Woot! Laura!!!! We finally get to talk about it!!!! I hope you all read the book, but even if you only saw the movie (although you really should read the book), I guess you can still join the discussion 🙂
Oh boy oh boy oh boy! First, a brief summary to make sure we are all caught up (it’s a mystery, so if you haven’t read it, and want to avoid twists, don’t read on):
It’s a novel written from 3 perspectives, first the fussy flourid columnist and best friend of the heroine, Waldo Lydecker. Then it shifts to the practical and dry witted detective investigating the case, Mark McPherson. And finally to Laura herself, emotional and open and honest.
It’s one of the all time great plot twists, it starts with Mark investigating Laura’s death and befriending Waldo. He slowly comes to like Laura based on what he learns of her from the investigation, reading her date book, admiring her taste in her apartment, hearing about her from friends, and so on. And then, TWIST. LAURA IS ALIVE!!!! It’s a case of a mistaken identity, she had lent the apartment to someone else and left town after all, she missed the whole confusing thing. Now that she is alive, Mark takes over the narration and tries to handle his ever growing love for Laura, with her new position as either a woman in danger of being killed (again), or a suspect in the murder. Mark finds more and more evidence that Laura may have been part of the murder, learning the actual victim was having an affair with her fiance Shelby. He also struggles with Laura’s loyalty to Shelby, and Shelby’s ultimate betrayal of her. It finally comes to a head when he and Waldo fight over Laura, and Mark spontaneously kisses her. Waldo runs out, Mark follows him, and Laura is left behind to write her own version of the past few days. Which ends as Waldo arrives back at her apartment to try to kill her (again) only to be stopped by Mark who returns to write the ending.
Okay, I’m gonna start with the thing I find most interesting! Laura’s section. Waldo and Mark move forward chronologically and factually, it’s fun getting their personality through their writing, but ultimately it is also a murder mystery, giving us clues and details and things of the story. But Laura’s section, there are few new “facts” to be discovered there. Everything has already been learned, already happened, she’s just sitting on her bed in her slip writing out her emotions and things she remembers. We take the first two thirds, seeing Laura through the two men closest to her, and then flip it, and suddenly she is looking out at them, at everything that happened in their section. Plus we get the casually brilliant reveal of her mother who trained her to “never give yourself to a man”, the key to all the romantic back and forth and friendships and generosity but fear of commitment that has tracked through everything in her life without us understanding.
Did that work for you? Did the Laura in the last section feel like the one we had met in the other two sections?
Sticking with section questions, which section did you find most enjoyable to read?
Every time I read this, I find Mark’s section a breath of fresh air after Waldo, and Laura’s section just immediately absorbing and emotional. So I guess Marks is the funnest to read, because Waldo gets tiresome FAST, but Laura’s is the one I lose myself in the most.
Do you think Waldo, Mark, or Laura had the clearest vision of the characters around them?
I think Mark had the clearest vision. Waldo saw everything through the lens of his own emotions. He thought of Laura as a perfect innocent protégée, Shelby as the dim false hero, and Mark as a sweet little boy he could play with. Laura sees everyone based on her love for them, but also sees them clearly. It’s not that she is blind to their faults, it’s that she forgives their faults. And she sees herself VERY clearly, possibly because she is in a moment of high emotion. But Mark just looks at everyone as problems to solve. And he doubts himself the most, that’s the key, he sees his emotions affecting his judgement and tries to correct for it.
Tricky question, did you like Mark?
I saw the movie first, and was already in love with Dana Andrews anyway, so I loved book-Mark from the first time I read it. But on this re-read, I really noticed the casual misogyny in his language. As the book goes on though, the interesting thing is how that misogyny is not reflected in his actions. He really cares for Diane Redfern, the ultimate victim, perhaps more than anyone else in the book. He isn’t falling in love with her or anything, he just sees her as a human person. And he talks about only women in his family, did you notice that? His grandmother, his sister. His language still fell harshly on my ear in this read, I think Caspary was reaching for a “hard-boiled” hero and went slightly too far, but his actions are just right, and that’s where the truth of the character lies.
