‘Laura’ — The Making of a Film Noir Classic, Part 37

Detective Mark McPherson (played by Dana Andrews), confronts Shelby Carpenter (played by Vincent Price) about a shotgun that might be the murder weapon.

In case you just tuned in, I’m using Louella Parsons’ May 15, 1944, item on Rouben Mamoulian being replaced as the director of “Laura” to take a meandering look at the making of the film, which was released in Los Angeles in November 1944.

The first 30 posts were devoted to the writing career of “Laura” novelist Vera Caspary, the state of the detective story in 1941, when she was writing the novel, the New York locations Caspary used in the book and an examination of the major and minor characters.

This series of posts breaks down the novel to study the challenges of adapting it for the screen.

The Making of “Laura” Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31 | Part 32 | Part 33 | Part 34 | Part 35

James Ellroy to script remake of ‘Laura’


Spoilers ahead

Laura, Page 151

“Laura” begins with two long sections, the first being the opening narrative told by newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb in the film) that is continued by Detective Mark McPherson (played by Dana Andrews in the film). In contrast,  Caspary devotes 12 pages to Mark’s interrogation of Shelby Carpenter (played by Vincent Price in the film) in the killing of model Diane Redfern, who was mistaken for Laura Hunt (played by Gene Tierney in the film).

For unexplained reasons, Mark grants Shelby immunity before the interrogation, apparently eliminating him as a suspect in the killing. Presumably this is to throw more suspicion on Laura as Caspary transforms her from victim to suspect.

As recounted by Shelby, Laura and Diane had lunch (following a jealous spat over Shelby  at a party in which Laura hit Diane on the head with a platter of hors d’oeuvres). Feeling guilty over hitting Diane, Laura loaned her the apartment while she went to the country for a few days to gather herself for her marriage to Shelby.

Laura had planned a bachelorette dinner with Waldo prior to leaving town, but canceled the engagement and left without seeing him. There is some rather ridiculous business about Laura being high strung and suffering from a guilt complex about world affairs, so Shelby says that he told her not to read the newspapers – an important plot point explaining why she didn’t know that officials believed she had been killed.

In the meantime, rather than going to a concert as he claimed, Shelby says he had dinner with Diane at Montagnino’s, a favorite restaurant of Waldo and Laura, as well as Mark. After dinner with Shelby, he and Diane picked up a bottle of cheap bourbon at Laura’s usual liquor store and adjourned to Laura’s apartment, where Diane undressed and put on Laura’s nightgown and slippers. When the doorbell rang, Diane answered the door and was shot to death. Shelby, the unvirtuous coward, fled after briefly examining Diane and discovering she was dead.

Mark presses Shelby about why he gave his gold cigarette case to Diane (more about that later), why he didn’t call the police after Diane was killed, why he didn’t contact Laura before she returned to New York and a list of other questions.

Mark also asks Shelby about a possible murder weapon: a shotgun, found in Laura’s cottage, bearing the initials of Shelby’s mother.

To be continued.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1944, Books and Authors, Film, Hollywood and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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