Start your review of Laura Write a review Shelves: hardboiled , book-to-film He came toward me and I shrank deeper into the corner. This was strange. I had never felt anything but respect and tenderness for this brilliant, unhappy friend. And I made myself think of Waldo dutifully; I thought of the years we had known each other and of his kindness. I felt sick within myself, ashamed of hysteria and weak shrinking. I made myself stand firm; I did not pull away; I accepted the embrace as women accept the caresses of men they dare not hurt.
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She went through a string of menial office jobs, looking for one where she could write instead of taking dictation from people with bad grammar. When her mother fell ill, she took still another job writing a Charm and Beauty correspondence course. The reviews were better than she had hoped and some people speculated that it was written by a black woman who was indeed passing. This job provided free tickets to theater shows, concerts, and nightclubs and introduced her to a wide circle of press agents and celebrities.
Moving back to Chicago, she co-wrote the play version Blind Mice with Winifred Lenihan , which featured an all-female cast and formed the basis for the film Working Girls.
She and her mother moved to Connecticut to do the rewrites on the play. When Caspary returned, the true original copy could not be found and the play closed in two weeks. Caspary admitted in her memoir that she rewrote and resold this exact plot exactly eight times in the coming years. In March , a Fox story editor called and asked for another original just like Suburb, which had been filmed as the Night of June She spent that summer in Hollywood, writing a treatment for Fox and working on a play with Samuel Ornitz.
Caspary could not sell that play and by winter she was broke again, but Ornitz insisted they write another and brought her back to Hollywood where her luck was always better. Within a week she had sold three stories to studios and gotten a five hundred dollar-a-week contract.
She bought herself a completely new wardrobe and brought her mother from New York. Like most people, Caspary did not get along with Harry Cohn , and after one spat, she no longer received writing assignments. Since her contract had five more months, she merely stopped going to the studio and spent her days at the beach while her agent picked up her paycheck.
Again wanting to write her own material she got her contract canceled and set sail for New York. Communism[ edit ] By this point in the Depression many intellectuals were flirting with Socialist causes, and Ornitz tried to interest Caspary by giving her The Communist Manifesto , the Daily Worker and other materials. Though not truly committed, she allowed her work to be affected by changing attitudes, but found that having never been a proletarian, she could not write the great proletarian novel.
Nonetheless, one of the last things her mother did before she died was to scold Caspary for associating with "filthy reds". Upon returning to Greenwich Village, Caspary was invited to join the Communist party by a very prominent playwright, and did so, though under the alias of "Lucy Sheridan". In April , Caspary used the profits of a Hollywood story sale to travel to Russia to "see how people lived" in what the Daily Worker had described as a paradise.
During her trip across Europe she was nearly persuaded from guilt to marry an Austrian Jew in order to get him to the United States, but due to a slowness in paperwork she was saved that fate. She later learned that he made it to America on his own. She traveled through Germany by train, being strip-searched at border crossings. In her words, "Loss of faith is a slow process, and painful.
A last desperate effort to cling to belief attacks the nerves. I became irritable, disliked my friends, slept badly, lost tolerance. Haunted by ghosts of deeds and statements. I felt filthy. She called their bluff and agreed to it; however they were reluctant to let her go quietly, and agreed to call it a "temporary leave of absence". In January she closed up her house and moved back to Hollywood.
She continued to sign petitions, contributed money, wrote to congressmen and maintained her memberships in the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and the League of American Writers. She also taught classes in writing screenplays to raise funds to bring refugee writers to America. In June , Germany attacked Russia, and Hollywood benefits for Russian war relief drew huge crowds. During this time Caspary started tinkering with a murder mystery, but instead of producing an original story for the screen she was encouraged to turn it into a novel.
It was finished by October, and to get some perspective she went to work on a story about a night plane to Chungking for Paramount Studios.
When the United States declared war on Germany and Japan in early December, that story was canceled, and Caspary asked to be laid off and returned happily to her murder mystery. Despite their efforts, Olney could not secure backing and gave up the option on the play.
When Caspary returned to Hollywood Igee was waiting for her with bouquets of red roses. At Christmas , their love affair was interrupted as every able-bodied British citizen was recalled to help with the defense of England. Igee, born in Austria, had emigrated to England in and would have to return there. She did not see him again for 13 months. Meanwhile, every director who read Laura wanted to put it on the stage, but no producer or backer would finance it.
Otto Preminger bullied Darryl Zanuck into buying the property for 20th Century Fox , convincing him that the production would be inexpensive. Tired of shopping it around and against her own advice, "Once a writer sells a story to Hollywood, they can kiss it goodbye," she sold it to Fox.
My agent wrote one of the worst contracts ever written. I signed it as carelessly as a five-dollar check. As I would be reminded in restaurants and parking lots, I had signed away a million dollars.
Who would have thought that a film which for all its elegance, was not expensive, whose stars were not then considered important, would become a box office smash and a Hollywood legend?