Now, worst man! Waldo or Shelby? (setting aside the murder)
I’m going with Waldo! Shelby was a cheater, and a taker, and horribly manipulative in keeping Laura with him out of guilt and keeping Diane with him out of love. Laura’s life was taken up by him in so many ways. And on some level, he knew he was doing it, while Shelby was unconsciously uncaringly cruel.
Moving on, most timeless part of the book?
I’m going, again, for the Laura-Waldo relationship! That sort of controlling male-female dynamic is, unfortunately, still around. Only now it has names, like “gaslighting” and “coercive control” and “emotional abuse”. It’s not the typical man who hits his wife story at all, they aren’t even romantic partners, but it is a tragically timeless story of someone who just cannot let someone go. And the story of someone who can sense there is something wrong but can’t see straight how to escape. Right down to rushing into an ill-advised marriage just because it seems like an escape.
Oh, and LEAST timeless part of the book?
The way it has to dance around Laura’s sexual history. If you read the end notes, you read about how Caspary was FURIOUS at the film version for turning her heroine into this fragile young pretty thing. Reading the book version, I got that she was supposed to be interesting looking but not pretty. And that she was feeling old and unsuccessful for not being married yet as other women around her were prettier and younger. But at the same time, she has had multiple romantic affairs, all of which ended up going nowhere, leaving her feeling MORE unsuccessful. Or maybe that is timeless too? I hope not! I hope now working women can have relationships without hiding them unless they are “proper” and don’t feel so tied to their romantic life and appearance for their success.
Bonus question: Film or novel, which do you like better?
I like the novel better but it is REALLY close. I understand Caspary’s concerns about the film, but the casting was just so perfect, and I think I liked Dana Andrews better than the book Mark.
Second bonus question, do you feel the need for a final romantic conclusion?
I always do! Every time I watch the movie or read the book. They have the Love Triumphant kiss, but then poor Laura is left feeling dirty and unwanted and we never get past that point. Just something like Mark casually mentioning in his final section that Laura was now his wife would have resolved it for me. But no!
Hey, you kind of spoiled the big twist! If we don’t think you’d find necrophilia romantic. Oh well, I guess there’s still enough other stuff going on here.
The different narrative styles did seem a little like the author was showing off. I’m willing to forgive her, though, because of that real clue to the mystery hidden in there – the difference in Waldo’s treatment of Mark in the second half. And I have to admit, it was masterfully done. Neither Waldo’s nor Laura’s section revealed their guilt/innocence.
Plus, I’m a sucker for a good footnote. So I guess I kind of liked Waldo’s section, despite how pretentious it is. It’s prime snark material. And Laura’s, while coming across as authentic, is a bit too rambly for me. I think the mix really is what keeps it interesting.
When I think about it, Laura is quite a bit more the way Mark sees her than Waldo’s version. Neither can of course see her stream of consciousness, but that’s just realistic. But Mark sees (and likes) the way she does her own housework, while Waldo’s only frame of reference for her garden is saving a few bucks.
Mark also got his murderer, which in this case also comes down to seeing his character clearly. So he has my vote in that respect.
I did tend towards liking him, if for no better reason than Waldo calling him the hero early on. It may also help that I lack a native speaker’s immediate revulsion at the word “dame”. In fact, capitalize the D and it’s German for “lady”. No, the thing that turned me off him for a while was the aunt’s endorsement of “He’s a man”.
Though, yeah, Shelby definitely isn’t. Not for nothing, his “section” is just a transcript of his interrogation. He’s as flat a character as the posters he could have come from. So that in itself would have almost disqualified him from the title of “worst man”. But I’m also having a hard time disregarding the murder when it comes to Waldo, because it reveals his “if I can’t have you …“ attitude.
Not very relevant, but I was kind of amused that the young woman living the “gay life” in Greenwich Village had her room on the corner of Christopher Street. Maybe that stands out more to me because in Germany the Pride celebrations are called Christopher Street Day. So that’s both timeless and not something anyone would write that way nowadays.
