Like most Femmes Fatales, Laura Hunt is beautiful, elegant, utterly ambitious and mysterious. Her charm makes it difficult for men to resist her, including the detective suspecting her of murder.
Laura is a brilliant mystery both in its plot and structure. Each of the men in love with Laura is a narrator in the novel. There’s Laura’s fiancé, who is unfaithful to her even on the eve of their wedding, her jealous friend Waldo who drives her lovers away and the hard-boiled detective who can’t resist her charms.
In this passage, where Laura thinks of Shelby, the man she is supposed to marry, writer Vera Caspary shows not only literary talent but sharp insight into Laura’s psyche.
“I had used him as women use men to complete the design of a full life, playing at love for the gratification of my vanity, wearing him proudly as a successful prostitute wears her silver foxes to tell the world she owns a man. Going on thirty and unmarried, I had become alarmed. Pretending to love him and playing the mother game, I bought him an extravagant cigarette case, fourteen-karat gold, as a man might buy his wife an orchid or a diamond to expiate infidelity.”
Laura, was Vera Caspary’s best known work and in 1944 was adapted into a film directed by Otto Preminger with Gene Tierney playing Laura, a role that propelled her to stardom.
Vera Louise Caspary (1899-1987) who became one of the most prominent female authors and playwrights of her generation, wrote more than 21 novels.
Tired of shopping Laura 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?”