The war had made civilian travel generally difficult, and going to Europe nearly impossible. However, Caspary cabled Igee that he could have the film rights to Bedelia for a British production, if she could be brought over to write the screenplay, thus putting into motion a plan involving two British ministries, J. Thus during the nine weeks she was in New York waiting for her passport, Good Housekeeping paid all her expenses and all her Stork Club dinners were free.
Unfortunately one night she was seated next to Otto Preminger, and they proceeded to start a fiery argument regarding the script for Laura and the resultant film. As part of the deal with the British Ministry of Information she agreed to write articles about wartime England for American newspapers and magazines.
Unfortunately, there were too many distractions for her to write in London, but luckily she had the loan of W. All but empty and abandoned during the war, it provided much needed seclusion for her to write the story. Igee had to stay and finish the picture. Igee[ edit ] Though the success of Laura had increased her salary fivefold, Caspary was unhappy in Hollywood without Igee.
Her work on a new novel was interrupted by preproduction on the doomed stage version of Laura. Unfortunately the play was dreadfully miscast, Miriam Hopkins was too old for the part yet had much influence , the producer was inexperienced and intimidated letting Hopkins run "rough shod" over the production, the lighting designer was replaced as was the stage manager and finally the director himself.
The play ran for 44 performances. To streamline the film, one wife was eliminated by Caspary, and when the script reached production, Joseph L. Mankiewicz removed another one. However, when the same screenplay won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Written American Comedy, Mankiewicz was forced to share the award and credit with Caspary, the original adaptor.
After three years of physical separation, Igee got his divorce on the grounds of abandonment. While in Europe finalizing the divorce, Igee traveled to visit his grown son in Switzerland and, while there, bought Caspary a small chalet in nearby Annecy. After living together for the better part of seven years, they were married within the week.
Unfortunately, Caspary and Igee forgot the first rule of finance, "never use your own money", and had put all their own funds and savings into the company. Their films were contracted to United Artists , and when United Artists went into bankruptcy and restructuring in , the films of Gloria Films were tied up in litigation and the couple lost everything.
Igee was devastated at the loss; he never became the bread winner of the couple. This last sale, the couple deposited in New York, which was fortunate as it was a long time before they worked again in Hollywood. If people testified, they were "friendly" witnesses; if they were named as communist sympathizers, they were " blacklisted ".
Either way, the decision was made for them. The couple were preparing to leave for Europe, as Igee was negotiating a French remake of Three Husbands, when MGM abruptly and illegally questioned Caspary regarding her Communist links. They were duly worried, as they had just bought two expensive stories from her, and if she were named and blacklisted, they would not be able to release them.
In , Caspary and her former activities had been listed along with other influential progressives in the notorious anti-communist pamphlet, Red Channels: the report of Communist influence in radio and television.
Since Caspary had left the Party before she came to Hollywood, she told the truth about which committees she attended and the initiatives she had worked on, but the one thing they never asked was if she had ever been a member. They remained in Europe, Igee going from studio to studio trying to finance new projects or remake old ones, finally inspiring Caspary to write a musical comedy, Wedding in Paris.
It was while working in Austria on the musical adaptation of Daddy Long Legs , Caspary learned she had been added to the gray list and told to abandon the project. If someone appeared before the HUAC committee and refused to name names, they were blacklisted, if their file indicated that they had signed pledges, attended congresses or contributed to doubtful causes, they were graylisted.
Caspary described the former as hell, the latter merely purgatory. They left again after six months, and what followed were two more years of bad luck. A job was waiting for her; an old friend Sol Siegel had purchased the rights to the book Les Girls , and was eager for her to adapt it for the screen. The novel Evvie about two emancipated girls in the s and heavily based on her own experiences,  was begun in London, continued in New York, finished in Beverly Hills, and proofed in Paris.
The novel won faint reviews, but Caspary considered it one of her best, and famed Chicago Tribune reviewer Fanny Butcher came out of retirement long enough to denounce it as obscene. Caspary even broke a twenty-year vow and took work from Columbia Pictures and the ever-irascible Harry Cohn.
They wanted it for Marilyn Monroe ; a deal was made for the page treatment of Illicit, the contract signed and the first payment sent, but then Monroe became undisciplined and unreliable and was suspended by the studio.
Caspary completed a first draft, but the film was never made. In between surgeries and bouts of illness, the couple traveled: Greece, Las Vegas, New England—all the places they had meant to go. They traveled until Igee was no longer fit to; he died while they were in Vermont in None equaled the popularity of her early suspense work.
Laura, de Vera Caspary (1943)
Houghton Mifflin republished Laura in book form the next year; afterwards, Caspary sold the film rights to Twentieth Century Fox , resulting in a hit movie starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. In , Caspary sold the story for a fourth time, this time co-writing a theatrical version with George Sklar. Since its original publication, the novel has been reissued many times. I Books released an edition in , billing it as a "lost classic;" however, this edition is out of print. An edition from Feminist Press became available in Detective Mark McPherson, assigned to the case, begins investigating the two men who were closest to Laura: her former lover, a narcissistic middle-aged writer named Waldo Lydecker, and her fiance, the philandering Shelby Carpenter. As he learns more about Laura, Mark — not the most sentimental of men — begins to fall in love with her memory.
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