As for the romantic conclusion: I was completely convinced that when Waldo had finally died, they went back and had breakfast in Laura’s kitchen again. That didn’t even need to be said. I mean, the details of how it felt to be shot at wouldn’t be something she would have told him just for the case.
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Oooo, I like your point about Laura being more like Mark’s vision!!!! Which supports Mark’s telling, where he felt like he had known her his whole life after one night. Because he did, he saw her being kind and enjoying taking care of her home and being shaken when other folks are unhappy and so on. While Waldo just sees her as a “delicate fawn” or whatever.
For Christopher Street, it is SO INTERESTING that Germany calls Pride “Christopher Street Day”. I am sure you caught the implications that Laura’s circle included people who were coded as gay. “Artistic types” or whatever. And Waldo himself of course who I think was mostly a horrible abusive person, but also not necessarily straight, although also not necessarily gay. I find that fascinating about him, that his sexuality isn’t pinned down and actually doesn’t matter. His motivation is controlling Laura and he is jealous of any person, especially a man, who threatens that control.
It’s not the “dame” comments that bother me the most, I think it’s a tossed off reference to a gangsters “fat slut” later in the book. And the “fox fur” a doll got off of him, and the dismissive way he talks about his sister’s friend who he almost married. Although the last two were in Waldo’s section, so the implication is that Mark was putting on a bit of an act for Waldo. The “fat slut” though, that was in his own section. But I’m sticking with mostly posturing, his actions show how he respects women.
I like Shelby as a poorly written character, because that was the point of him as a person, right? He’s one of those people who only knows how to talk and behave like a character in a book. He’s not a real person, he’s an illusion of behaviors all thrown together.
Yes, I will go with your ending! Back home for breakfast, and a week later Mark moves in, and then they get married some time when they get around to it, no rush.
On Sun, Jan 30, 2022 at 10:35 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
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Of course, Mark has also read her diaries, so of course his version of Laura would be closer to the one we read in her own words.
It had been a long time since I’d seen the movie (over 20 years?), so I started with the book then, halfway through it, switched to the movie then finished with the book. I liked the book and the different “voices,” but, in the end, I found the movie to be more enthralling. Maybe it was that spellbinding music that so thoroughly set the tone…
The names of the characters told a lot about them. Waldo Lydecker – not the name of a hero by any means. Shelby – asexual, suitable for a man or a woman. Laura – simple yet it can be pronounced in a number of subtle variations. Mark MacPherson – Braveheart anyone?
You mention the misogynistic use of “dame,” to refer to women. In the forties, that was a slang term for pretty girl or a “hot chick.” (My dad used to call my mother a “great dame.” She’d respond by calling him a “chuckle head.”) See the musical, South Pacific and it’s song, “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame.”
I was more taken aback by Waldo’s continuous characterization of Mark as a cheap Scot. He was continually dwelling on that stereotype.
I wonder how different the movie would have played had Waldo Lydecker (never just “Waldo”) been portrayed by the production’s original choice, Laird Cregar. At 6’3″ tall and over 300 pounds the character would have been a wee bit more menacing.
The really amazing part? How closely the film stuck to the book Gene Tierney may have been more glamorous and Clifton Webb more …antsy but, on the whole, the movie is a great interpretation of the book. (And Dana Andrews was perfect in this.)
My question – how would you cast the parts if made into a Hindi movie? I see Shahrukh as Mark, Rani as Laura but Waldo Lydecker? Aamir Khan? (Providing he wore lifts in his shoes.)
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Oooo, good point about Waldo and the Scott stereotypes. That’s very Waldo, isn’t it? He wants to label and categorize people. He makes fun of Laura for seeing Shelby and Mark as heroes in books, but really he does that. Mark is the tough cop and poetic Scott, Shelby is the shallow southerner, Laura is the fragile sparkling fawnlike damsel in distress. Once we get out of Waldo’s section, no one else sees him like that. He’s a hardworking smart intellectually curious person with sophisticated tastes. He’s not cheap, he’s not judgemental, he’s none of the things Waldo tries to fit on him.
