Monday, July 15, 2013

INSIDE DAISY CLOVER 1965

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. It’s a strange feeling, indeed, to harbor a fond memory of a film enjoyed in childhood, only to encounter it again as an adult and find yourself at a complete loss to know just what it was that captured your imagination in the first place.
Had this post been written in recollection of the many times I enjoyed Inside Daisy Clover on late night TV as a kid, I’m certain my comments and observations would reflect my generally positive response to this not-uninteresting in concept (but veering towards camp in execution), very 60s look at 30s Hollywood and the dark underbelly of the film industry. Back when I could only see Inside Daisy Clover in black & white with commercial interruptions, I guess I was just young enough to have found the era-inappropriate music to be rousing, and the strung-together show biz clichés comprising its plot (this was years before the days of the celebrity tell-all and 24-hour, peel-back-the-veneer, Hollywood infonews) to be a bold inversion of the usual rags-to-riches story.
So, after many years, when the opportunity arose to finally get a look at Inside Daisy Clover in color, digitally-restored and widescreen,...I couldn't pass it up.  I should have left things as they were.
Natalie Wood as Daisy Clover
Robert Redford as Wade Lewis
Christopher Plummer as Raymond Swan
Ruth Gordon as Mrs. Clover
Inside Daisy Clover (adapted by Gavin Lambert from his 1963 novel), is about two traumatic years in the life of its titular character, a 15-year-old Santa Monica beach urchin with a big voice (“I open my mouth and a song comes out!”) who, in 1936 Hollywood, becomes America’s Little Valentine virtually overnight. Advertised at the time with the tagline, “The story of what they did to a kid...,” Inside Daisy Clover is a behind-the-scenes exposé of the Hollywood Dream Machine as assembly-line sweatshop. A hardhearted factory that systematically exploits talent, treats people like property, and callously discards those too sensitive to withstand the demoralization. All in the pursuit of the Almighty Dollar. It’s a story Hollywood never seems to tire of telling about itself, this time the familiar tinsel-town pathos given a tawdry facelift by having as the target of all this abuse, a teenage child star. That is, if you can buy 26-year-old Natalie Wood as a 15 year old. 
Natalie Wood felt her performance was compromised when the heavily-edited film (21 minutes were cut prior to release) left much of her character's voiceover narration on the cutting room floor. I shudder to think what they left out when what they left in are such piquant Daisy-isms as:
"My mother says the world's a garbage dump and we're just the flies it attracts. Maybe she's right. But when I sing the smell doesn't seem so bad."
Two things struck me on seeing Inside Daisy Clover again after so many years.
One: a common complaint I have about 60s period films, one so pervasive I should accept it as a given by now (yet can’t). 60s movies are notorious for always looking like the 60s, no matter what era they try to depict. Inside Daisy Clover takes the trouble of changing the novel’s 1950s setting to Hollywood in the 1930s, but outside of a few vintage automobiles thrown at us, there's precious little effort made to advance period authenticity.
I know it’s partly a matter of aesthetics…30s standards of beauty (pencil thin eyebrows, narrow silhouettes, severe hairdos) can be unflattering to celebrities who still need to look alluring to their contemporary fans, but in Inside Daisy Clover, a movie I assume wants to be taken seriously, it merely looks lazy, cheap, and uncommitted. The anachronistic rendering of the era prevented me from being fully drawn into the story, and gives this drama the unintended look of light comedy. Compare Inside Daisy Clover’s superficial, overlit sheen to the 30s as depicted just four years later in Sydney Pollack's They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?. Movie fans who mourn the loss of Old Hollywood need a film like Inside Daisy Clover to remind them of what used to pass for gritty realism in movies before foreign films and Bonnie and Clyde came along and shook things up 
Former child stars Natalie Wood and Roddy McDowall 
McDowall appears in the thankless role of Walter Baines, producer Raymond Swan's vaguely sinister flunky, 
Two: Why is it that when Hollywood attempts to be hard on itself and show the world its true face, warts and all, it comes across as being phonier than when it's feeding us platitudes and myths? Based on what's come to light over the years about the lives of countless child actors, the events of Inside Daisy Clover are far from exaggerated (over-acted, perhaps), yet little of what happens feels particularly true-to-life. Part of it's due to the acting, the other part falls heavily on the writing. Everything grim seems to have been unnecessarily pitched to melodrama (Plummer’s Swan is only lacking a top hat, cape, and a handlebar mustache to twirl), and that which should be moving, feels under-directed and under-performed. Daisy's frequent outbursts and eruptions of temper have all the requisite sound and fury, but there’s no anguish behind it…Natalie Wood's one-note performance turns a young girl’s pain into a series of shrill tantrums.
Loopy
Daisy Clover's nervous breakdown while looping a song in a sound booth has become a camp touchstone over the years. I found it quite harrowing when first I saw it as a kid. Now Natalie's histrionics are overshadowed by the inspired sound editing, which is really quite marvelously done.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM:
For reasons that make sense only to myself, Inside Daisy Clover remains weirdly engrossing and watchable in spite of not being in the least bit good. How is this possible? Well, chiefly due to my certainty that the entire film is haunted by the campy ghost of Patty Duke as Neely O’Hara in Valley of the Dolls. I can’t help it. When I watch Inside Daisy Clover...from fade-in to fade-out...I can’t stop drawing parallels between Clover's story and that of the pint-sized trainwreck at the center of Jacqueline Susann's soap opera. That and thinking how much better - and more hilarious - this film would be had Patty Duke been cast instead of Natalie Wood. (Even Clover's tagline "The story of what they did to a kid...", recalls Dolls' "Neely...such a nice kid. Until someone put her name in lights and turned her into a lush!")  I consider myself a fan of the immensely appealing Natalie Wood, but Patty Duke, at age 19, would certainly have made a more persuasive 15-year-old. Not to mention the fact that Duke’s less glamorous, tomboyish looks are much more appropriate to the character than Wood’s angular, inescapably mature and feminine countenance. In addition, Duke’s speaking voice has the naturally low register and raspy edge Natalie Wood works hard (far too hard) to capture. 
The Circus is a Wacky World / Give a Little More
As much as I like her in Splendor in the Grass, I truly find Natalie Wood (who campaigned aggressively for this role) to be terribly miscast in Inside Daisy Clover. I would have much preferred to see Patty Duke or Sally Field in the part. That's Duke pictured here as Neely O'Hara, just minutes before getting her big song cut from Helen Lawson's show. For the uninitiated: the only hit that comes out of a Helen Lawson show is Helen Lawson.

