The cover of the shooting script for “Laura,” with the names of screenwriters Jay Dratler, Ring Lardner Jr., Samuel Hoffenstein and Betty Reinhardt. Although he did not receive credit, Jerome “Jerry” Cady rewrote the last portion of the script with the ending we know today.
Which came first in ‘Laura,’ the script or the cast? The answer is: Yes.
When discussing the script of “Laura,” one can only laugh at novelist Vera Caspary’s stunning lack of self-awareness. She said in the June 26, 1971, issue of Saturday Review:
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 | Part 36 | Part 37 | Part 38 | Part 39 | Part 40 | Part 41 | Part 42
It’s also worth noting that in the same article, Caspary doesn’t complain as much about selling the screen rights to “Laura” for $30,000.
She says: “My Hollywood agent also had to battle to get $30,000 for all mechanical rights while allowing writers to keep dramatic rights. This was not too bad a price for a reject in 1943.” Much later, in her autobiography, “Secrets of Grown-Ups,” Caspary says: “My agents drew up one of the worst contracts ever written. I signed it as carelessly as a $5-dollar check.”
A nice illustration of the problems a conscientious researcher encounters in a Hollywood autobiography.
Jay Dratler in a photo from the cover of the 1947 novel “The Pitfall,” listed on EBay at Buy It Now for $245.
What Caspary described as “not a difficult job” required a succession of five veteran screenwriters laboring for more than a year from the first typewriter keystroke to the final rewrite.
A little more than a week after the New York Times announced the sale of the screen rights (June 11, 1943) with the news that “Laura” would feature Laird Cregar and George Sanders, Jay Dratler was hired to make the first pass at writing a script at Twentieth Century-Fox (Daily Variety, June 22, 1943).
Dratler’s version — torn to pieces in a caustic Nov. 1, 1943, memo by head of production Darryl F. Zanuck — would be followed with a rewrite by Ring Lardner Jr., subsequent revisions by Samuel Hoffenstein and Betty Reinhardt, and a final overhaul by Jerome “Jerry” Cady, who wrote the ending — dated July 17, 1944 — that appears in the film.
To be continued.