I would be okay with your caste, especially if Aamir agreed to use his height for the role, make that the physical fault he obsesses over. But, and stick with me here, what if we went modern day? I would absolutely love Ranveer and Dips as Mark and Laura. And John Abraham as Shelby. And, stick with me, here, SRK as Waldo! His age is right, and it’s really the juiciest part. I’d love to see him rip into it.
On Sun, Jan 30, 2022 at 1:35 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Love the casting! And SRK against type? Delicious!
How about reversing the genders. SRK as the frail flower, Lawrence. Deepika as Shelby and Anushka as Marcia. And Wanda? How about Rekha. She could connive and obsess with the best of them.
No! If we are gender flipping, I insist on Shabana Azmi as “Wanda”!
On Mon, Jan 31, 2022 at 12:34 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
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So because of problems ordering the book, I thought I wouldn’t get it on time, and then it suddenly arrived on Friday and then I had a super busy weekend so now I’m still only a quarter in or something.
I feel like it’s too bad I saw the movie before reading the book because I love the different voices, I can only imagine how effective it would be if it was still a mystery to me. I think I will like the book best, Vincent Price and all. But I agree with Patricia, the movie so far seems like an amazingly accurate version of the book. The Waldo is great.
I haven’t read book Mark yet but am not a huge fan. Also why I don’t support a romantic conclusion, partly. Partly also because I know this is a Mary Roberts Rhineheart model mystery (as opposed to Sherlock Holmes model) and those ALWAYS have a romantic conclusion, it’s boring.
Waldo is obviously the worst but Clifton Webb is a genius. He really does such a great job. I’d personally marry Shelby in a heartbeat but only in the movie because it’s Vincent Price and he’s having a great time playing him as feckless as humanly possible.
Clifton Webb is amazing! You know it was his big break role? He was a chorus boy who moved to Hollywood with his mother and never quite hit it big. And then was cast in this role in his 40s and suddenly was the hot character actor in town. Also, I believe he died shortly after his mother, but they had a long happy life together before that hosting parties in their Hollywood house.
I love mysteries with romantic conclusions! Otherwise, what’s the point of the mystery? Life! Love! Weddings and babies! that’s what I want from my mysteries.
On Sun, Jan 30, 2022 at 3:18 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
That’s so sweet. No, I didn’t know that, I don’t know much about post-code Hollywood. He really deserved it.
Having seen and loved the movie before reading it, it was interesting to note the differences. Based on the movie, I took it for granted that Laura was this great beauty, what with that portrait and having Gene Tierney play her. I thought this was a subversion of the femme fatale, we expect the beautiful woman to be involved in the crime, but in the end she is just a kind person, not wishing ill on anyone. To learn she isn’t the most beautiful in the book and that she kind of envied the victim makes it more probable for her to be the killer. They made Waldo’s physicality completely opposite in the movie, but it still explains his jealousy over other physically attractive men. Movie Mark comes across as a man of few words, emotionally distant, but I loved how Dana Andrews played him so we could still see how Laura affected him. Mark in the book seems quite chummy with Waldo (though he explains later that it was deliberate). And the relation between Shelby and the aunt is a movie invention which adds her as a suspect. I can’t tell which version I like better.
To answer your questions, 1) I liked both Mark and Laura’s section for the insight they gave into their characters and feelings. This is definitely an advantage over the movie. 2) Agree with you. 3) I liked Mark, and yeah that maybe because I already liked Dana Andrews’ Mark. Though I remember not being impressed the first time I saw the movie, in subsequent watches I caught all the subtleties. I’ve accepted the casual misogyny in almost all male characters in classic movies as a product of the time, so it didn’t stand out. And I think it’s almost a characteristic of hard-boiled detectives. Though I’m with Eva, I always think of dame as a respectful term, and giggle when someone throws it as an insult! 4) Ugh Waldo is the worst! The thing which threw me watching the movie, it didn’t come across that Waldo was in love with Laura, so the ending came as a surprise. Obsessed and possessive, yes! But I read him as being gay, though it might be influenced by the fact that the actor playing him was gay. I think that was the point, if his feelings were obvious it wouldn’t be a mystery. 5) Agree. 6) Agree. From the practical side of things, nowadays misidentifying the victim is very unlikely, so we wouldn’t have a story! Yes, I needed a romantic conclusion, both in the movie and book! I like to think they both went away together, acknowledge that things happened too fast and decide to take things slow to see if what they feel is real.