In both form and function, Daisy Clover IS Neely O’Hara to me, and Inside Daisy Clover is full of scenes that recall Patty Duke’s legendarily comic performance. There’s the laughable adopting of “little toughie” postures to convey defiance; the cornball, climbing-the-ladder-of success montages; the rebellious bristling at authority; the theatrical mental breakdowns and self-destructive behavior; the barely adequate dubbed singing that’s nevertheless hailed by any and all to be the stuff of which stars are made; and, best of all, Daisy’s and Neely’s songs were penned by the exact same composers: Dory & Andre Previn— two people who never heard a Vegas-style musical cliché they didn't like.
Natalie Wood and Robert Redford doing what they do best in Inside Daisy Clover...looking pretty.
Wood and Redford reteamed in 1966 in This Property is Condemned
PERFORMANCES:
I hate to say it but 26-year-old Natalie Wood plays Daisy Clover as Peck’s Bad Boy with bosoms. She doesn't inhabit  the character so much as reduce the rather enigmatically-written teen down to a series of broadly-drawn attitudes. There’s that awful pixie/waif haircut wig (and if it isn't a wig, Ms. Wood should have sued); the freckles; the studied, ungainly gait; and let’s not forget the artfully applied smudges of dirt to the requisite nose and chin to convey pugnacious spunk. In lieu of a characterization we’re given a too-mature actress in 60s false eyelashes and eyeliner, trying too hard to convey spirited adolescence by means of cartoonishly-rendered explosions of piss and vinegar feistiness. 
An actress I've always felt could deliver with a strong director, Natalie Wood during the film's first ten minutes displays some of the most amateurish acting I've ever seen outside of a John Waters or Andy Warhol film. She's downright embarrassing, and the film takes a long time to regain its footing. She gets better once she gets to drop the butch act, but not by much. I'm not sure if it's one of the worst performances of her career, but it's pretty darn close.
Ruth Gordon was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Daisy's (what else?) eccentric mother. To be fair, this was Gordon's return to the screen after a 22-year absence, and at the time the Academy had no way of knowing she'd be giving variations on this same performance for the next 20.
My favorite performance in the film is given by Christopher Plummer as the ironfisted producer, Raymond Swan. Plummer plays him in an amusingly reptilian manner - holding himself very still, lizard-like eyes darting about - that make his scenes the most lively in the movie. The same can't be said for gorgeous superstar-to-be Robert Redford, whose method of conveying ladykiller charm is to precede each line of dialog with a drop of his chin and a purposeful stare upwards into the eyes of whomever he's talking to...like a superannuated member of some boy band.
Daisy gets Schooled
THE STUFF OF FANTASY:
I do have a weak spot for Inside Daisy Clover's two big production numbers for the songs, "You're Gonna Hear from Me" and "The Circus is a Wacky World." Cheesy, camp, and anachronistic as hell, these numbers (staged by Funny Girl's Herbert Ross) are nevertheless a lot of guilty-pleasure fun for a guy raised on 60s and 70s variety shows.
"Listen world, you're gonna love me!"
Intergalactic megalomaniac Daisy Clover foists herself on an unsuspecting planet
Like Sammy Davis, Jr's I Gotta Be Me, Frank Sinatra's My Way, Anthony Newley's Gonna Build a Mountain, or Helen Lawson's immortal, I'll Plant My Own Tree, Daisy Clover's You're Gonna Hear from Me is one of those self-aggrandizing show-biz anthems beloved of pop singers in the 60s. Obligingly, and with an obvious eye towards a Best Song Oscar nod, or at least a Robert Goulet single, composers Dory and Andre Previn keep the musical arrangement snappy and thoroughly mired in mid-60s Easy Listening tastes. In 2003, Barbra Streisand covered this song on her The Movie Album, but she kinda made it sound like a threat.
The Pepto-Bismol pink musical extravaganza, "The Circus is a Wacky World" stands as Inside Daisy Clover's metaphor for the phoniness of Hollywood. It's also a melody so infectious that it takes several days to dislodge it from  your brain after seeing the film. Happily, as this little ditty runs a marathon around your head 24/7, fans of the film will be granted the opportunity of reenacting Daisy's nervous breakdown scene for friends and family.

THE STUFF OF DREAMS: 
It’s difficult to imagine how any well-constructed film can survive the excision of 21 minutes of footage, so perhaps one of my biggest dissatisfactions with Inside Daisy Clover (Daisy’s disillusionment with Hollywood is near instantaneous. We’re never given even one scene where she’s happy to have her dream come true) might be the result of how much had to be left out.
That being said, it’s still unlikely that Inside Daisy Clover would ever register with me again the way it did when I was young. For one, when I was a kid EVERYBODY looked older and it didn’t bother me so much how little Natalie Wood looked or acted like a teen. Now, I can’t get past it. Similarly, the then-shocking revelations of the film - bisexuality, adultery, family dysfunction, child labor abuses – are rather tame without good performances and writing to back it up. 
Katharine Bard plays Raymond's Swan's neglected wife, Melora. There are better screen caps I could have used of her, but the ever-shaggable Robert Redford is just so darn cute here

On the plus side, I must say that Inside Daisy Clover looks rather spectacular in widescreen and in color, still, I'm not so sure that balances out having to face the fact that a movie I once liked a great deal just didn't stand the test of time for me. 

THE AUTOGRAPH FILES:
Christopher Plummer
I got this autograph of back in 1983 when I was studying dance in New York. I saw him walking down the street somewhere in the theater district, and I asked if he would be so kind as to sign this (a schedule from Jo-Jos Dance Studio). Of course I had one of those cheap pens that made you scratch the paper just to get ink to come out. That accounts for the undecipherable first word preceding "...of best wishes" in the autograph above. As I recall, he was very nice, very tan (this was dead of winter) and VERY handsome!

Copyright © Ken Anderson

58 comments:

  1. I gotta see this movie (again - I'm 99% sure I saw it decades ago)
    I love this tag, Ken... "Natalie Wood and Robert Redford doing what they do best in Inside Daisy Clover...looking pretty."
    Great review!

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    1. Joyce!
      What a lovely surprise to see you here, and thank you for taking the trouble to comment! This film really made the rounds on TV for a while, then seemed to disappear. Even if you have seen it a long while ago, the DVD transfer looks great. Redford's eyes in HD...

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  2. What an awful feeling to have a movie you enjoyed so much as a kid turn out to disappoint. I have to agree with everything you said here, though. I saw this for the first time maybe 15 or 20 years ago and was anticipating liking it thanks to my fondness for Nat, my appreciation of Ruth Gordon, the early-days cuteness of Robert and my adoration of Christopher Plummer, but I just couldn't stand the movie! The costumes, styling, makeup, etc.... annoyed me enough, but, like you say, the near-absent period detail (including the music!) stood out horribly. (Oddly enough, that same year's "The Sound of Music", also starring Plummer and set in the 1930s, has anachronisms too, but not to such a massive, invasive degree.) It also annoyed me that the performer playing gay/bi acted against that (and has since denied the character's orientation altogether.) I can only count it as a moderately captivating misfire, but if they ever restored the lost footage, I'd watch it again to see what the difference was. Oh, and Nat's meltdown in the looping booth IS uproarious.... Wow.

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    1. Ha! Your line, "I couldn't stand the movie!" echoes that of my partner who didn't make it through an entire viewing.
      As you say, period anachronisms are common, but somehow in this film they seem more bothersome than in most. And likewise, the cast is intriguing, but their combined effect is less entertaining than you'd imagine.
      I've I've never understood Redford's protestations regarding the bi/gay thing with his character. He plays him so dully that he should have been grateful they spiced up his wooden matinee idol with an interesting sexual identity. When I researched the film a bit online, I was surprised to find it so beloved. I thought my opinions were pretty much mine alone.
      Thanks for sharing yours!

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  3. Sometimes it is best not to look back (the other night I watched 'Getting Straight' for the first time since it came out. I loved Elliott Gould's performance in 1970, now it was excruciating!)
    One moviemaking aspect of 'Inside Daisy Clover' has always bugged me - the idea that songs were 'looped' in post-production rather than pre-recorded before shooting began. I guess they needed that relentless 'Circus' tune to push Natalie over the edge into madness. (It has the same effect on me as "It's a Small World" at Disneyland!)

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    1. Yes, thanks to YouTube features and all those made-to-order DVDs of rare old films, I've been having several painful encounters with beloved movies from my youth that looked better in my memory screening room.
      A great point you bring up about the technical side of the looping sequence (funny I never once thought of it). And indeed, they picked a perfect song to push her over the edge.

