Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1944: Clifton Webb in Laura

Clifton Webb received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Waldo Lydecker in Laura.

Laura tells the investigation of the murder of a young advertising executive Laura (Gene Tierney).

I should mention this review really must have spoilers  for the mystery of Laura. Though one can usually guess who the killer is in a mystery when there was someone nominated in the best supporting actor category. Clifton Webb portrays Waldo Lydecker a newspaper columnist who knows how to easily spew venom and way he wishes whenever he wishes to. Webb could not be better cast for the role as he challenges John Gielgud for being the King of portraying stuffy upper class individuals with quite a superiority complex.

Webb never leaves an moment open for when Waldo is on screen to question to question whom Waldo believes to be the smartest man in the room. Webb does not exactly control every scene with his presence which would be wrong for Waldo actually, but he is always part of the room that you cannot ignore. Webb always has the right emphasis with every single one of Waldo's snarky comments that he comes up with in all of his scenes. Webb always has the right demeanor in these moments as he shows that Waldo does this effortlessly.

Webb keeps Waldo as a bit of a enigma as he should be, in that he never gives away exactly who Waldo is in detail. Yes he is a pompous columnist which Webb displays in spades, but Webb never does leave a bit of mystery behind the man that may or may not contribute to his motivations. Although Webb never makes Waldo not a suspect he never makes it obvious that he will be the villain in the end. Yes it is clear that he is a rather low life sort of man who seems to try to prey on people's weaknesses and manipulating others is not beyond him. Webb never shows it as evil, but rather that is simply the way Waldo is.

An interesting criticism that the film sometimes receives is that Webb who was gay in real life does not seem like ever a romantic possibility with Laura. Well firstly I would say Webb could portray a straight person well enough when he wanted to like in Cheaper by the Dozen he is a believable father and husband. On the other hand in Sitting Pretty the plot point about the town gossip about Webb's character and the housewife played by Maureen O'Hara seemed implausible because, well its Clifton Webb. Even though Clifton Webb is Waldo, and Waldo is suppose to love Laura, I would say Webb still does make the relationship work in his own way.

Although Webb does show that Waldo loves Laura, and that he is the only one who want Laura it is only in his own particular and strange fashion. Webb never seems to show any sexual sort of desire for Laura though as almost he is above that sort of thing. Even in his fits of jealously over Laura he never shows it as a jilted lover but rather the reaction of a man who believes his possession is being tampered with. That really is the key to Webb's portrayal in that he shows a love for Laura by Waldo an intense unwavering one, but as he would for his prize not for a woman he loves.

His sort of love he shows for Laura also factors in perfectly to when it reveals he is in fact the man who murdered the woman. After all it never shows Laura really reject Waldo, it more of shows that she never really considers him, after all he is played by Clifton Webb. Webb creates Waldo relationship with Laura into something that could only really ended in one way since she is not a painting but a human being. This leads to his final scene where he again decides to murder. Webb shows a darker side to Waldo here, and I would by lying if I would to say it is a wholly satisfying conclusion scene for Webb. I do love his final goodbye which perfectly realizes the underlying insanity of Waldo, but I just feel when he threatens her he perhaps just could have been a little better as it seems just a little below Waldo. Nevertheless Webb still gives a terrific performance that creates a memorable character that serves his film just about perfectly.


RatedRStar said...

I loved his final entrance when he sneaks back into Lauras appartment, but a lot of the time I just never bought him as a straight guy I just never believed it but I still liked him most of the film.

RatedRStar said...

Theres also clearly a mistake in Laura in when he gets shot, the policeman shoots but then Webb shoots and then stumbles like he tripped over his shoelaces, it just looked odd cause I didnt hear the officer fire again.

dinasztie said...

I was kind of disappointed in this performance. He never really impressed me. He was a bit too mannered.

Anonymous said...

Laura is one of my favourite films of all time and I love Clifton Webb's performance in it. I think he's just perfect as Waldo.