Laura

Laura, directed by Otto Preminger, stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, Clifton Webb and Judith Anderson.


It was nominated for 5 Oscars, including Preminger for best director and Webb for best actor, but won only for cinematography.


The film propelled its two relatively unknown young actors, Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews, to the top of the Hollywood box office.


And the haunting theme song would become one of the most memorable in Hollywood history.


It eventually became a jazz standard and has been recorded by more than four hundred artists, including Frank Sinatra & Nat King Cole.

 

The director, Otto Preminger, was born in Austria and came to the US in 1936 to direct on Broadway. He didn’t have much respect for actors and once said "I do not welcome advice from actors, they are here to act."


And some actors didn’t much care for him either.


Dyan Cannon said, "I don't think he'd be capable of directing his little nephew to the bathroom."


But he was nominated for 3 Oscars. Preminger is also credited with one of the first major blows against the Hollywood blacklist by openly hiring banned screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in 1960 to write Exodus, and giving Trumbo credit under his own name for the first time in 10 years.


In the 1940s, he had a child with stripper Gypsy Rose Lee but Lee rejected the idea of Preminger helping to support the child. She made him promise not to reveal the child’s paternity to anyone, including the child himself.


Lee called the boy Erik Kirkland, after her separated husband, Alexander Kirkland and it was not until 1966, when Preminger was 60 years old and Erik was 22 years old, that they finally met as father and son

 

Gene Tierney, Laura, was born into a wealthy New York family and got the acting bug when she was discovered while on a tour of Warner Brothers studios.


Director Anatole Litvak, who was on set at the time, was so taken by the seventeen-year-old’s beauty, that he told her that she should become an actress.


Her first Hollywood role was in 1941 and in 1945 she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in Leave Her to Heaven.


But when Tierney saw herself on screen for the first time, she was horrified by her voice ("I sounded like an angry Minnie Mouse"). She began smoking to lower her voice, which would come at a great price later in her life.


She made over 35 movies in her career and was nominated for one Academy Award. She also had her share of love affairs during her Hollywood reign, including one with John F. Kennedy in the 1940s.


She married designer Oleg Cassini in 1941 and in June 1943, while pregnant, Tierney contracted German measles during her only appearance at the Hollywood Canteen.


Daughter Daria was born prematurely, weighing a little over 3 pounds and because of the measles, the baby was also deaf, partially blind and had severe mental retardation.


Some time after Daria's birth, a fan approached Tierney for an autograph.

The fan, who during the war was a member of the women's branch of the Marines, told Tierney that she had met Tierney at her Hollywood Canteen appearance.


The fan had been sick with German measles at the time and had to sneak out of quarantine to meet Tierney. Tierney realized that this was the woman who had given her the measles and caused her so much heartache.


Tierney's grief over the tragedy led to many years of depression and mental problems. She was once admitted to a mental clinic after police had to talk her down from the 14th floor ledge of a building and she received extensive shock treatment in the 1950s while battling her mental problems.


She eventually recovered and in 1960 she married an oil man from Texas, where she lived the rest of her life.  Her final performance was in the TV miniseries Scruples in1980.


Her smoking finally caught up with her and she died of emphysema in 1991.

 

Trained in dance and theater, Clifton Webb, playing Waldo Lydecker, quit school at age 13 to study music and painting. By 19, he was a professional ballroom dancer in New York, and by his mid-twenties he was performing in musicals and dramas on Broadway and in London, and in silent movies.


His first real success in films came in middle age in this film. If you remember television's cartoon The Bullwinkle Show from the1960s, Webb was the inspiration for Mr. Peabody.


A well-known gay, he was inseparable from his overbearing mother, and he lived with her until her death at 91. Webb’s grieving continued for over a year, and close friend Noel Coward, said with some exasperation, "It must be difficult to be orphaned at 70."


Webb never recovered from his mother's death - he made only one more film, then spent the remainder of his life in ill health and seclusion. He died only six years after his mother.

 

Dana Andrews, detective McPherson, trained as an opera singer, but was rarely allowed to use his singing voice in the movies.


In the one musical he did make, State Fair, his voice was dubbed because the studio didn’t know he was a trained singer. He later explained that he didn't correct their mistake because he felt the singer dubbing him probably needed the money.


His brother is actor Steve Forrest, who also had a long Hollywood career.


In the late 1940s, during the height of Andrews’ popularity, a publicist for Fox sent a telegram to the mayor of Collins, Mississippi, Andrews’ home town,  suggesting that the town officially change its name to Andrews in honor of its native son.


The mayor wired back: "We will not change our name to Andrews. Have Andrews change his to Collins."


Elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1963, he was one of the first to speak out against the degradation of the acting profession, particularly actresses doing nude scenes just to get a role.


Andrews was an alcoholic, which eventually ended his career, and he was probably the first actor to do a public service announcement about alcoholism in 1972. In his nearly 50-year career, he appeared on over 75 movies.

 

Actor, writer, art collector and gourmet, Vincent Price, playing Laura’s fiancé, studied at Yale and made his screen debut in 1938.


Off-screen he was one of the classiest men in Hollywood, and from the 1930s into the 1990s, he appeared in over 100 movies and made nearly 2000 television appearances.


An art lover since childhood, Price bought his first Rembrandt etching at age 12.

And in the 1960s, he teamed up with Sears Roebuck to introduce the Vincent Price Fine Art collection.


Over the next 10 years he bought over 55,000 pieces on behalf of Sears, everything from Picassos to originals by new artists he himself discovered.

And he found yet another career in the mid-1970s as a gourmet cook and authored cookbooks and presented cooking shows on TV.


In the 80s, he contributed the narration and the crazy laugh for Michael Jackson’s Thriller.


Recognizable all over the world, Vincent once told the story of a middle-aged woman who came up to him while on a flight to Barcelona for a film festival.


She was really excited and said, "Could I please have your autograph?   I can't tell you how many years I have enjoyed your films, Mr. Karloff".


Always the perfect gentlemen, Price signed the autograph 'Boris Karloff'.