*ARTFORUM ’80 - ’93*

Waldo Rising

THE MOMENT HE opened his mouth, I fell in love with Waldo Lydecker. For most, I assume, Gene Tierney was the star of Otto Preminger’s Laura, of 1944, but I remained steadfastly focused on Clifton Webb, Laura’s caustic mentor. It was my first look at a critic and I liked what I saw—and heard. It didn’t matter that he was an unapologetic murderer. No, what I responded to was an acidic esthete who used language like a polo player uses a mallet—to keep the game moving and score.

The film essentially pits a man of action (Dana Andrews) against a man of words (Webb), and from my then-adolescent point of view, the words were winning right up until the wordsmith became full-stop punctuation for a shotgun blast. However, long before his buckshot blackout, I could have cared less if Waldo was innocent or guilty. I was particularly enthralled by the way he revenged himself on a painter named Jacobi,

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