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  4. Wow, Ken, I couldn't agree more with your assessment of this mess of a film. I have always thought of this as a film I should love, but could never get all the way through it when it was shown years ago. Recently, I too gave it another chance, forced myself to watch the whole thing and came up with the same verdict--NOT a good movie.

    I should love a movie that combines the talents of Gavin Lambert, Ruth Gordon, Christopher Plummer, Robert Redford, decked out with songs by the Previns...and starring the amazing Natalie Wood. But it all falls really flat.

    I just don't buy Wood as a child star in 1965, even though she was one of the great ones of the 40s and early 50s. I don't believe Ruth Gordon as a senile nut; she's far too fabulous for her broken-down characterization. Redford is the most unsatisfying supposedly-homosexual character I've ever seen in a film. Plummer is plummy and bombastic, without the heart and humanity he found as Capt. Von Trapp.

    And there's no deep meaningful message about Hollywood--maybe that's what's missing most of all for me. It's as empty as--well, maybe as empty as Hollywood really is, ironically!!

    The one bright spot for me is the wonderful song, "You're Gonna Hear From Me." I included it in a one-woman show I put together for a terrific singer named Avery Sommers...arranged in a slower, silkier orchestration by her talented accompanist, Dana Rowe. It's such a beautiful song...I think Avery's version is available via iTunes.

    Speaking of the Previns' songs for this movie and for Valley of the Dolls, there's a terrific guy named David Pascucci who has recorded all of these terrifically campy songs...from "I'll Plant My Own Tree" and "Come Live With Me" to "You're Gonna Hear from Me." I recommend his Previn album to those who lik that sort of thing!

    Ken, you always make my day whenever I read your amazing blog...you are such a beautifully articulate connoisseur of classic film!

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    1. You're right about Natalie Wood. You'd think a former child star would be able to play one more convincingly. But as you say, a very good cast, just not being able to deliver the goods.
      I am definitely going to look up your friend's version of "You're gonna hear from me." I like her look and I'm eager to her the voice that goes with it. Likewise, I have to check out the Previn album. I mean, gathering all those campy songs on one collection...sounds fairly irresistible and like something you'd find on the CD music collection, "A Date With John Waters."
      Chris, you've supplied a wealth of little-known info in your comment! I thank you for that and for your very flattering words. I don't know that I'm all that articulate, or that the films I write about could even be called classic, but I do honestly love movies....the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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  5. Ken, Once again I have enjoyed your review much more than the film under discussion! This post is far more entertaining than "Daisy Clover" - a movie I've never been able to stick with from beginning to end - my attention always drifts until I become sufficiently annoyed to turn it off (for reasons you point out in exquisite and often hilarious detail here).

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    1. Hi Eve!
      Your comment conveys an impatience with this movie that makes me smile because (as I mentioned in an earlier comment) it so echoes my partner's reaction to the film. He treated it like a form of torture i was subjecting him to.
      Your lack of fondness for the film makes it all the more pleasing that you found my post readable. Thanks a heap!

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  6. OMG, I thought it was me. There IS something awful about "Inside Daisy Clover." Many, many things. I too have tried to watch this movie in its entirety and have never managed to do it. That said, I have now watched "The Circus is a Wacky World" on YouTube nearly 50 times and I just can't stop. Has there EVER been a good circus number in the history of cinema? Between this and the finale of "Jumbo" I think it's time to declare these crimes.

    I have always found Natalie Wood touching but there's something so self-conscious about her performances -- you can see her "trying" and that spoils many of her films for me. That said, from everything I've read, she was a lovely, sensitive, intelligent woman who was -- let's face it -- exploited from a very early age. It's a miracle she got through it to become one of the only performers to successfully transition from child star to adult star. I just read "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" by Dickie Moore -- I highly recommend it. Most of those child actors were pushed into show biz by ambitious parents and lived to regret it.

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    1. Hi Peter!
      With the number of people claiming to have never been able to make it through "Inside Daisy Clover" rising, it appears you have lots of company in finding something lacking in this movie a lot of people feel they "should" like, yet don't.
      The self-conscious qualities you express about Natalie Wood’s acting are really on display here, as I feel she is very much out of her element in trying to play a teen. Perhaps one has to give her credit for wanting to grow as an actress, but sometimes the end result is not so easy on us viewers.

      I’m glad you mentioned that book by child star Dickie Moore. I read it many years ago and found it eye-opening in its laying bare Hollywood’s ugly history of child exploitation (the absolute free rein the studios had over the life of its stars and the lack of laws in place to protect children may even have been one of the reasons “Inside Daisy Clover” picked the 1930s to set its story). Anyhow, given that I had only previously encountered posts online hailing “Inside Daisy Clover” as an overlooked masterpiece, I too am kind of surprised to find so many folks with unpleasant memories of Daisy Clover.
      Oh, and I am completely with you on circus-themed musical numbers. That “Jumbo” finale is the nadir, but have you ever seen the “Jenny” number from “Star!”?
      Thanks, as always, for commenting!

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  7. Yes, I have: it's my favorite Julie Andrews-does-gymnastics number!

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  8. I L-O-V-E the "Jenny" number in "Star!" That's another film I find difficult to trudge through, but that particular production number is fascinatingly bizarre and accidentally good!

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  9. Argyle, here. Wasn't going to comment since I didn't have anything very elucidating to say and haven't seen it all the way through, but since that seems to be the norm, here goes! My excuse is I always seem to catch it midway, so I've never seen how it starts. I'll try to remedy that soon. For me, I’m always expecting it to go darker and it never does. Even the suicide attempt is played for laughs. And Mr. Redford adds absolutely no depth or consequence to his role (as usual IMO.) There seems to be a general tone problem which may be a result of the cuts or maybe no one knew what they were doing; Robert Mulligan certainly directed complex, more involving, empathetic films (Mockingbird, Fear Strikes Out.) I do always enjoy Plummer’s Swan character. He seems truly threatening and amoral. And I like the look of the mansion, the beach house and some of the exterior “rough and tumble” scenes. In a way, I think the production design starts to approach the later, better nostalgia pictures that you reference. I definitely think it looks less studio-bound than something like “Funny Girl” or “Love Me or Leave Me” which of course have their owns strengths. Natalie needed more help; she might have had it in her. Armchair psychology, but she seems to be one of those people who adjust themselves (down) to the expectations of the people around them. On the other hand, I think I've always heard that she was a great friend of Gavin Lambert. Who knows? Maybe they were united in realizing they were on a sinking ship. I’m always pulling out his book on George Cukor. Maybe a second go ‘round is in order. How about Harmony Korine with a reunited Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron? Sorry.

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    1. Yes, it seems the studio missed out on an opportunity to merchandise "I made it all the way through 'Inside Daisy Clover!'" t-shirts.
      I'm with you on all the points you mention. Most whole-heartedly what you say about Redford's lack of depth, and the film failing to ever really go to the dark places it's premise seems to want to take it. Nothing seems to have much dramatic weight, and I've never been able to pin it down to whether it's the superficiality of the performances, a certain lack of emotional insight in the writing, or the inability of the director to fully control the tone (the suicide attempts played for laughs being a good point you bring up).
      From what I've read, both Wood and Lambert were indeed close friends, and both were disheartened by the film's poor reception. The story, in and of itself, it compelling. Why the movie doesn't deliver on the promise of the premise is an oddity.
      Oh, and is it a sign that I really watch too many old films that I had to Google all but Zac Efron of those last three names just to know who they were?
      Thanks, Argyle!

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  10. I love Natalie Wood, and like most actors, with sure direction, could really shine.

