thought I ever would be... I'm sorry. I should have told you before. Shelby and I are going to be married, next week.
Lydecker: I believe you presented him with a cigarette case on his last birthday. Rather valuable, isn't it?
Laura: Where did you get it?
Lydecker: From the pawn shop where Diane Redfern took it after he gave it to her.
Laura: I don't believe it. He probably needed money and was too proud to borrow.
Lydecker: Carpenter proud? Perhaps that's why the pawn ticket was in her name.
Laura: Before this goes any further, well, I'll just... [She dials the phone for Shelby at his home]
Lydecker: He isn't home. He's dining at Anne Treadwell's.
Laura: He can't be. He asked me to dinner.
Lydecker: He would have cancelled his appointment with her if you had accepted. He treats her rather badly these days. [Laura begins dialing Anne's number] I'm afraid she'll say he isn't there.
Laura: Waldo? Why are you doing this?
Lydecker: For you, Laura.

Shelby: [at Anne's home] Hello, darling. I didn't expect to see you tonight.
Lydecker: There you are, my dear. In a moment of supreme disaster, he's trite.
Shelby: You've been readin' too many melodramas, Waldo. I was just telling Anne about our getting married.

Lydecker: There are two or three things in here belong to me. This vase, for instance. And that, uh, clock of course, and antique fire screen. I only lent them to Laura, you know.
Anne: Oh really, Waldo.
Lydecker: Yes, really. This vase is the gem of my collection. I intend to have it back. And the clock and the screen too.
Shelby: They aren't yours. You gave them to Laura. I won't permit it.
Lydecker: Does an alleged fiance have any voice in this matter? I'll take the vase with me now and send someone to collect the other things this very day.
McPherson: Nothing's leaving here except you, Lydecker.

Lydecker: Haven't you any sense of privacy?
McPherson: Murder victims have no claim to privacy.
Lydecker: Have detectives who buy portraits of murder victims a claim to privacy?...McPherson, did it ever strike you that you're acting very strangely? It's a wonder you don't come here like a suitor with roses and a box of candy - drugstore candy, of course. Have you ever dreamed of Laura as your wife, by your side at the Policeman's Ball or in the bleachers? Or listening to the heroic story of how you got a silver shinbone from a gun battle with a gangster? ...I see you have.
McPherson: Why don't you go home? I'm busy.

Laura: What are you doing here?
McPherson: You're alive.
Laura: If you don't get out at once, I'm going to call the police.
McPherson: You are Laura Hunt, aren't you? Aren't you?
Laura: I'm going to call the police.
McPherson: I am the police.

McPherson: Did you know or did you suspect that he [Carpenter] was going to bring her here Friday night, Miss Hunt?
Laura: How could I? I don't know that he brought her here, and neither do you. You merely assume it.
McPherson: What other assumption is possible? Do you love this fellow Carpenter so much you risk your own safety to protect him?
Laura: My own safety? You suspect me?
McPherson: I suspect nobody and everybody. I'm merely trying to get at the truth.
Laura: I see you have been trying to get at the truth. You've read things I never meant anyone else to look at.
McPherson: Strictly routine. I'm sorry, really.

Lydecker: Well, McPherson, what does Laura's resurrection do to you?
McPherson: Too bad Diane Redfern can't be resurrected.

Lydecker: Don't worry, darling. Let them accuse you. We'll fight them. I have every weapon. Money, connections, prestige, and my column. Every day, millions will read about you and rally to your defense.
McPherson: You talk as if you wanted to see her tried for murder.
Lydecker: Yes, rather than let you blacken her name with suspicions and rumors. Try to prove her guilty. Get on the witness stand with your poor shreds of evidence. I'll expose your cheap methods you used on her.

McPherson: Let's have it.
Laura: What difference does it make what I say? You've made up your mind I'm guilty.
McPherson: Are you?
Laura: Don't tell me you have any doubts?...No, I didn't kill Diane Redfern or anyone else.
McPherson: Then why, why did you tell me the radio at your country place was broken.
Laura: Because it was broken.
McPherson: Not when I tried it.
Laura: Just as I was leaving the village, I asked the local handyman to fix it.
McPherson: How did he get in?
Laura: I always leave a key under the flowerpot on the porch.

McPherson: The main thing I want to know is why you pulled that switch on me about Carpenter. You told me last night you decided not to marry him.
Laura: Yes, I guess I did.
McPherson: But today, it was on again. Why?
Laura: Well, I-I changed my mind.
McPherson: What are you trying to hide? Don't you realize you're involved in a murder? You've got yourself in a jam that's not gonna be easy to get out of unless you're on the level with me. This is no time for secrets. Now, did you really decide to call it off? Or did you just tell me that because you knew I wanted to hear it. What went on between you and Carpenter when you saw him last night? Did he persuade you to make up? Or did you agree to pretend you had? Was that it?
Laura: Well, we, that is, both of us ---
McPherson: He convinced you that if you broke the engagement now, people would think you believed he was guilty.
Laura: Yes. But now I know it was only because he thought I was.
McPherson: Did you believe he was guilty?
Laura: No, I'm sure he isn't. But he'd gotten himself into an awfully suspicious position. And he's the sort of man that people are always ready to believe the worst about.
McPherson: Are you in love with him?
Laura: I don't see how I ever could have been.
McPherson: Come on, we're going home.

Lydecker: It still doesn't make sense to me, Laura. He's playing some sort of a game with you.
Laura: I don't think so.
Lydecker: I don't deny that he's infatuated with you in some warped way of his own. But he isn't capable of any normal, warm, human relationship. He's been dealing with criminals too long. When you were unattainable, when he thought you were dead, that's when he wanted you most.
Laura: But he was glad when I came back as if he were waiting for me.
Lydecker: Do you know what he calls women? 'Dames.' 'A dame in Washington Heights got a fox fur out of him.' His very words.
Laura: That doesn't mean anything. He isn't like that.
Lydecker: Laura, you have one tragic weakness. With you, a lean strong body is the measure of a man. And you always get hurt.
Laura: No man is ever going to hurt me again. No one. Not even you.
Lydecker: I? Hurt you? Laura - look at me. When a man has everything in the world that he wants, except what he wants most, he loses his self-respect. It makes him bitter, Laura. He wants to hurt someone as he's been hurt. You were a long time finding out about Shelby but that's over now. We'll be back together again.

Lydecker: It's the same obvious pattern, Laura. If McPherson weren't muscular and handsome in a cheap sort of way, you'd see through him in a second.
Laura: Waldo, I mean to be as kind about this as I know how. But I must tell you. You're the one who follows the same obvious pattern. First it was Jacoby, then Shelby, and now I suppose - I don't think we should see each other again.
Lydecker: You're not yourself, darling.
Laura: Yes I am. For the first time in ages, I know what I'm doing.
Lydecker: Very well. I hope you'll never regret what promises to be a disgustingly earthy relationship. My congratulations, McPherson. And listen to my broadcast in fifteen minutes. I'm discussing Great Lovers of History.

Lydecker: That's the way it is, isn't it, Laura?
Radio Announcer: You have heard the voice of Waldo Lydecker by electrical transcription.
Laura: Waldo, you've taken one life. Isn't that enough?
Lydecker: The best part of myself - that's what you are. Do you think I'm going to leave it to the vulgar pawing of a second-rate detective who thinks you're a dame? Do you think I could bear the thought of him holding you in his arms, kissing you, loving you? ...There he is now. He'll find us together, Laura as we always have been and we always should be, as we always will be.

Cast

External links

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