The May 15, 1944, post by Louella Parsons about Rouben Mamoulian asking to be released as the director of “Laura” made me think that it would be worth taking a closer look at the production of the 20th Century-Fox film, based on the 1943 novel by Vera Caspary. What is now considered a classic film noir had a difficult birth. There were a number of cast changes and script revisions, and Mamoulian was replaced by Otto Preminger over what was described at the time as a difference of artistic vision. According to the DVD commentary by Rudy Behlmer, Mamoulian refused to even discuss the movie with him.
In her autobiography, “Secrets of Grown-Ups,” Caspary tells of her disinterest in writing a detective story.
“Mysteries had never been my favorite reading,” she says. The murderer, the most interesting character, has always to be on the periphery of action lest he give away the secret that can be revealed only in the final pages. If mystery writers were to expose character in all of its complexity, they could never produce the solution in which the killer turns out to be the butler, the sweet old aunt or a birdwatcher who ruthlessly kills half a dozen people in order to get hold of the cigarette case with a false bottom that conceals a hundred-thousand-dollar postage stamp.”
“Laura” author Vera Caspary died in 1987 in New York, having lived in Los Angeles for many years. She wrote 18 novels, several plays and her autobiography. According to some websites, “Laura” began as a play titled “Ring Twice for Lora,” but Caspary’s autobiography only refers in passing to an early version of the story as an unproduced play that is described elsewhere as rather weak and unsatisfying.
“Laura” was serialized in seven parts in Collier’s magazine in October and November 1942 as “Ring Twice for Laura.” Note: This is a condensed version of “Laura” and although it is free, I recommend that anyone who is truly interested in the story buy a copy of the book.
To be continued.