Vera Caspary's Laura

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Turns out that film noir classic Laura, written by blacklisted screenwriter and novelist Vera Caspary, has a perfect 100 on Rotten Tomatoes. In a recent article, Kelcie Mattson (who coincidentally graduated from Stephens College, where blacklisted actor Jean Muir once taught acting) describes the film as depicting "the ways realistic women move within stifling conditions, and how men react when women breach patriarchal expectations." As such, she adds, "Laura stands tall as a minor miracle."

That these aspects of the novel shone through director Otto Preminger's film is a minor miracle. According to Caspary, she was dropped from consulting on the adaptation of her novel because she disagreed with Preminger about having the storyline focus on the title character. Preminger thought that the focus on a female character was misguided. For her part, Caspary considered Preminger unable to represent women as full and complex characters. Because Preminger (a philanderer with a reputation for sleeping with his leading ladies) knew so “little about women,” in Caspary’s estimation, he reduced her complex title character to “the Hollywood version of a cute career girl."

Understandably somewhat bruised by this experience, Caspary may have been a bit hard on the film. Still, it's worth imagining a version of Laura that hews closer to the original novel.

 

 

 

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