    But sometimes when Natalie was really trying to "stretch," I felt she was mimicking her friend and idol, Elizabeth Taylor. And while Liz had her insecurities, like most stars, being self conscious on screen was not one of them!

    And I deplore and adore this movie for the very same reasons you do!

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    1. I love that description of Taylor! I think your comment and the trend of those others which found in Wood's performance a palpable "effort" that undermined the character's authenticity, is really the crux of her problem here. Biographers have noted her insecurity over her past as an untrained, "natural" child actress, when as a teen she came in contact with Method-trained New York actors like James Dean and his ilk. I know it's something she aspired to and admired and no doubt drove her to, as you aptly put it, try to stretch her abilities in films with varying degrees of success.
      By the way, Aplore / Adore is a term I wish I had made up. It would have made a perfect topic heading for this film! Very nice to hear from you again, Rico!

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  11. A very timely post, Ken, as just this past weekend, I took another look at another Natalie Wood film, "Gypsy", which is of course also about children being thrusted into the limelight.

    As for "Inside Daisy Clover", I've not yet seen it, but based upon the above review, it looks fabulous! I know, I know, I haven't tried sitting through it, but look at Natalie Wood, she's so adorable--and dressed like a TV dinner, too!

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    1. Mark V!
      Oh, contrary to my feelings about "Inside Daisy Clover" I am one of those who absolutely love the musical, "Gypsy"!!!
      It's not very well-regarded by fans of Merman, but I could watch that movie a million times. It's great!(That terrific Sondheim music, the widescreen color...)
      And I hope you disregard the comments here and check out "Inside Daisy Clover" on your own terms. As I said, when I first saw it, I was quite taken with it.
      And the "TV dinner" comment is priceless!

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  12. Thank you for your incisive assessment of "Inside Daisy Clover". You clearly express what does not work with the film. So true, what you say about this film trying to give a realistic view of Hollywood but just ending up being even phonier!

    It's such a strange film that no one ever really bothered to review it before, probably because it seems terribly dated. I saw it as a teen on TV and now again on the restored dvd release. As you say it is hard to watch and even harder to like! Apart from the two musical numbers, this is not an enjoyable film and as a result does not even achieve camp classic status for me.

    What fascinates me with this film is Natalie Wood. She was breathtakingly pretty in the 60s and seemed so sweet. She was a huge star back then despite not being the most instinctive of actresses. For me it's a little painful to watch her act. Her reactions are a little off, as if she's trying to act like an actress acting.

    It fascinates me too that Natalie and the studio seemed to hope that this would be the film where she would be taken seriously as an actress. Was the studio also trying to launch her as a musical star? The musical numbers don't just try to recreate a 1930's movie musical but try to give the audience "Natalie Wood- movie star!". She didn't even sing the songs but she moved around pretty well, or what do you think, Ken, you being a profesional dancer?

    It was a mistake having Natlie Wood play Daisy Clover. She and the studio misjudged and did so again with the movie "Penelope" from 1966 when she was trying to be a screwball comedienne.
    -Wille

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    1. Hi Wille
      I'm not sure how incisive my assessment of "Inside Daisy Clover" is, but it's certainly been enlightening finding out the many ways this film both attracts people (its plot, Natalie Wood), yet leaves them dissatisfied (performances, uneven execution).
      I think you capture the odd effect Natalie Wood has in this film better than I when you say her reactions seem off and she comes off like an actress trying to act.(I love that!)
      I wish I could recall where I read it, but there is a site online that goes into detail about how much creative control Natalie Wood had on this film and how invested is he was in it being a film to move her away from "light" material into more dramatic roles. because I find her sooo effective in "Splendor in the Grass" I tend to lay a lot of the weakness of her performance here at the feet of the director. Like Dunaway in "Mommie Dearest" she needed someone outside telling her "You're pushing too hard, here," or "I'm not feeling the reality of the moment" (if directors really talk like that, which I hope they don't).
      Funny you should ask about Natalie Wood's dancing. It's apparent from the ballet moves she employs when she's (literally) dancing with the stars in the "You're Gonna Hear from Me" number, that she was probably trained in dance like so many of the contract stars of her generation. And I think she acquits herself very nicely, with the choreographer keeping her well within the parameters of moves that show her off to best advantage...but like her acting, one is aware of the effort.
      Your bringing up "Penelope" (a film, alas, I loathe) brings to mind my feelings about that rather ugly period in 60s movies (comedies mostly) that were overlit, the people looked lacquered and stiff, the casts were these hammy TV sitcom character actor types, and the sets were beyond fake looking."Penolope" is a prime example of the kind of product that Hollywood was churning out that supplied the nails for its coffin. I will forever be grateful to the New Hollywood/youthquake of the late 60s for rescuing us from that.
      Thanks, Wille, for contributing so interestingly to this dialog!

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    2. Her Doris Day turn in "Sex in the Single Girl" is also unwatchable -- a turkey!

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    3. Oh! That one! "Sex and the Single Girl" is really hard one to sit through (I don't know that I ever made it all the way). Unfunny, unsexy, and very labored.

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  13. Wow, Ken, thanks for opening the Daisy Clover Café - you meet so many nice people here! I think you need to open a 3D version in West Hollywood a few doors down from Barneys Beanery...I think it would do well.
    I too love the movie version of Gypsy, DESPITE the singing of both Miss Wood and Miss Russell. Their beautiful performances more than make up for the utter lack of vocal talent...and to be truthful, I prefer when actors sing in their own voices, however unmusical, rather than being dubbed by someone like Marni Nixon...
    I think, in Daisy, that Natalie sings some of each song, and then a "Marni" (a different Marni than in West Side Story) steps in for the high notes...at least, in Gypsy, it's all Natalie for the whole of every song, even the eardrum-piercing climax of "If Momma Was Married."
    I am sure Natalie would enjoy everyone's deconstruction of this or any of her films. From all accounts, she had a wicked and earthy sense of humor and was never a diva or self-conscious kind of star. I think that's why we all still love her and miss her so much.

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    1. Ha! I love the idea of a Daisy Clover Cafe!
      Seriously...isn't it fascinating to hear people's response and assessment of this film? What's odd is that a consistent through-line is how people really wanted it to like it.
      I'm with you in preferring the imperfection of actors singing in their own voices over the antiseptic perfection of dubbing. it's the passion and acting in the singing performance I like to hear.
      (That being said...have you ever heard that album of Patty Duke singing the songs from "Valley of the Dolls," or those extra tracks on the reissue of the "Gypsy" soundtrack with Rosalind Russell's real voice? Oh my God. Move over, Mrs. Miller!)

      I think you are right about Natalie Wood having a sense of humor about her limitations. I could never imagine a star like Barbra Streisand being voted "worst actress for this year, next year, and the following year" as Wood was by the Harvard Lampoon in 1966, and insisting on going to the event and accepting the award in person. how could you not love a woman like that? She tried to be a better actress, most times failed, but kept a sense of humor about it.
      as you have pointed out, I think that's why I find her an star impossible to dismiss in spite of her limitations . The charm of what must have been her true nature always comes through even her weakest screen efforts.
      Thanks, Chris!

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  14. Ken, I love your point that under a proper director, Wood always shines. I think Splendor is her strongest (adult) performance, followed closely by Rebel Without a Cause and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Love With the Proper Stranger. She was equally adept at comedy as drama, and took a lot of risks as a performer, attempting roles as varied as Anastasia and Maggie the Cat.

    And YES, I am a big fan of Patty Duke's singing. If you close your eyes, she sounds just like Judy Garland (tee hee).

