I always thought film adaptions of novels are horrible (mostly, some of them, are horrible), especially when they are adapting my favourite novels. The argument that the books are better than the films will not be indulged here, so don’t worry, I’m gonna spare you the torture. But I’m writing this particular post as a homage to one of my favourite detective novels by one of my favourite writers – “Laura”.
Detective novels aren’t my thing, I tried to get into it believe me. Alright, so I didn’t actually delve right into the whole genre, but I read Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett. Sadly I haven’t read Sir Arthur Conan Boyle, Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers. Their books remained in my ebook library, waiting for me… when I have the time (I don’t have the time). But after I finished watching the list of Hitchcock films that was suggested by my friend Jen (Jen if you read this, I miss you buddy, and I wish I could visit you in Illinois but America is a mess right now and I would probably be labelled as a terrorist just because I’m a Muslim), I found a list of best film noirs, and it became my obsession after finishing uni exams – just watching every film on the list. But one particularly stood out.
“Maybe falling in love with dead people is just an occupational hazard of being an investigative detective in New York City.”
And that first sentence just hooked me right in. Long story short, I watched the movie, and when I first saw Dana Andrews, I thought “He looked okay”, then when I looked at him real hard, I thought “Oh wait nope I’m attracted to him”, it’s either that or I have a thing for tall, dark and handsome detectives (one day I will write a list of this). I thought it was that typical that he (SPOILER ALERT) saved the damsel in distress and saved the day, but when I finally read the book, written by a novelist that I never heard of because I didn’t grew up with the privilege to read a lot of book, I find it strange how the book was so different from the movie. And to no surprise whatsoever, I found out that Vera Caspary, the author, did not like the adaption.
While I love the aesthetics of the movie, the costumes, the cast (Gene Tierney TOOK MY BREATH AWAY), I understood why Caspary never approved of the Hollywood adaption. That’s why I fell in love with it, Gene Tierney was gorgeous, her glowing eyes and pretty lips, her character did not however, shined like her appearance. In the novel, you get to know her better than any of the men ever did. Caspary was an admirable novelist who wrote about an independent and achievable career woman. Yes, despite the fact that we all hate Shelby and wonder along with McPherson why the heck is she with him, I was comforted by the fact that she was not an empty shell. She was complicated, and imperfect, she has flaws – and I like that.
Even Mark McPherson, the detective who fell in love with Laura, was someone I find likable (it was disappointing to say that Dana Andrews’ portrayal of McPherson was far from what he is like in the novel, I blame the script and Otto Preminger). Eventhough he was tough like a steel from the outside, he was also vulnerable and was sweet on Laura. Somehow reading about him, slowly, and miserably falling in love, makes him more boyish and a softie. And dammit, maybe it’s just that thing I have for tall, dark and handsome detectives.
To end this post, I hope I didn’t ruin your love for “Laura”, the book or the movie, it is my opinion, and if you do share the same thoughts, I’d like to say, at least I’m not alone in liking this weird plot that might seem disturbing for people who have never seen the movie, or read the book.