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The Mystery Surrounding the "Alternate" Ending of LAURA


HoldenIsHere
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I did some research into the supposed "alternate" ending of LAURA ordered by 20th Century Fox, which was supposedly received negatively thus allowing Otto Preminger to get the the ending he wanted for the fim.

Apparently this "mystery" was by and large cleared up in an article by Jacques Lourcelles published in 1978 in the French magazine L’AVANT-SCENE, but there is still some confusion about this even in the audio commentary on the DVD release of LAURA.

 

It seems that Preminger himself created much of this confusion by including in his autobiography an account of how Darryl Zanuck demanded a new ending after seeing a rough cut of the film and how a  screening of the movie with this new ending before an invited audience, that included Walter Winchell, was positively received except for the ending. In Preminger's account, Zanuck thought the movie would be a failure and was amazed that Winchell expressed to Zanuck and Preminger how much he loved it, EXCEPT for the ending. According to Preminger, Zanuck then allowed the "original" ending to be restored.

 

In reality, it appears that there was no change in the ending after this screening, but rather a portion was cut from the scene where Laura explains to Mark how much she owes Waldo after Mark has related the circumstances of Diane's murder by Waldo, who mistakenly thought he was killing Laura.

In the cut portion, Laura explains that Waldo's version of how they met was his own invention, that in reality the two met when he saw her at night court and paid her fine after she was wrongly picked up for vagrancy in Central Park after she was evicted from her apartment, being unable to find work. He then got her a job.  In the released version of LAURA, you can see the attempt to bridge the cut segment of the dialogue between Laura and Mark by the re-insertion of an earlier shot of Waldo at the top of the stairs outside the apartment in the middle of their conversation.

 

The initial script did have a different ending than one in the film, but this ending appears to have been abandoned before it was shot.

In the original scripted ending, Laura finds the gun hidden in her clock and realizes Waldo was the murderer. She hides the gun in her storage room and then goes to Waldo's apartment and tells him she knows he was trying to kill her (that she found the gun and hid it in her storage room) and begs him to flee before he is caught. Although he promises her to do so, he later goes to her apartment, retrieves the gun from the storage room and tries to kill her. Mark intervenes, saving Laura, and Waldo is arrested.

Again, this ending apparently was never filmed.

 

 

There are more details in Olivier Eyquem's and Despina Veneti's blogs on their Preminger Film Noirs website:

 

http://premingernoir.co/2014/01/30/the-mystery-of-lauras-first-ending/

 

http://premingernoir.co/2014/01/23/lauras-cut-scenes/

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That would have been a very intriguing ending.

 

I think the cut segment of the scene revealing that Waldo invented the details of his first meeting with Laura is very interesting and would have added even more dimension to the story

 

The original scripted ending, however, with Waldo being arrested is rather mundane.

And Laura's begging Waldo to flee after realizing that he had tried to kill her----and telling him where she hid the gun -- is a little hard to believe.

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Hum, having Laura find the weapon, and not Mark?   On it's face, it would appear like sloppy police work with McPherson mooning over the picture, but not catching on to much else of detail.   Then why go to Lydecker's apartment, and then noticing the clock identical to the one in Laura's apartment?  It is the reveal that is quite satisfying.  

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Holden,

 

I’m usually fascinated with information about alternate endings when they turn up, years later, about films we think are “perfect”, such as the totally un-needed scenes of Walter Neff, in Double Indemnity, going to the gas chamber.

 

 

Fred

 

 

gas-chamber.jpg

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I think the cut segment of the scene revealing that Waldo invented the details of his first meeting with Laura is very interesting and would have added even more dimension to the story

 

The original scripted ending, however, with Waldo being arrested is rather mundane.

And Laura's begging Waldo to flee after realizing that he had tried to kill her----and telling him where she hid the gun -- is a little hard to believe.

I can see her making that mistake-- Waldo was her Achilles heel.  And if Waldo is not killed (only arrested) it leaves things open for a sequel, if he were to get out of prison.  But I think they wanted a very tidy and dramatic death for him, to leave no doubt that they met the production code requirements.

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Years ago I read the Preminger autobiography (I have it somewhere), and remember him discussing a narration from Laura.'s pov, which Zanuck ordered written, filmed and inserted into the movie, after he stated, "We missed the bus with this one". Per Otto, this version was screened when Winchell saw and liked everything but the ending. This caused Zanuck to ask Preminger if he wanted the old ending back.