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    1. I misread that last line...I thought you wrote, "If you close your EARS she sounds just like Judy Garland!"

      I've never seen "Love With the Proper Stranger", but do like the other films you listed.

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    2. LOL@Ken. I WISH I were that witty!!

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  15. I'll try to look for that site you mention, sounds interesting!

    I looked at the "Circus is a Wacky World" number again and even that is hard to like for me (even though I want to!). If the director had wanted to show the effort put into and the fake happiness of those kind of musical numbers they could have filmed it differently. As it is, the camera is always on Natalie even when she's finished with part of the song and leaves to change costumes and set. So it's more of a 1965 showcase of how adorable Natalie was and that also shows how smart she was knowing how fake her profession of moviemaking is.

    "Penelope" is deeply unfunny and Natalie was terrible in it but I'm drawn to those early 60's Hollywood comedies like "What a Way to Go" and Marilyn's "Something's Got to Give" for the glamour, costumes and spacious wide screen sets, even though they're a little lame, desperate to be "racy" and featuring very adult-looking stars.

    I trust you are right about Natalie being very good in other movies with better directors and I'll check out "Splendor in the Grass" when I find it. Thanks again for your grat blog!
    -Wille

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    1. It's just my opinion, but I think, like many a "movie star," Natalie Wood was primarily someone who was more a screen "personality" than actress. She was beautiful, had amazing charisma, presence, and star quality, but she was limited. She seemed to have a range within which she could be amazing. Taken too far outside of it, she had a tendency to fall back on professional tricks (like indicating emotions, flaring her nostrils, and having her sensitive eyes dart about nervously). She was an appealing screen persona who had the good fortune to appear in a great many marvelous films, perhaps only a handful of which she gave strong performances in.
      But rather than rest completely on her fame, she admirably stuck her neck out and took professional risks.
      I admire her for it even when I'm not enthralled by the result.
      Oh, and I'm a big fan of "What a Way to Go!"
      Thanks, again, Wille!

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  16. My own feeling is that "Inside Daisy Clover"'s woes begin with its title, which always had, at least to my ear, a slight pornographic suggestiveness to it - I KNOW it's supposed to indicate that we're about to see something true and insightful about the character, but STILL.... Like nearly everyone else here, I never saw the whole film; I recall seeing it in part on tv as a kid decades ago and barely remembering it. But after reading your post, I checked out both "The Circus is a Wacky World" and "You're Gonna Hear From Me" numbers on Youtube, and ye gods! Aside from this one comical effect of Natalie being nearly decapitated by a planet in the latter number (the only funny bit for me), both routines were depressing to watch, having that cheap 60s tv variety show look; even the songs had that 60s-tv sameness, substituting the long-held note for lyrics and music. And Natalie is just not a musical-comedy performer. She doesn't project that kind of performing energy; you sense that she's doing her moves as rehearsed, but she doesn't take off with the routine and make it all her own. Particularly in the "Circus" number, where she starts off like a nightmare impression of Mickey Rooney. What's so sad about these two numbers is how they starkly demonstrate how Hollywood lost the knack of making the movie musical. Maybe they should have retitled the film "No Longer Inside Hollywood."

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    1. Hi GOM
      Such a treat reading your thoughts on "Inside Daisy Clover" I got a great many laughs out of your bulls-eye observations and wittily descriptive writing! You vividly take me into your experience of revisiting those musical numbers and provide even more insight into just why this film didn't click for so many.
      Honestly, I've never encountered such a well-known film so few people have only seen half of (and didn't mind that they never saw the rest!)
      Thanks!

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  17. http://11east14thstreet.com/2013/04/23/natalie-wood-inside-daisy-clover/

    I know this is way late, but this critical review of Inside Daisy Clover (link above) is a 180 degree turn from the review here and the comments.

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    1. Hi Ross,
      It's never too late to comment on an old post! I'm so glad you posted the link to that essay. I think it is always good for to be reminded of the subjective aspect of film criticism. That no matter how wonderful or terrible a film is deemed to be...there are likely to be others who feel diametrically different.
      I would hate if a fan of "Daisy Clover" read my post and the attendant comments, and rather than accept it them all as people's personal, subjective opinions, began to think they are "wrong" for liking the film.
      To see two opposing views of the same material shows that it's possible for one film to stike many viewers in many diverse and sometimes contradictory ways. And that's as it should be. Thanks!

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  18. Natalie Wood, Christopher Plummer, Ruth Gordon, Roddy McDowall ( under-used ) , Robert Redford, even a brief part with Harold Gould at the film's start ... have I mentioned Natalie Wood ? Great cast : am a fan of all of them. The premise was intriguing. Wanted to like this film. It took me 47 or 48 years & 4 tries before I managed to watch the entire film from start to end. ( Paragraph ) 1st time was in 1966. Both my father & I loved Nats & went to see the film when it opened in the East Coast. Other than the 2 musical numbers, it bored me & I fell asleep. I woke when the lady seated behind me became exasperated by the film & yawned loudly, " God, come on ! ' I looked up to the screen to see Natalie Wood remove her head from her oven in order to take a phone call. My father, noticing I had wakened, said, ' You haven't missed anything the last half-hour. ' Me : ' Was it a comedy or a drama ? ' Father : ' I don't know & I don't think they knew, either. " I looked round the cinema to see that most of the audience had already fled. ( paragraph ) 2nd attempt was in either the 1970s or 1980s in either Europe or N America when I spotted it listed in the late night listings ; but I nodded off again. ( Daisy is a covert sleep aid ). Last year, my favourite oldies mail-order place had it on sale & I bought it. When it arrived on a free day, I tossed it in the DVD player & started fighting insomnia but was rescued by a phone call ; I just couldn't bring myself to resume watching. But a month and a half ago, I finally watched it from start to end. It had only taken me 47 or 48 years ! ( paragraph ) I really wanted to like this film, but everything, save the cast was a tedious mess. The script had no sense of plotting or pacing. Chronological & plot contradictions, eg, ( I remember this from 1966 ) One night, Daisy, her arms encumbered with bottles of liquor, & Redford impetuously decide to visit D's mother in order to give her a bouquet of flowers. They have to sweet-talk their way past Mrs Swan, but they are seen driving away to see Gordon. Next scene : Daisy, wearing different clothes, is seen sitting in an alcove in her mother's room. It's daytime : clearly some time has passed. But Redford enters & introduces himself to Gordon, saying, 'We've never met before, but I feel like I already know you. ' This completely contradicts the previous scene of not a half-minute, 30 seconds before. The near-empty studios' head office was a jarring sight. In 1 scene, there are Daisy, Mr Swan, & Mrs Swan. In another scene, you see D, Mr Swan, McDowall ( under-used ) &, look, at picture #7, supra, an inert secretary ! Where are the clerks, directors, secretaries, phone calls, deliverymen ? That's supposed to be a major, multi-million-dollar, international studio. At 1st, Daisy wishes to be a star, but then deliberately misses the premiere & acts like a brat. & c, & c. Am I under the character-posting limit this time ?

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    1. Hi Pearl
      I have to say, your comments gave me quite a chuckle. Not only because of the thoughtfully placed paragraph identifiers, but because your dedication to finally making it through this film is so admirable, I wish it had yielded more of a reward.
      All of the points you make are so well-taken (uneven comedy/drama tone, misuse of Roddy McDowall, and that empty, empty studio) and now I have to re-watch it to catch that glitch with the sanitarium meeting with Daisy's mother. Can't say I noticed that before.
      Anyhow, I am very happy that you happened upon this site and were moved to comment on a film you certainly can't say you didn't give every chance possible to shape up. (Plus, you're very funny) Thanks!