Hindi casting – Shahrukh has to be Mark. Based on the movie, I would’ve said Aishwarya for sure, or Deepika. Now I’m not sure. Boman as Waldo is a good idea. Poor Aamir, having to play such a horrible character!
Oh good. So I’m not the only one who thought Waldo with his affectations was coded at least possibly gay. Actually, I still think he might be a tragic villain who just thinks he needs to love and be loved by a woman – and then overdoes it.
It’s also why I thought of Boman. He’s great at that kind of mannerisms.
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Yes! That is the kind of tragic villain I saw him as! He wants to possess Laura in a sick unhealthy BAD way that is total control. And he is also jealous of her sexual desires and the men she enjoys them with, while not wanting them for himself. He forces himself to try to paw at and kiss her and it is gross because they both know he isn’t into it.
On Sun, Jan 30, 2022 at 11:34 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Yeah, he absolutely seems queer coded. Could be a bi thing or a one crush on a woman thing, but could also be like Ducky and Andy in Pretty in Pink, a weird possessive friendship he has decided is romantic because of issues.
I vote the last option! Weird possessive friendship. The way he is treated as “harmless” by everyone, I wonder if he was intended to be the “gay best friend” but Caspary backed off on that because she knew the readership wouldn’t understand unless she made it romantic. It definitely doesn’t read to me as twisted gay rage or whatever the stereotype would have been. It’s more a twisted person who also happens to not be sexually attracted to women. His twistedness is separate.
On Tue, Feb 1, 2022 at 1:02 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Me too, honestly, although I lean towards bi in the movie. In the book, he seems more sexually possessive to me there. Laura says he’s like her maiden aunt so there’s no way he wasn’t her gay best friend.
The stereotype would be Mr Cairo I guess, jealous and competing with women, which this isn’t, this is more realistic.
Yes! This definitely doesn’t feel like a stereotype to me, this feels like a toxic friendship that happens to between a thirty-something career woman and an older gay man. Two people who don’t fit into “normal” society and formed this tight bond, which has turned toxic. Also, I am SURE this is a friendship Caspary experienced herself and saw around her as a working woman in 1930s and 40s Greenwich Village.
On Tue, Feb 1, 2022 at 9:48 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
It’s not something I’ve ever seen in real life but I’ve heard women talk about it in the context of Ducky/Andy so it’s definitely something that happens. And yeah, she was in the right place for it lol.
Yes! Book Laura is a bit of an acquired taste, less than beautiful, older, too sharp tongued and smart for everyone. The men she is with are ones looking for someone to take care of them, who will “put up” with her plain looks and financial success and age, which she feels are lacks. Until she meets Mark who likes all those things about her.
If you want to see another fabulous Dana Andrews performance, you should check out Best Years of Our Lives. It’s a truly great movie in general, but Dana Andrews is SMOKING HOT.
I read Waldo as gay in the book as well. Or at least, not strictly straight. Asexual, gay, something going on. His desire to control and possess Laura didn’t feel like he wanted to have sex with her, he just wanted things to continue forever as they were. He wants to talk to her and laugh with her and take her to shows.
If Shahrukh is Mark, and we follow the book version where Laura is lovely and charming but not beautiful and not someone everyone likes, then maybe Juhi? They are both pretty old for the roles, but then they are supposed to be older characters.
On Sun, Jan 30, 2022 at 6:51 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Laura is around thirty right? Mark in mid-thirties? Is that what you’re referring to as ‘older’? Then I would hope that’s one of the least timeless things about the story! Current SRK-Juhi would be way older for that. Ooh Fawad-Deepika, I know they were supposed to do a movie, I’ll forever be sad we never got that!
I’ve had Best Years of Our Lives on my radar for a while, will get to it then! Have you seen Where the Sidewalk Ends, another Dana Andrews-Gene Tierney movie? I like it quite a bit.
