Wednesday, December 8, 2010
LAURA (1944) vs. GILDA (1946)
Why Laura vs. Gilda?
Answer: Both have a one-word title of the name of the main character, both were made during the same relative time period, both are film noirs, and both feature the premiere screen beauties of their era. (Rita Hayworth as Gilda and Gene Tierney as Laura in case you didn’t know.)
On to the categories…
Best opening line:
(Laura) “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died… A silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass.
(Gilda)“To me a dollar was a dollar in any language.” As a pair of dice come rolling toward the screen.
Winner: Laura. Both lines are winners, but I’ve got to go with Clifton Webb’s voice over narration for Laura here.
Best setting: Laura is mostly set in the various apartments and homes of the main characters, though there is a very nice country scene where Detective Dana Andrews interrogates Vincent Price. Gilda’s setting of Buenos Aires is a bit richer and really becomes part of the story.
Best story: Vera Caspary’s story (Laura) went through many changes and rewrites, but it is largely solid, especially the lines for Lydecker (Clifton Webb). Gilda has some good dialogue as well, such as the famous “Statistics show there are more women in the world than anything else…except insects,” uttered by the cynical gambler Johnny (Glenn Ford). I’ll still go with…
Best supporting cast: Gilda’s Joseph Calleia as the all-knowing wash room attendant and George Macready as the enigmatic millionaire are fine, but you really can’t beat Laura’s oily playboy Vincent Price and acerbic columnist Clifton Webb. (Yes, I’ve mentioned Clifton Webb three times now)
Best leading man: Tough call. Overall, I like Dana Andrews (Laura) a little more than Glenn Ford (Gilda) and I was going to give the round to Laura, but I’ve reconsidered and think Ford’s considerable chemistry with Ms. Hayworth is worth a tick in the Gilda column.
Best use of cigarettes: Frivolous category you say? It’s a good thing classic film noir came out before there was a report against smoking from the surgeon general, because they light up in practically every scene and almost always pull their ciggy from a stylish case. At least the detective in Laura occasionally forgoes a smoke when stressed and plays his toy baseball game instead. But for its consistently noirish and seemingly endless use of smokes, I’ll give this round to Gilda, but only because it was filmed pre-surgeon general. (They’re bad for you, you know.)
Best music: Laura’s haunting theme has been played and recorded countless times over the years. What has Gilda got? Rita Hayworth singing Put the Blame on Mame? Be serious…wait. Rita’s scene is coming on. She’s taking off her gloves. She’s dancing. She’s moving. Ahhh...she’s won me over. Guess I’m easy. Despite all logic to the contrary, you win this round, Rita.
Best director: Both films are well done, but I'll go with Laura director Otto “Mr. Freeze” Preminger. Nothing against Charles (never played a Batman villain) Vidor of Gilda , but I’ll go with Mr. Freeze here. Interesting that Preminger and star Vincent (Egghead) Price went on to be Batman villains. Or is that just interesting to me? Anyway…Winner: Laura
Best leading lady: Of course, it comes down to this. Rita Hayworth as Gilda, the voluptuous redhead or Gene Tierney as Laura, the brunette with the impossibly beautiful face. How can you beat Hayworth’s first scene where she flips her hair and smiles for the camera? But how can you beat Tierney’s opening scene, which is really just her portrait, though it’s more than enough for detective Dana Andrews to fall in love with her?
Winners: They both are, of course.
Personal choice: Well, I’ll actually pick a winner this time. Ultimately, I’ll go with the stronger narrative and pick Laura as the winner. (But still try to catch both if you can.)