 

However, a.recent biography on Preminger states that the ending where Laura discovers the shotgun had already been filmed. It was afterward the A rewritten ending was ordered, the one we now have, and filmed after the screening.

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Holden,

 

I’m usually fascinated with information about alternate endings when they turn up, years later, about films we think are “perfect”, such as the totally un-needed scenes of Walter Neff, in Double Indemnity, going to the gas chamber.

 

 

Fred

 

 

gas-chamber.jpg

 

The original ending of An American In Paris had a brief scene where freeloading overage prodigy Oscar Levant ironically hooks up with man-keeping Nina Foch (whom he had criticized earlier for her treatment of Gene Kelly).

 

This was cut for a variety of reasons: It blunted the impact of the final ballet, and took attention away from the main love story of Kelly-Caron.

 

Does anyone know if this footage survives?

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The original ending of An American In Paris had a brief scene where freeloading overage prodigy Oscar Levant ironically hooks up with man-keeping Nina Foch (whom he had criticized earlier for her treatment of Gene Kelly).

 

This was cut for a variety of reasons: It blunted the impact of the final ballet, and took attention away from the main love story of Kelly-Caron.

 

Does anyone know if this footage survives?

Oh, as one who is somewhat obsessed with Oscar Levant, that I'd love to see!

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Oh, as one who is somewhat obsessed with Oscar Levant, that I'd love to see!

 

I'm not quite obsessed, but I am a Levant fan. Have you seen his TV episode with Fred Astaire? Supposedly it's all that survives of Levant's legendary local show in L.A. It can be found online.

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The real LAURA mystery is why NTA was so cheap that they wouldn't pay the music license fees for the non-Fox-controlled music and thus CUT two scenes from the picture when they released it to television.  They also did this to WAKE UP AND LIVE, JOHNNY APOLLO, and quite a few other Fox pictures.

As the old vaudeville line goes, "Pay the two dollars!"

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The real LAURA mystery is why NTA was so cheap that they wouldn't pay the music license fees for the non-Fox-controlled music and thus CUT two scenes from the picture when they released it to television.  They also did this to WAKE UP AND LIVE, JOHNNY APOLLO, and quite a few other Fox pictures.

 

Was "Over The Rainbow" cut from the NTA print of I Wake Up Screaming?

 

I still don't understand how an MGM song got in there in the first place.

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The original ending of An American In Paris had a brief scene where freeloading overage prodigy Oscar Levant ironically hooks up with man-keeping Nina Foch (whom he had criticized earlier for her treatment of Gene Kelly).

 

This was cut for a variety of reasons: It blunted the impact of the final ballet, and took attention away from the main love story of Kelly-Caron.

 

Does anyone know if this footage survives?

 

 

Yep, it does Dr. Kimble, and I've seen it. However, it's really not much of a scene, as all it consists of is Oscar turning to the camera and breaking the fourth wall and saying to the movie audience..."I knew Nina here before SHE was a virgin TOO!"

 

(...and so, much like this here joke of mine, you're not missing much by never having seen it) 

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Years ago I read the Preminger autobiography (I have it somewhere), and remember him discussing a narration from Laura.'s pov, which Zanuck ordered written, filmed and inserted into the movie, after he stated, "We missed the bus with this one". Per Otto, this version was screened when Winchell saw and liked everything but the ending. This caused Zanuck to ask Preminger if he wanted the old ending back.

 

However, a.recent biography on Preminger states that the ending where Laura discovers the shotgun had already been filmed. It was afterward the A rewritten ending was ordered, the one we now have, and filmed after the screening.

Yes, Preminger's account in his autobiography about restoring his original ending after Walter Winchell's negative reaction to the Zanuck-ordered revised ending  is confusing, given that the original scripted ending (with Laura finding the gun) is not the one in the released film. And, if this ending had actually been filmed, then Preminger's account of Zanuck asking if he wanted his (Preminger's) old ending back is questionable.

 

Preminger claims that the revision that Zanuck ordered involved a narration by Laura "which contradicted and negated everything that we saw before," the ending which, according to Preminger, led Winchell to comment, "I didn’t get it."

