Archive for the ‘Vera Caspary’ Category

LauraTheMovieI’m going to end my stream of noir movie posts with Laura, the 1944 movie with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb and an incredibly young Vincent Price before he became the king of horror movies. I think this movie is better than The Maltese Falcon and on a par with Casablanca, so after almost 20 movies watched Laura and Casablanca top my list.

Clifton Webb is outstanding as the snobbish Waldo Lydecker, the radio personality who takes credit for bringing culture into the life of beautiful Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney). Dana Andrews plays the hero but down to earth cop, Mark McPherson, who falls in love with Laura from the portrait hanging over her mantel. And finally the ne’er do well but suave southern gentleman, Shelby Carpenter is perfectly played by Vincent Price.

This movie has just the right amount of action, romance, suspense and regardless of the number of times I’ve watched this movie, I never fail to remain spellbound.

Which brings me to the book, LauraTheBookLaura by Vera Caspary. I forget which book of hers I read first but whichever it was prompted me to read more. I’ve liked all I’ve read so far, not all mysteries. But there was something puzzling in the book to film transition of Laura. As you can see, Waldo Lydecker in the movie is rail thin. However, in the book he is obese–think of Syndey Greenstreet in the Maltese Falcon.  The question is why the change? To accommodate Webb who was substantially better than Greenstreet would have been? Whatever the reason, it continues to puzzle me.

Just to let you know I have both the movie and the book of Laura at home. That’s got to say something, right?

So, thus ends my noir movie rampage. Thank you Nova Ren Suma for writing Dani Noir and thank you Dani for suggesting all of these movies. It has been fun watching.

Read Full Post »

RebeccaAfter reading Daphe Du Maurier’s short stories in Kiss Me Again, Stranger, I knew I wanted to read more of her works. When a copy of Rebecca floated across my desk, I felt it was an omen. I have seen the movie several times but, with my memory, the story is somewhat hazy…as is Du Maurier’s description of Manderley, I might add. And we all know that many times the similarities between the movie and the book are merely co-incidental (take The Birds by Vera Caspary as an example).

So it was with excitement that I finally took Rebecca off my night table and started to read. I’ll admit that it was a slow read in the beginning, describing our narrator meeting Max de Winter in Monte Carlo, falling in love and getting married almost on a whim. It was a wonderful read, but a slow one. As the couple moves to Manderley and Ms. de Winter constantly feels that she is in the shadow of the former Ms. de Winter, Rebecca, the reader understands the thought processes, the insecurities, the nerves as they unwind. Du Maurier lovingly describes Manderley’s grounds and grandeur, knowingly discusses the overgrowth of the rhododendrun as they blot out the sky, tells one of the sound of the sea, one moment calm and calming, the next roaring white caps shrouded in mist.

I previously compared the writing of Du Maurier and Caspary, contemporaries. They both evoke this ethereal feeling as you read their books. I come away visualizing Manderley, the rooms and grounds reflecting the sure hand and tastes of Rebecca, the thoughts of staff and neighbors as they compare the two Ms. de Winters, wondering whether the latter will equal the former.

I was not prepared at all for the course the book takes, I will tell you now. Not even my hazy memory of the movie prepared me (although I did remember certain snippets from the movie as I progressed in the book). I’m a hundred pages from the end and can’t wait to get back to it.

I’m not a fan of current day ‘psychological thrillers’, but this is how I would categorize Rebecca. Nowadays, we’re too graphic, too in your face. I prefer the slow build up, the long winding road (like that of the drive up to Manderley) with twists and turns and divergences. I like the subtleties, the descriptions, the flashbacks, the inner thoughts. I get all that in Rebecca.

I’m not going to tell you how it ends because that would just spoil it. I will tell you that reading Rebecca is worth every minute you spend on it.

Read Full Post »

KissMeAgainStrangerI’d never read Daphne Du Maurier until I read Kiss Me Again, Stranger, a collection of 8 short stories. “Where have I been all these years?”, I asked myself. Housed in the mystery section of the antiquarian bookstore Westsider Rare and Used Books WestsiderRareAndUsedBookson Broadway and 78th Street (give or take a block or two), some stories were mysteries and some were just odd, for lack of a better term. All were good.

I did learn something from the book, though. Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds was based on a Du Maurier story of the same name. That and the fact that Du Maurier wrote the story and the screenplay is almost where the similarity ends. One takes place in the U.S. and the other in England. One has a romance and one doesn’t. One is about survival and the other isn’t. I must admit the original story is quite compelling. They are both scary, though!

I’d tell you my favorite story, but they are all so different and as I look at the titles to write this, they all conjure up the story lines and I like them all. Kiss Me Again, Stranger, the story, is about GIs being murdered. The Apple Tree is about a tree taking revenge. The Little Photographer is about a vacation liaison turned bad and No Motive is about a suicide. You see, the stories are all over the place, but once started, I couldn’t put the book down.

I find that Du Maurier’s stories and Vera Caspary’s writings have a similarity in their feel. Contemporaries (Laura by Caspary was written in 1943 and Rebecca by Du Maurier was written in 1938) it is not the mystery that is commanding but the story, the atmosphere created by the authors, the surroundings described by the authors.  These are not ‘police procedurals’. They are creations. A few days ago I wrote about painting a picture with words. I found both Du Maurier and Caspary created canvases.

I know I’ve just rambled but since I couldn’t really describe the stories, I had to find a way to tell you why I like these authors so much. IWestsiderRareAndUsedBooks3 hope I have and I hope my enthusiasm will rub off on you.

Just a note on Westsider Rare and Used Books. Quite a store. It’s very narrow. It has a second floor and the stairs are lined on both sides with books. Be careful climbing. Books are stacked on shelves reaching  all the way to the 20+ feet ceiling. It’s got a great mystery corner as shown in this photo to the left of the door (the paperbacks are shelved two deep), but it has a very eclectic collection. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by.

Read Full Post »

EvvieAs the photo on the cover of Evvie by Vera Caspary, the author of the amazing mystery and movie Laura, is blurred, so is the atmosphere of the book itself. Written in 1960, Evvie has a 1930s pulp or noir mystery feel to it, although its subject would not have appeared in that genre.

Evvie is set during prohibiton. Louise and Evvie, knowing each other since grade school, are sharing an apartment. The worldly Evvie has been married at seventeen and divorced soon thereafter and is living on, according to her, her alimony. Louise, not so worldly, is a career girl, making a name for herself in an advertising agency. They party and drink at a time when drinking was illegal. They’re independent. They’re not chaste. They like men.

Less a mystery than a life narrative Caspary describes the life of two independent girls in an age when women were not supposed to be independent; rather they were supposed to marry and have children and keep house. Although you know at the beginning that something will happen to Evvie, it takes two thirds of the book to get there and it almost seems incidental. Told in first person by Louise, Evvie is a literary tale of the times. It’s a tale of love, both acknowledged and unrequited. It’s a tale of two young women who thought they knew everything, but in many ways were naive.

Her June 17, 1987 New York Times obituary contained the following: “In her 18 published novels, 10 screen plays and 4 stage plays, Miss Caspary’s main theme, whether in a murder mystery, drama or musical comedy, was the working woman and her right to lead her own life, to be independent.

In her autobiography, ”The Secrets of Grown-Ups,” published in 1979 by McGraw Hill, Miss Caspary 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,” she said. ”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.”

Vera Caspary’s works are addicting and once you start reading her, you’ll want to read her entire output. Start with Laura (after which watch the movie and note the differences) and Evvie and Murder at the Stork Club. I’m just at the beginning of Bedelia.

Read Full Post »