Laura begins with the narration of Waldo Lydecker, a well known New York based columnist who introduces the reader to the story through his point of view. He lacks emotion and seems to exude an eerie feeling, especially with his fascination of murder. However, there is no scene in the book that better encapsulates Waldo’s true personality than his interaction with Mr. Claudius in his antique shop. After dining with Detective McPherson, Lydecker forces them to stop on their way home as something in Mr. Claudius’ shop catches his eye. He sees a mercury glass vase, which he wishes for himself. After finding out Claudius has it in stock for Philip Anthony, he “accidentally” destroys the vase (Caspary 104).
While the destruction of the vase itself is not critical to the plot of the story, it foreshadows a very ominous trait of Lydecker: he believes if he does not have a right to anything he wants, nobody does. While Lydecker seems suspicious up to a point for the duration of the novel, many of his actions could be chalked up to his jealousy, but not to the extent of murder. The interaction between Claudius and Lydecker is critical to showing the viewer there is something amiss with him. In fact, in the 1944 adaptation, without this scene, the trail that leads McPherson to Lydecker seems weak, almost as if there was a critical piece of information missing. This association in the mind of the viewer is better reinforced by the vase symbolizing Laura, as she seems perfect on the outside, but is empty on the inside. Lydecker breaks the vase to ensure his enemy cannot have it, just as he tried to murder Laura to deprive Shelby of marrying her.
Filming this scene just as in the book would be most effective. Starting with a medium shot of the store, the conversation between Lydecker and Claudius would enable a build up to the climax of this scene. Just before Lydecker breaks the vase, cutting to McPherson and showing his surprise to the occurrence inside the shop would highlight how absurd his actions were, and showing Lydecker’s satisfaction in the form of a smirk as he entered the car, from the point of view over McPherson’s shoulder, would cement the idea of Lydecker not being a character to trust in the story.
The most satisfying stories are one where the the story line seems to make sense. While plot twists are welcome additions and often enhance a plot, if events in a story seem completely random, it can be difficult to understand the movie, which would end up ruining the experience for movie-goers. By embedding subtle character traits that make motivations clear, especially after the mystery is unraveled, the audience would have a much more fulfilling experience overall. Without this scene to show an example of Lydecker’s motivation for attempting to kill Laura, the satisfaction expected might not be present at the end of the movie.
Caspary, Vera. Laura. Vera Caspary, 1942.
Depositphotos, Inc. “Empty Silver Mercury Glass Vase.” Depositphotos, Depositphotos, depositphotos.com/103629042/stock-photo-empty-silver-mercury-glass-vase.html.