What I think is more likely than an ending that "negated everything" that preceded it was a portion of the scene between Laura and Mark that reveals Waldo's account of his first meeting with Laura and how he came to endorse the pen to be his own invention written for his column. The cut portion of the scene includes this line by Laura: "You see, Mark, you simply don’t understand Waldo. He dramatizes everything. To him, I, like everything else, am only half real. The other half exists only in his own mind." In the final edit of the film----the one everyone knows----it is pretty apparent that a segment of this scene between Laura and Mark has been cut. After Laura's line "I owed him too much," there is a strange cut to a shot of Waldo at the top of the stairs, which is in fact a re-insertion of the earlier shot of Waldo after he left Laura's apartment then glanced to the right (toward the door of the apartment). The shot of Waldo holds until he moves off right. There is then a cut back to Laura in the apartment with Mark entering the left of the frame saying, "I can understand that, Laura. "

So it appears that it was not an "alternate" ending that "contradicts and negates everything" before it but a portion of a scene that alters the characters of Waldo and Laura which  has been cut 

The original scripted ending with Laura rather than Mark finding the gun in the clock would not negate the preceding events of the story but would only change the resolution.

 

Vera Caspary's novel LAURA, from which the movie was adapted, actiually has three different narrators. The first part of the book is narrated by Waldo Lydecker, the second part by Laura Hunt and the final part by Mark McPherson.The movie, opening with Waldo's famous voice-over "I shall never forget the weekend Laura died," initially appears to be a story told from his perspective, but eventually becomes a third-person narrative. One interesting difference between the book and the movie is the physical appearance of Waldo. In the book he is described as overweight. In the section narrated by Laura, she mentions his  "fat   b-u-t-t-o-c-k-s"  on the couch. And at the end of the book (narrated by Mark), Waldo and Mark tumble down stairs after Waldo tries to kill Laura, and Mark describes being crushed under the weight of Waldo's 250 pounds.   

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Vera Caspary didnt care for Preminger's early script.treatments. She fought for the book version of where Lydecker carried and concealed the weapon: in his walking.cane. Preminger didnt like this, since any weapon that could obliterate the victims face.and make it unrecognizable,.couldnt possibly fit in a walking stick. Caspary felt that Otto didnt grasp the psychological implications of the story, with him wanting to turn it into a conventional murder mystery. The cane was part of the psychological cloak she added; it.represented a phallic symbol,.which underscored Waldo's impotence.and frustration.

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Here's an excerpt from an article by Jenny McPhee discussing the disagreement that Vera Caspary had with Otto Preminger over his adaptation of her book:

 

Caspary's psycho-thriller Laura (1942, republished in 2005 by Feminist Press) is a pitch-perfect detective yarn that manipulates the tropes of the genre to explore the intersection of class, crime, and sexual politics. Her plot twists are ingenious, her characters expertly drawn, and her prose style as refined and faceted as the best of Raymond Chandler. Told from the viewpoints of multiple narrators, the subject is ostensibly the brutal murder of Laura Hunt, a highly successful advertising executive loved and respected by all; but what the dour, reluctant NYPD Detective Mark McPherson ends up investigating is Laura's life. In the process he falls in love with a dead woman. Via the multi-perspective narrative, Caspary leads her reader down dark alleys, around blind corners, through the threats and hazards a woman must confront in negotiating her way through a male world.

 

In the film version, Caspary was outraged by Preminger's characterization of Laura as a dithering ninny whose power lay in how men perceived her, symbolized by Laura's portrait, omnipresent in the film. (In the book, the portrait is much less prominent and suggests Laura's strong individualism.) Preminger famously called Caspary's Laura "a nonentity with no sex." Caspary responded, "Do you mean she never got money out of men or mink or diamonds? That doesn't mean a girl's sexy, Mr. Preminger, it just means she's shrewd. My Laura knew how to love, enjoyed more than one lover, and enjoyed her lovers lustily." The feud culminated in an infamous shouting match between director and writer at The Stork Club.

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One interesting difference between the book and the movie is the physical appearance of Waldo. In the book he is described as overweight. In the section narrated by Laura, she mentions his  "fat   b-u-t-t-o-c-k-s"  on the couch. And at the end of the book (narrated by Mark), Waldo and Mark tumble down stairs after Waldo tries to kill Laura, and Mark describes being crushed under the weight of Waldo's 250 pounds.   

 

Could the role of Waldo originally have been intended for Fox contract player Laird Cregar?

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Could the role of Waldo originally have been intended for Fox contract player Laird Cregar?

 

 

Yeah, maybe RK. Sounds logical.

 

(...AND seein' as how Raymond Burr wasn't that big yet, both literally AND figuratively, back in '44!!!)

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Could the role of Waldo originally have been intended for Fox contract player Laird Cregar?

