In September 1978, I translated and published the COMPLETE SCENARIO of LAURA in a special “Preminger” issue of the French magazine “L’Avant-scène”. The shot-by-shot description included 15 minor and major cuts which are listed hereunder. As an appendix, I added a detailed description of the FIRST ending shot by Preminger (to be discussed in our blog’s entry “The mystery of Laura’s first ending”)
Renowned film historian Jacques Lourcelles, author of the first book on Otto Preminger, had provided me with a copy of the scenario, sent to him four years before by Preminger’s office. We had several exchanges during my work on the scenario and the problems raised by the director’s slightly confusing account of LAURA’s endings. Lourcelles then made an impeccable presentation of the scenario, that unfortunately wasn’t accessible to English-speaking film specialists and film buffs…
CUT 1 : a direct continuation of the acerbic exchanges of Waldo and Mark in Lydecker’s apartment. Mark pretends to be bored by his work : murders all look the same. Waldo argues that this one is exceptional. Mark refers to Laura as “a dame”. Conversation ends with a very short narration in which Waldo comments on Mark’s tough/smart personality which he thinks might have attracted Laura.
Most of the material seems to have been ventilated in following scenes. Waldo’s comment will be – unfortunately for him – confirmed by Laura’s actual attraction to Mark, after her “resurrection”.
She may be have been immortalized as Preminger’s most alluring female character, but before that Laura was Vera Caspary’s literary heroine – her favorite one, and the one closest to her heart. The Chicago-born author of Laura was a dynamic, strong-willed woman, ahead of her time: coming to adulthood just as WW I was ending, she made up her mind to seek a job in a male-dominated business world, dreaming of a writing position. Starting out as a stenographer, and accepting being paid significantly less than her male colleagues, she eventually got a break at an advertising agency; soon she moved up to a copywriter position, where she had the chance to display her writing skills and imagination. However, Caspary left what had become a highly paid job, to pursue her dream of becoming a “real writer”.
She wrote for papers and magazines with great success, published a few books, and after a while several of her stories became “Hollywood material” – but her dream novel still eluded her. In the summer of 1941 the idea of a “murder mystery” with well-developed characters and multiple point of view narration crystallized into Laura. The eponymous heroine clearly bears a strong resemblance to her literary mother: an aspiring, ambitious young woman, eager to succeed in the advertising world, and determined to live her life on her own terms. Moreover, Vera’s Laura is a beautiful, obviously sexually liberated woman. She was Caspary’s vision of the “modern woman”: professionally successful, living according to her own free will, and yet retaining her femininity. Continue reading →
Azadia Newman is a name that may ring a bell for only a handful of cinephiles. She is the unlucky creator of a portrait that would have ensured her fame throughout the world: the original portrait of Laura Hunt, which was rejected by Preminger.
“Newman, born in Washington, DC on Jan. 16, 1902, studied at the CGA, ASL in NYC, PAFA, and Critcher School of Painting & Commercial Art. In 1936 she settled in Los Angeles where she painted many portraits of movie stars Joan Crawford, Janet Gaynor, and others. She died there on Feb. 19, 1999.”
Azadia Newman next to her painting of Joan Crawford for THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY (1937)
The most telling detail of that obit looks like an afterthought : “She is also was wife of theater-film director, Rouben Mamoulian.” It’s easy to guess why Preminger would decide to erase ALL traces of Mamoulian’s work on “Laura” ; that particular rejection may very well have been the most humiliating affront to the original, unlucky director (not yet married to the artist.) Continue reading →