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    2. thank you ! Another glitchy scene I recall from 1966 was the one wherein Daisy learns that her elder sister & her husband have just committed the mother to an institution. Daisy lurches across the room in order to attack her sister & engage in a cat fight. The player playing the husband is holding a cup & saucer. The cup is obviously empty in reality ( I could hear it rattle & produce an empty echo ) , but we are supposed to believe that it is filled with either hot coffee or hot tea. He is about a metre or 2 metres away from the wife ; however, even though he is supposedly tending & nursing to a precariously filled cup, he bumbles moronically forward & positions himself artificially betwixt the 2 in order to drop the cup on the floor, possibly the saucer, too. This was 1 of the most ineptly choreographed scenes I have ever seen in a Hollywood film ; the director was not even trying here for credibility. ( Plus, what man would be so foolish as to try & intervene in a cat fight betwixt his wife & sister-in-law ? Self-preservation would surely be tantamount in the real world. ) So, if you do re-watch it, take a glance at that blunder.

      I only dragged myself through Daisy so that, in the next world, I could tell my father that I, too, had made it through the film once, & we could have a common chuckle over a gin or beer or cup of tea. Once, & only once, for, once I had finished watching it through a month & a half ago, I donated it to a local library ( my philosophy : share the pain with the young people ! ) .

      I do understand, though, why you could very well have liked it on commercial telly with those breaks. Broad comedy ( or was this drama ? : there's that nagging question again ) can function quite well when interrupted by several commercial breaks. Plus the editing which the stations must engage in in order to tailor for the time slots probably resulted in the excising of much redundant, superfluous material. The film editor is probably the most under-rated individual in the film industry. ( Along with the script writer. ) B&W telly .. ah, good old-fashioned monochrome ! ( I have never owned a colour telly ! ) Favourite 1960s Nats joke : A : Nat Wood. B : Yes, she probably would !

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  19. PS : thank you for your site ! sorry for long rant, but some of this has bugged me since 1966 ! ciao ! -- Pearl ( I could have gone on & on with examples, believe me ! apologies ) Daisy, for me was for ' The Birds ' ! ( must check out your review of this favourite of mine which you have listed on your right-hand-side margin )

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  20. ( ran across your site via IMDb )

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  21. I had no idea that when I wrote that you'd hear from me again soon that it would be here... commenting on a film that has a song titled, You're Gonna Hear from Me."

    That said... I HAVE SEEN THIS FILM FROM START TO FINISH! A number of times, too. Unlike most of the group, I actually like this movie. The thing is, I can't argue with any critical points anyone made because they are all 100% spot-on. I have to admit to LOVING the "looping-freak out" scene, but it never occurred to me that you wouldn't be brought in to loop a song. Of course it was pre-recorded. I love that someone pointed that out and I thank them for it. I still love the scene, though. I think one big reason I feel attached to this film is because watching it, you can see that there's so much more that could have been done. There are a million little ticks and quirks that end up only hinting at the plethora of roads not taken. For example, as someone above mentioned Swann, there's a malevolence behind that man and you need look no further than his wife and how she's really just a ghost of the woman he sold a dream to. But we go no deeper. And this happens over and over again. It's the tease of "Look! What's going on in that dark corner? Oh never mind... we've got a lot of ground to cover and not much time. Gotta keep moving."

    I fell for the tease because these things so intrigued me. Seeing that the author of the novel also wrote the adaptation, Gavin Lambert, I actually tracked down a copy of the novel just to see if his novel was as vacant in character development. Turns out it isn't. But Mr. Lambert clearly had no real interest in doing his own work justice or he was pressured into writing a kiddie-coaster of a screenplay. The book is actually kind of wonderful. What really gets me is that the film only covers the first half of the book. That's it! And it does a shoddy job at that. Lambert dumbed down so much for the screenplay. From the first paragraph you have more insight into Daisy's motivations and her tempestuousness than you get in the entire film adaptation. Honestly? It's a sin. The rest of the story is 60's, Christopher Street, fabulous. After Daisy blows up that beach house it's not all smiles and skipping through the sand. In many ways the second half of the book was very forward-thinking. They drummed her right out of Hollywood - baby and all. Oh did I say baby? And just guess who the father is. Yeh, I know... sounds all too cliche, but only slightly. What happens to Daisy and her child once she lands in the West Village is a worthy journey to take. Odd that Lambert and company didn't believe in it because they really should have. Considering the friendship between Lambert and Woods, one would think that Natalie should have been screaming for them to film more than the tabloid Hollywood stuff. I'd like to think that she did but having been a pawn in the palm of Tinsel Town's hand for so long, maybe she didn't.

    Anyway... maybe it's because it lead me to read the book or maybe it's because I love this kind of schmaltz, but I still like this movie despite the fact that it certainly isn't what it could have been, not hardly.


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    1. Hello again daringrod
      Its a good sign that you are a film fan who does not find his tastes threatened by dissenting opinions. To be able to enjoy the films you like while still being able to appreciate (and sometimes laugh with) contrasting points of view speaks to a person who knows their own mind.
      You're the third person to tell me about how interesting the book is, so i guess I need to check out Amazon and get myself a copy.

      As you point out about a film like this, there is a great deal to like about it, even with being aware that it is perhaps less than it could be.
      Like you, I had never really considered the looping thing. Since those involved in the making of the film certainly know this, iIwonder...were they just counting on our ignorance?

      In think you might have something there in detailing the vast amount of events transpiring in the book and the challenge presented to Lambert in adapting it as a showcase vehicle for his friend. The episodic feel of some of it, certainly.
      Still, it offers a lot of camp fun and very pretty people to look at. Thanks for commenting and stopping by again!

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  22. Hi Ken,

    I read your recap of this a few weeks ago but it had been so long since I had seen it I only had a dim recollection, so dim I thought it was in black and white! Like you I must have seen it originally on the late show. By coincidence though last week it showed up on TCM. So I took advantage to get a fresh look at it with your review in mind.

    Since my major recollections were of Natalie's breakdown, the revelation of Redford's secret, Daisy signing Myrna Loy's name when she wakes up to find Wade Lewis had abandoned her at that fleabag hotel and the end I came at it pretty fresh. I can see why it reminded you of Valley of the Dolls in a way but to me it summoned up visions of the ghastly Harlow with Carroll Baker. That was not a pleasing surprise.

    A huge drawback for me getting into it, there were many, is the total lack of period detail as you pointed out. I realize that the big studios were in the death throes of the star system when the film was made but they could have set it in the late 50's when it might not have been as strong but still in force. It would have made the period inaccuracies less distracting. As is just like Harlow I was constantly thinking "This looks like a 60's cocktail party!"

    Then there were the performances. Christopher Plummer is the best of the bunch though I couldn't help thinking of Snidely Whiplash when he showed up, but since that was the role requirement his is the correct interpretation. I liked Katherine Bard very much at the beginning and I realize that her character was supposed to fall apart as the picture progressed but I thought she went off the rails performance wise towards the end. And Redford was strictly phoning it in, either he didn't have a handle on the character or hadn't wanted to do the film, whichever his disinterest shows on screen.

    None of that would matter if there was a strong central performance to blot out all that surrounded it but Natalie is at sea. It pains me to say that since I usually find her a fascinating screen presence even in her lackluster vehicles and when she connected to the role she could be amazing as in Splendor in the Grass.