Yes it was. Both Fox mogul Darryl Zanuck and the original director Rouben Mammoulian wanted Laird Cregar, who had just scored a hit in THE LODGER (earlier, Monty Wooly was considered). However Preminger, then just the producer, fought against Cregar. He stated that audiences would immediately surmise that he was the killer, killing the angle of suspense. He eventually won Zanuck over on Clifton Webb, then a stage actor, after testing him doing a scene from Blithe Spirit, which he was then doing in LA (Webb, ever the primma donna, had refused to film a scene from LAURA with Gene Tierney, as Zanuck had instructed).

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.... One interesting difference between the book and the movie is the physical appearance of Waldo. In the book he is described as overweight. In the section narrated by Laura, she mentions his  "fat   b-u-t-t-o-c-k-s"  on the couch. And at the end of the book (narrated by Mark), Waldo and Mark tumble down stairs after Waldo tries to kill Laura, and Mark describes being crushed under the weight of Waldo's 250 pounds.

 

As many folks may know, the Waldo Lydecker character was based on critic and radio personality Alexander Woollcott, who was a large man. I've always thought that Clifton Webb played the role perfectly, but he obviously didn't fit the original physical conception of the character.

 

I never knew, as Arturo notes, that Monty Woolley was considered for the role, but he probably could have done it justice, having played another Woollcott-based character to perfection in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, both on film and on Broadway.

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  • 11 months later...

I did some research into the supposed "alternate" ending of LAURA ordered by 20th Century Fox, which was supposedly received negatively thus allowing Otto Preminger to get the the ending he wanted for the fim.

Apparently this "mystery" was by and large cleared up in an article by Jacques Lourcelles published in 1978 in the French magazine L’AVANT-SCENE, but there is still some confusion about this even in the audio commentary on the DVD release of LAURA.

 

It seems that Preminger himself created much of this confusion by including in his autobiography an account of how Darryl Zanuck demanded a new ending after seeing a rough cut of the film and how a  screening of the movie with this new ending before an invited audience, that included Walter Winchell, was positively received except for the ending. In Preminger's account, Zanuck thought the movie would be a failure and was amazed that Winchell expressed to Zanuck and Preminger how much he loved it, EXCEPT for the ending. According to Preminger, Zanuck then allowed the "original" ending to be restored.

 

In reality, it appears that there was no change in the ending after this screening, but rather a portion was cut from the scene where Laura explains to Mark how much she owes Waldo after Mark has  

related the circumstances of Diane's murder by Waldo, who mistakenly thought he was killing Laura.

In the cut portion, Laura explains that Waldo's version of how they met was his own invention, that in reality the two met when he saw her at night court and paid her fine after she was wrongly picked up for vagrancy in Central Park after she was evicted from her apartment, being unable to find work. He then got her a job.  In the released version of LAURA, you can see the attempt to bridge the cut segment of the dialogue between Laura and Mark by the re-insertion of an earlier shot of Waldo at the top of the stairs outside the apartment in the middle of their conversation.

 

The initial script did have a different ending than one in the film, but this ending appears to have been abandoned before it was shot.

In the original scripted ending, Laura finds the gun hidden in her clock and realizes Waldo was the murderer. She hides the gun in her storage room and then goes to Waldo's apartment and tells him she knows he was trying to kill her (that she found the gun and hid it in her storage room) and begs him to flee before he is caught. Although he promises her to do so, he later goes to her apartment, retrieves the gun from the storage room and tries to kill her. Mark intervenes, saving Laura, and Waldo is arrested.

Again, this ending apparently was never filmed.

 

 

There are more details in Olivier Eyquem's and Despina Veneti's blogs on their Preminger Film Noirs website:

 

http://premingernoir.co/2014/01/30/the-mystery-of-lauras-first-ending/

 

http://premingernoir.co/2014/01/23/lauras-cut-scenes/

 

 

Preminger's account in his autobiography about restoring his original ending after Walter Winchell's negative reaction to the Zanuck-ordered revised ending  is confusing, given that the original scripted ending (with Laura finding the gun) is not the one in the released film. And, if this ending had actually been filmed, then Preminger's account of Zanuck asking if he wanted his (Preminger's) old ending back is questionable.

 

Preminger claims that the revision that Zanuck ordered involved a narration by Laura "which contradicted and negated everything that we saw before," the ending which, according to Preminger, led Winchell to comment, "I didn’t get it."

