Clifton Webb and Dana Andrews in Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944).

Gene Tierney complements blossoms with puffs of smoke.

Dana Andrews stuck in his skin.

Preminger's most celebrated noir, and with good reason (though I'm personally attached to Where the Sidewalk Ends). Everything works: the visuals, the music, the dialogue all thrum together like an elegant sonata. If there's anything "wrong" with it, it may be that it's all so sparkly and debonair that it's too high-class for pure noir--but that's where Dana Andrews saves the day. As the cynical detective who gradually becomes obsessed with the beautiful dead woman in the painting, he brings a grimy shadiness to his part that cuts the glare of all the sophistication surrounding him.

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