    Having read a biography of her I know she had pursued the role because she felt a real kinship with Daisy, understandable considering her own childhood fame, so it's puzzling that she seems so lost. It's not just her age but that certainly doesn't help and why, why, why if they couldn't find a singer to fill the role did they insist on keeping Daisy a Judy Garland level talent? It's not just distracting but as with Joan Leslie in The Hard Way it makes you doubt the intelligence of the people populating the picture.

    Speaking of Judy Garland and your comment about the loss of 21 minutes of narrative and how much it hurt the film. Judy's A Star is Born had even more cut from the original, I think over a half hour, and while it's definitely a better film with the restored footage it was an entertaining one without. I don't think any amont of doctoring could have made Inside Daisy Clover much better.

    I know you enjoyed the musical numbers but for me they were excruciating. That awful The Circus is a Wacky World did take days to get out of my head as you warned it would. You're Gonna Hear From Me and her overly ardent rendition in that dreadful wig straight off Barbra Streisand's head from the "I'm Five" segment of that year's My Name is Barbra special is equally horrendous.

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    1. Thanks for revisiting this post, Joel. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on seeing this film you only half-remembered. And i especially got a good laugh with your comment about Wood's wig looking like Streisand's in that old TV special!

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  23. Your suggestion of Patty Duke as Daisy is intriguing as Sally Field would have been so while this clunky misstep unfolded I couldn't help thinking who would have been better casting in the lead than Natalie.

    Since there were apparently no age appropriate singing stars and the film makers were willing to dub anyway I tried to think of actresses who would have been the proper age or at least read as a teenager.

    Disney never would have allowed it but Hayley Mills could have been an interesting choice, she had the scrappy persona Daisy was supposed to have, she could certainly do the troubled teen bit and might have even been able to sell those musical numbers. I also thought of Tuesday Weld who was in her early twenties but could certainly pass for a teen, it was still three years until she did just that in Pretty Poison, and had the vulnerability that would have made the character more relatable not to mention the acting skill to get under the character's skin. But based on what the book and the producers seemed to be aiming for I think a great choice would have been Veronica Cartwright, she was the perfect age, 16, at the time and was a popular, busy and talented actress in both film and TV. Any of them would have done more with the part that Natalie.

    Lastly, love the tagline comparison. Films or more aptly the studios now don't put the effort into posters that they used to. Granted sometimes they went over the top, Susan Hayward films seemed a particular inspiration for purple prose. My two favorites: From I Want to Live!-"Torrid told and true! The story of Barbara Graham-The lost but never lonely sinner who got the roughest deal life ever dealt!" and I think the best ever from I'll Cry Tomorrow-"This story was filmed on location...inside a woman's soul!" Over the top perhaps but often memorable with great artwork. Now the posters are usually just a picture of the star with things exploding behind them. Even if the artwork is inventive the taglines aren't, a seemingly lost art.

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    1. I've always been into movie advertising, particularly the taglines thing, so I enjoyed your reminding me of the one from "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (I actually have that on a drink coaster, of all things), and the one from "I Want to Live" which I've never heard.
      Also interesting are your ruminations on possible casting choices. Always points to what an under-appreciated art casting is. Thanks, Joel!

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  24. Interesting that you choose Patty Duke, as half of this was her actual horrific story going on just a few years earlier. The other half was Judy Garland. Doing "Valley of the Dolls" must have been such a catharsis for Patty Duke. Of course she would have been better, even her singing, because she was a good singer and it was her story. But that is probably why they didn't dare cast her. And Hollywood wanted a "real movie star" instead of a TV one, so they got what they got. I find "Valley of the Dolls" so much more satisfying because it wasn't trying to be the "big Hollywood movie" that this was. And of course, Judy could never have made that movie work because Judy could never make anyone hate her the way you had to hate Helen Lawson, who I always saw as a thinly veiled Ethel Merman.

    What is so creepy about Inside Daisy Clover are the close parallels to Patty Duke's actual life, as if someone (perhaps many someones) knew exactly what was going on, and instead of revealing it to the authorities, thought it would make a groovy big Hollywood movie. That would be a horrific indictment of Hollywood in and of itself.

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    1. Yes, Patty Duke's ghost has always seemed to hover around this film for me. Part because she was such a shoo-in, part because of what came to light about her childhood in later years.
      With Natalie Wood being such a big star, a longtime friend of the book's author, and campaigning so aggressively for the role, even if Patty Duke HAD been considered (as you say, doubtful given how awkwardly close to home it hit), it's unlikely anyone would have taken a chance on her.
      Author Gavin Lambert wrote many books about Hollywood that used thinly disguised true-life biographical info about various stars. It makes one wonder what star(s) really inspired Daisy Clover. I read an article once that listed several child stars (including Duke) whose lives fit the Daisy Clover bill.
      As you say, the idea that people would know of such mistreatment and decide that it would make good drama is a severe side of Hollywood on par with "The Day of the Locust"
      And your point about Garland in "Dolls" is an interesting one. You're right in that she'd never played an unlikable character before...I'm not so sure she could have pulled it off myself.
      Thanks for bringing up so many interesting points!

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  25. I just watched this finally on TCM based on this review (mentioning Neely O'Hara gets my attention, natch). My mind was blown. Mostly I kept asking myself "What movie did they think they were making?"

    It seems to be a What Price Hollywood expose, but there's never an evolution in the title character. In, say, "Valley of the Dolls," we see Neely go from up and comer to difficult to drugged lunatic to vindictive has-been. Here, Daisy goes from Bowery Boy to lashing out over being so managed, but a) we never see being famous before her dreams are shattered and b) she never actually advocates for herself. Swann tells her to do something, she does it, then gets mad about it later. She's one of the most passive title characters ever, which does nothing to make the audience care about her.

    I was super confused over how much time passes. She gets all rebellious after the premiere of ... one number from her movie? Then the movie comes out later? So she's tired of the machine before the machine's even kicked in yet? She keeps acting like she's been toiling for Swann for years; her behavior is of an established star taking control of her life, not of someone who hasn't even made a movie yet!

    Robert Osborne made a good point on the TCM outro that the censorship of the time hamstrung the sexual content. I'm glad for that, honestly, because this movie is already entirely populated with pedophiles:

    - Melora Swann immediately creeped me out from scene 1; she was like a pimp or procurer or something.
    - I don't get why Swann starts macking on Daisy except that he's a pedo, or trying to headfuck her, or both.
    - I thought Redford's character was a good depiction of someone who's bipolar, so when they threw bisexual at me, my jaw hit the floor. But why do they keep implying they had sex over and over? You know what's better to show than a 15-year-old waking up naked after a night with an older man? The opposite of that.

    Apparently Ruth Gordon had a baby at 50.

    The only person to escape unscathed is poor Roddy McDowall, whose entire part is to stand around having impeccable posture. Seriously - the posture on that man is a thing of beauty.

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    1. Hi Neely
      I of course feel exactly as you do about the serious "How much time has elapsed?" flaw the film that takes Daisy from dreamy wannabe to overburdened teen with graying hair without ever giving the character a moment where she is a star and happy about it.
      I think the it's the voice-over at the end that clues you in that onlyTWO YEARS have elapsed! Thus her breakdown is so swift you not only sympathize with Swan when Daisy wants "time off", but it leaves the impression that Daisy was mentally unstable long before Swan entered the picture(In those days I know it's possible for a contract star to have made four or more pictures in a single year, but doesn't Daisy only make ONE movie?)
      So many of your observations made me laugh (especially the one referencing Ruth Gordon's age). But you sum it all up best with your early sentence "What movie did they think they were making?"
      And I love that you gave props to Roddy McDowall's posture. As his career progressed, sometimes that proved to be the one good thing you could take away from his screen appearances.
      You sound like such an attentive, engaged movie-watcher! I'm glad you happened upon this blog! Thanks, Neely!