What I think is more likely than an ending that "negated everything" that preceded it was a portion of the scene between Laura and Mark that reveals Waldo's account of his first meeting with Laura and how he came to endorse the pen to be his own invention written for his column. The cut portion of the scene includes this line by Laura: "You see, Mark, you simply don’t understand Waldo. He dramatizes everything. To him, I, like everything else, am only half real. The other half exists only in his own mind." In the final edit of the film----the one everyone knows----it is pretty apparent that a segment of this scene between Laura and Mark has been cut. After Laura's line "I owed him too much," there is a strange cut to a shot of Waldo at the top of the stairs, which is in fact a re-insertion of the earlier shot of Waldo after he left Laura's apartment then glanced to the right (toward the door of the apartment). The shot of Waldo holds until he moves off right. There is then a cut back to Laura in the apartment with Mark entering the left of the frame saying, "I can understand that, Laura. "

So it appears that it was not an "alternate" ending that "contradicts and negates everything" before it but a portion of a scene that alters the characters of Waldo and Laura which  has been cut 

The original scripted ending with Laura rather than Mark finding the gun in the clock would not negate the preceding events of the story but would only change the resolution.

 

Vera Caspary's novel LAURA, from which the movie was adapted, actiually has three different narrators. The first part of the book is narrated by Waldo Lydecker, the second part by Laura Hunt and the final part by Mark McPherson.The movie, opening with Waldo's famous voice-over "I shall never forget the weekend Laura died," initially appears to be a story told from his perspective, but eventually becomes a third-person narrative. One interesting difference between the book and the movie is the physical appearance of Waldo. In the book he is described as overweight. In the section narrated by Laura, she mentions his  "fat   b-u-t-t-o-c-k-s"  on the couch. And at the end of the book (narrated by Mark), Waldo and Mark tumble down stairs after Waldo tries to kill Laura, and Mark describes being crushed under the weight of Waldo's 250 pounds.   

 

I'm bumping this thread since LAURA is being discussed again on these boards.

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Thanks for bumping this up.   

 

This part really makes sense to me:   "Waldo's version of how they met was his own invention, that in reality the two met when he saw her at night court and paid her fine after she was wrongly picked up for vagrancy in Central Park after she was evicted from her apartment, being unable to find work".

 

In that other Laura thread I'm making jokes about the true nature of Laura's character as to why she would fall for the detective at the drop of a hat.    Well the above would explain this in that in Waldo's twisted mind Laura was a saint but that wasn't the case.     When too much of the true nature of Laura hit Waldo in the face he lost it.

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Thanks for bumping this up.   

 

This part really makes sense to me:   "Waldo's version of how they met was his own invention, that in reality the two met when he saw her at night court and paid her fine after she was wrongly picked up for vagrancy in Central Park after she was evicted from her apartment, being unable to find work".

 

In that other Laura thread I'm making jokes about the true nature of Laura's character as to why she would fall for the detective at the drop of a hat.    Well the above would explain this in that in Waldo's twisted mind Laura was a saint but that wasn't the case.     When too much of the true nature of Laura hit Waldo in the face he lost it.

 

 

Below  is the complete dialogue from the cut portion of the scene.

The cut dialogue is between Laura's line "I owed him too much" and Mark's line "I can understand that, Laura. But what I can’t understand is why you’ve tried so hard to protect Shelby these last few days."

There is an attempt to bridge the cut by the reinsertion of the shot of Waldo on the stairs.  

 

                                                                         MARK (exasperated)

You don’t owe him a thing.

LAURA

I owe him everything I am.

                  MARK (impatiently)

Just because he endorsed that pen five years ago, for a nice fat check—

LAURA

He told you that story, too?

MARK

It’s true, isn’t it?

                               LAURA (shaking her head)

You see, Mark, you simply don’t understand Waldo. He dramatizes everything. To him, I, like everything else, am only half real. The other half exists only in his own mind. The story he told you about the pen was one he had written for his column. Once he writes something, he believes it. Do you know where he actually first found me? In a night court. I had been picked up for vagrancy.

Mark reacts as from a physical blow.

MARK

Vagrancy?

LAURA

Oh, I wasn’t guilty. It was just something that happens every day, I suppose. I came to New York, looking for a career. Highest honors in art school back home– the usual background. But I couldn’t get a start. One night I found myself locked out of my room. They picked me up on a bench in Central Park.

She shakes her head unhappily at the memory.

LAURA

The judge wouldn’t believe my “hard luck story”. But Waldo believed me. He was in court, gathering material for his column. He came forward and paid my fine. Then he called Bullitt and Company, and got me a job. I went to work the same day.

(she looks up at him)

It isn’t easy to forget anything so wonderful as that.

Mark is touched by the story, but still puzzled.

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