Yeah, I think it has changed! But back at the time of the book, early/mid-thirties was probably more like late thirties/early 40s would be for us now in terms of “late to be married, running out of time” both for men and women. You got that feeling of “Laura has to marry Shelby because she’s sunk 2 years into this relationship and she wants family and kids and it might be her last shot”, right? That was part of Laura’s stress over everything, and Shelby’s using of her? And Mark, on the other hand, was more on the “confirmed bachelor” side of things, he sewed his wild oats and was moving towards marriage when he got side-lined and now he figures it will never happen.
Oh! Dips’ and Irrfan’s relationship in Piku! Both in a sort of “it;s time to settle for the best we can get out of life” point.
On Mon, Jan 31, 2022 at 11:43 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
I did think of Irrfan in Mark’s role, he would’ve been great!
Oooh, all the different narrators. I can’t wait for my book to come in! there is a shipping issue with well I think with the nation but certainly with the area I live in and definitely with the book distributor for our local book store. It’s been a week and a half. But I saw the movie. I tried the audio book but it starts in the Waldo voice and I just couldn’t focus on it.
So about the movie, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t fidget or get anxious or wonder how much longer it was, I happily sat through the whole thing (this is rare). But at the same time it kinda killed me that everyone loved this woman who (at least in the film) was pretty and perfect and not real. So because of that I couldn’t respect the detective, who fell in love with her after her death – the film made her into some sort of general idea of perfection – who falls in love with perfection? Thus, I think I will like the book more.
I did NOT fall in love with Mark the detective, though I did think he was a decent actor. I only suspected Waldo when he fell down and fainted as he saw her alive. I loved how the film showed us that she was alive, and how it seemed almost like the detective was dreaming at first.
Worst man = Shelby. He was a user and a looser and he wasn’t even that attractive or charming in the movie. Outside of the killing Waldo was a man in love, who get bonus points for forcing visitors to talk to him while he is in the bath.
Timeless part of the story: friendhip. They weren’t good friend, but as friends these people without families made their own families, as we see throughout literature throughout all age.
Leat timeless part: servant relationship – servant shown as a bumbling idiot who fawns over her employer due to her employer’s natural superiority (I must have been a servant in a past life, or perhap I feel like a servant now).
I saw no reason for her to fall for anyone, even a cute detective, after knowing him for only two day. And he had fallen in love with a dead woman after three days? I simply don’t work on those timelines. Thus I would be happy if as a conclusion they had a first chaste date.
The ghost of Vera Caspary is rising up to say “YES! THIS WAS MY POINT!!!!” This is why she hated the writing/casting of the movie, her Laura was this older interesting career woman who was insecure about her looks. Not some boring perfect fantasy at all. In the book, he falls in love with her because her shelf of well-worn favorite books are the same as his books, and she likes baseball, and her apartment is funky and comfortable and homey. And then she comes back to life and he likes her trim ankles 🙂
Shelby is so sucky! I can’t remember how clear they make it in the movie, but in the book it is clear that Shelby was in the apartment, with Diane, having sex with her ON LAURA’S BED!!!! Which is just incredibly scummy.
I didn’t even notice the servant relationship. It’s Thelma Ritter! She’s just playing Thelma Ritter! Not saying your point is wrong, I was just blinded by my familiarity with the actress.
In the book, they already have a first date. They have scrambled eggs together for breakfast, isn’t that cute?
On Sun, Jan 30, 2022 at 11:33 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
It’s not Thelma Ritter!!!
NO! I was sure it was! Because it’s such a Thelma Ritter role!
On Mon, Jan 31, 2022 at 11:44 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
Oh, and I’m just now noticing that Mark may be a bit of a snarker. Which of course makes me like him more. On first reading the second part, I wa confused why he too would be citing Waldo’s works. Didn’t really fit with his narrative voice. But knowing he wrote it after everything was revealed, he just might have been poking fun at Waldo’s self-importance.
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Definitely! I love the reveal that while Waldo thought he was playing Mark, Mark was playing him in that first half. And Mark snarking at his writing style goes right along with it.
On Mon, Jan 31, 2022 at 2:36 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:
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