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    2. Great take on 'Inside Daisy Clover'. Agree with Ken. You are one attentive, engaged move-watcher! Love it! :)

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  26. I re-read your take on "Inside Daisy Clover" after watching this on Netflix. My initial reaction is much like everyone here--rarely has a movie provoked such mixed feelings...with each viewer!

    27-year-old Natalie Wood as a teenager. Seems absurd today. Pretty common for the era--and I'm not just talking Joan Crawford playing 40ish for a quarter of a century! I just watched '63's "Come Blow Your Horn" with Sinatra at 48 having 21-year-old Tony Bill as his kid brother. And Lee J. Cobb as Frankie's dad...who was only 4 years older! Just like Angela Lansbury playing Laurence Harvey's mother in '62's "The Manchurian Candidate." Or Jessie Royce Landis as Cary Grant's mother in '59's "North by Northwest." Still, new Hollywood had 30-year-old and looking it Dustin Hoffman as a college kid in "The Graduate" with 36-year-old Anne Bancroft as the aging cougar, as well as 40-ish looking 50-ish John Cassavetes as a struggling "young"actor with a 23-year-old Mia Farrow as his wife in "Rosemary's Baby."

    I love some of the casting suggestions for Daisy. But really, a depressing, period quasi-musical would have never been made had it not been for Wood's marquee value. The team of Wood/Mulligan/Pakula just had a hit with "Love With the Proper Stranger." I was actually surprised how many box office smashes Nat appeared in thru the first half of the '60s. Even badly reviewed flicks like "Sex and the Single Girl" and "Gypsy" made lots of money. As Raymond Swan rails on in "Clover," that's Hollywood's real dreams are made of!

    On the flip side, rarely has a really big star appeared to go off the rails so fast. After appearing in a string of box office smashes, it only took two well-intentioned prestige movies ("Daisy" and "This Property is Condemned") and one small clunker comedy ("Penelope") to knock Nat down the Hollywood food chain. Wood admirably or foolhardily picked a bad time to take a hiatus to concentrate on her personal life. Turning down "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Barefoot in the Park" for respectively personal and monetary reasons didn't help, but were probably better cast. Interesting fact: Natalie Wood, who was increasingly looked at as "old Hollywood," was actually a tad younger than both Robert Redford and Jane Fonda...and only 2.5 years older than Faye Dunaway.

    I read Redford was uncomfortable playing a gay movie star in "Clover," as originally scripted. Rumor has it alterations were made to appease him, only to tweak scenes without Bob, making Wade Lewis bi leaning toward gay, which pissed Redford off.

    Aside from an over-aged title star, I wonder if the worst flaw with "Inside Daisy Clover" is the editing? Worse than "Mommie Dearest" in it's stomping from one set piece to another! As cheesily entertaining as those musical numbers are, they go on forever! A series of snippets depicting the hectic pace of golden era movie-making might have made Daisy Clover's rise to stardom more believable without dwelling on Natalie Wood's musical abilities. Also, why does the dramatic musical score of this movie sound like a horror movie?

    Gossip Moment 2: Ever read the Gavin Lambert novel "Inside Daisy Clover"? I am intrigued to check it out. Understand it is set in the '50s and some folks think the Swans were based on David Selznick and Jennifer Jones, while Wade Lewis a take on Montgomery Clift. That dynamic sounds about right when the 3 collided in "Indiscretion of an American Housewife." But I've also read that the key incident of Daisy Clover's impromptu wedding to Wade Lewis was loosely based on Judy Garland and Tyrone Power's affair...which sounds somewhat apt for the film version of Daisy Clover.

    Thanks for letting me post my Daisy Clover therapy...there must be a support group somewhere!

    Rick

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    1. Hi Rick
      Some interesting points you make about this film that seems to elicit reactions as wide-ranging and all over the map as the film itself.
      I think I can buy Natalie Wood as a teenager (I managed not to guffaw at Travolta and Newton-John as the geriatric teens in "Grease") more than I accepted her as this rough-and-tumble toughie. Not only is she too anglularly beautiful and slight of build, but the tough talk seems alien to both her voice and manner so speaking. She's like someone playing dress-up.
      Growing up, I never much paid attention to Wood, but in retrospect it's amazing the number of high- profile hits she appeared in.
      I always found her likeable if not always believable (my favorite is "Splendor in the Grass).
      As you note, this film seems to suffer from perhaps having too much edited out (and what is there being handled somewhat choppily) so motivations are lost and characters remain surface.

      I never read the book upon which it is based, but I did research it and was intrigued by its period setting. A friend of mine who read it said that it actually helps this film seems less like a cut and paste job since it's told from Daisy's point of view and we are thereby privy to all that is absent (internally) about the character in the film. I hadn't heard about the Selznick/Jones rumors, which seem apt (and fun to contemplate).

      Still, it's an oddly entertaining film to watch, even without being fully satisfying. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this film while they were so fresh in your mind. it's always great when a movie sparks thought...even if it's sometimes just the head-scratching kind

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    2. Love your post Rick! I too need 'Daisy Clover' therapy. I record/watch it every time it's on TCM, and always leave unsatisfied. Why do I put myself through it? "I'm going to learn to cook, and not your fishburgers and chocolate milk" ugh!

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  27. Amazing the number of comments this film generated! Especially considering that it didn't work as a drama and wasn't campy enough to be funny.

    I saw this !movie as a teen on the late movie. Like so many others, I fully expected to like it: Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, Christopher Plummer, etc.

    Even though I was a very naive teen and a nascent film buff, I knew there was something really off about this movie. Couldn't have labeled what was wrong, I was too young, but your insightful review and the comments of your readers have nailed it.

    I won't reiterate what has already been so eloquently articulated here. Just one comment about The Circus Is A Wacky World -- to this day ,when I want to annoy my older sister all I have to do is start to sing that song. She will literally cover her ears and run from the room! Not the kind of staying power the filmmakers had in mind.LOL!

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    1. Hi Roberta
      I know what you mean about the number of responses. This movie seems to baffle people a bit in trying to figure out just why it doesn't really work.
      It seems to take itself awfully seriously, all the while jumping around anecdotally, not entirely sure of what tone its going for.

      And love the story about you and your sister! Andre and Dory Previn should be proud to know they collaborated on one of the most persistent earwig ditties to come out of movies in a long time!

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  28. I found your simply wonder review while Googling "Natalie Wood Inside Daisy Clover Wig". Hahaha!

    I hope that thing on her head IS a wig. The way it sits on her head like a hat, ugh. You notice all those weird streaks in her hair from the beginning with no explanation. They finally mention her 'gray hair' near the end of the film. Why even put such a distraction in there? Did Natalie Wood ask for it to add 'depth' to her character? Hmm... bet if I keep looking I'll find the answer. Thanks again for an enjoyable read! :)

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    1. Hi Marthanna
      I love that you actually felt compelled to Google Natalie Wood's wig in this movie! It really does seem to make an impression (along with believable-looking dummies falling from high distances, I think movie technology has yet to come up with a good-looking short wig. It always seems to hover around the actor's head like a satellite).
      As for the whole "gray hair" thing, I wonder if that's something from the novel. With 21 minutes cut from the original film, perhaps there was an earlier mention of those streaks. As it is (and as you note) the info seems to come out of nowhere in spite of their catching our eye.
      I'm pleased that you enjoyed the post and I thank you for dropping by and taking the time to comment. Your Google search title gave me a nice chuckle!

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