Vera Caspary and ‘Laura’

‘Laura’ by Vera Caspary   (1943) – 194 pages

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Vera Caspary was a strong independent woman who had a highly successful career as a novelist and screen writer.  She wrote eighteen novels and ten screenplays.    In her autobiography ‘The Secrets of Grown-Ups’, she wrote:

“This has been the century of the woman, and I know myself to have been a part of the revolution.  In another generation, perhaps the next, equality will be taken for granted.  Those who come after us may find it easier to assert independence, but will miss the grand adventure of having been born in this century of change.”

 It was fairly easy for her to get into the screenwriting business in the 1930s, because the studios paid next to nothing for writers in those days.  She had her fights with Hollywood directors and producers, but she hung in there.  In the 1950s she was gray listed by Hollywood for her political views, but she continued on with her productive writing career.  In her seventies, Caspary taught writing workshops to prisoners in the New York Women’s House of Detention.

In her autobiography, she sums up her life as follows:

 “Everything good in my life has come through work: variety and fun, beautiful homes, travel, good friends, interesting acquaintances, the fun of flirtations and affairs, and best of all the profound love that made me a full woman.” 

 The novel ‘Laura’ is her most famous work by far, but I suspect there are other novels among her writings that would be well worthy of attention.

Perhaps the best way to describe the novel ‘Laura’ would be to call it a psychological mystery thriller.  Whereas the classic movie ‘Laura’ is usually classified as a film-noir, the novel is more astute and better reflects Caspary’s views on the relations between men and women.  Although Caspary had her battles with director Otto Preminger in the portrayal of Laura, she praised the film warmly in her autobiography for its nuanced direction.

In ‘Laura’, Caspary uses a technique of multiple narrators first used by Wilkie Collins in ‘The Woman in White’  The three main narrators are the aesthete columnist Waldo Lydecker, the policeman Mark McPherson, and the advertising executive Laura Hunt herself.   The other main character is Shelby Carpenter, Laura’s fiancé.

Laura Hunt is highly successful in the advertising business, and she makes her choices on her own despite the spurious manipulations of the men around her.  As Vera Caspary also started out in advertisement writing during her early days, it is a good bet she based Laura Hunt on herself.

laura-otto-preminger (12)I found ‘Laura’ to be a good read with a lot of twists and turns that make the story fun.  It also contains many subtle and clear-eyed insights into the relations between men and women.  Caspary’s depiction of the policeman Mark McPherson is particularly interesting as he is shown not to be the hard-boiled detective type at all, but rather someone who spent 14 months reading books and thinking about the world while recovering from a bullet wound. With his literary enthusiasms and sensitivity and straightforward manner, Mark McPherson proves himself to be someone worthy of Laura Hunt’s interest and attention.

“I’m not nearly as interested in writing about crime as I am in the actions of normal people under high tension.”  – Vera Caspary

 The more I study the life, writing, and views of Vera Caspary, the more I am intrigued by this extraordinary woman.

 

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3 responses to this post.

  1. […] Stelle, nämlich alten Kriminalromanen. Er stellt Vera Caspary und ihren bekanntesten Roman Laura von 1943 […]

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  2. I’d appreciate knowing the edition year of the book pictured. Looks vaguely 50s-60s.

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    • Hi Bill Hagen,
      I won’t be able to answer your question regarding the edition. Whenever possible I like to use these old covers from the Forties, Fifties, or Sixties, because they are a lot less bland that covers today. However I don’t pay much attention to specific editions. You can probably find this cover on Google images and track down the edition on another site.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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