Thursday, September 21, 2017

DAISY MILLER 1974

“Such, my angels, is the role of sex in history”
                                                          The Lion in Winter (1968) 


Well, someone could certainly write a book (and a heavy tome it would be) about the role of sex in Hollywood history. Especially when it comes to the influence libidinal urges have had on the casting of films, and the part that sex and sexual attraction has played in the launching and ruination of careers.
During award season, when film industry types love to go around giving self-serious interviews calling each other artists, lauding the challenges of “the work,” and praising their colleagues, ad nauseum, for their bravery, vision, and artistic courage; one would think that all decisions relative to the making of films are based exclusively on talent and artistic merit. Closer to the truth (thanks to decades worth of autobiographies, tell-it-alls, and TV talk shows) is that a great many decisions—particularly those relative to casting—generally seem to emanate from below the belt.

When it comes to casting, the Hollywood paradigm has traditionally been that of a patriarchic boys club built upon cronyism, nepotism, and cliques; its inherent misogyny and sexism feeding into the normalizing of a kind of “vertical casting couch” sensibility when it comes to the relationship between those in power (male producers and directors) and those with little (actresses). 
Few behind-the-scenes Hollywood clichés are as enduring and tiresomely pervasive as that of the movie director who falls in love/lust with his leading lady. Whether it be infatuation (George Sidney and Ann-Margret: Bye Bye Birdie), obsession (Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren: The Birds, Marnie), love affair (Clint Eastwood and well…everybody), or subsequent matrimony (Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)—the faces change, but the particulars have the same weary ring: movie contact = movie contract. (I’ll save the male-on-male wing of this phenomenon [director Luchino Visconti and Helmut Berger] for another time.)

An inevitable phase of soundstage lust blossoming into true love is when the father-figure/mentor has the impulse to star his muse/protégé in a work of classical literature. Paramount head Robert Evans acquired the rights to The Great Gatsby for wife Ali MacGraw to star in before she made a literal getaway with her The Getaway co-star Steve McQueen, summarily ending both her marriage and her career. Roman Polanski had a dream of casting wife Sharon Tate as the ruined heroine of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles before her tragic death.
And, representing the only film in this category to  come to fruition as envisioned: director Peter Bogdanovich, after falling in love with model-turned-screen-ingenue Cybill Shepherd during the making of The Last Picture Show, leaving his then-pregnant wife Polly Platt (the film’s production designer) and their toddler daughter, decides to star his lady love in an adaptation of Henry James’ Daisy Miller
Cybill Shepherd as Annie P. "Daisy" Miller
Barry Brown as Frederick Forsyth Winterbourne
Cloris Leachman as Mrs. Ezra B. Miller
Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Walker
Mildred Natwick as Mrs. Costello
Duilio Del Prete as Mr. Giovanelli

Adapted from Henry James’ novella, Daisy Miller tells the story of a headstrong, somewhat spoiled young lady from Schenectady, New York traveling Europe with her family in 1876. The Miller family: vivacious, gadabout Daisy (Shepherd), bratty little brother Randolph (James McMurtry), and distracted mother (Leachman); are ragingly nouveau riche clan and the epitome of the ugly American. Uncurious, unsophisticated, and forever talking about everything is so much better back home, though they appear to be, they are not “modern” so much as they are primitive.

But Daisy, (no one calls her by her given name, Annie) imbued with enough beauty, charm, and convivial graces to mitigate her shortcomings, has turned her baseness into a kind of performance art. A mass of flirtatious affectations and frilly adornments, Daisy is a perpetual motion machine of restive parasol twirling and fan-fluttering, all choreographed to the relentless trill of her own mindless chatter.

So thoroughly is Daisy a creature of self-interest, that in the restrictive atmosphere of European society and its rigidly-adhered-to codes of conduct and decorum, her guileless impudence might easily be mistaken for nose-thumbing recklessness at worst, proto-feminist rebellion at best. But of course, given Daisy’s thorough lack of awareness—self or otherwise—what we’re really witness to is a display of America’s top commodity and chief export: entitled arrogance.
Our Daisy as you're most apt to find her...mouth open and talking a blue streak

While touring Vevey, Switzerland, Daisy meets American expatriate (the name white immigrants have devised for themselves) Frederick Winterbourne; a formal and reserved young man who has lived in Europe so long he has absorbed the repressive manners and moral customs of the people. Ever the flirt, Daisy takes great pleasure in ruffling Winterbourne’s starchy feathers, heedless of the obvious fact that her actions largely succeed in merely confounding him.
As both parties later descend upon Rome, Winterbourne’s cautious courtship of Daisy both mirrors and is impacted by the pressures of aristocratic propriety. The difficulty arising out of Daisy not caring a whit for social conventions and Winterbourne being fairly ruled by them. Though there is mutual attraction, things keep getting gummed up by the near-constant misunderstanding of overtures and misreading of gestures.
In this beautifully composed shot, Mr. Winterbourne keeps his eye on Daisy (seen in the mirror behind him, talking to the hostess, Mrs. Walker) while Mrs. Miller prattles away to no one in particular, and Randolph amuses himself with the silverware

Daisy’s greatest sin stems from the fact that she’s a self-possessed grown woman who dares bristle at the socially-mandated obligation that she conduct herself like a helpless child. The affectations of propriety requiring women to seek male authorization, maternal escort, or societal consent for even the most innocuous activities don’t sit well with the freewheeling Daisy. Thus, it isn’t long before her penchant for doing just as she pleases results in tongues wagging, invitations withdrawn, and puts her reputation and social standing (such as it was) at risk.

The romantic dilemma this poses for Winterbourne, who keeps company with far too many old gossips and is forever second-guessing himself, is whether the mere appearance of transgression is as damning as the actual thing. Winterbourne hopes Daisy is only a recklessly naïve girl and not the fallen woman everyone believes her to be, but things are not helped by his never thawing out enough to honestly express his feelings for her, nor does Daisy drop her flirt-and-tease façade long enough to be as direct with him in her words as she prides herself as being in her actions.
The outcome of Daisy Miller is foretold by the deliberate names of its characters, the combination of daisies and winter evoking images of growth restricted and certain death.

Daisy Miller is largely remembered as the film that broke Peter Bogdanovich’s three-film winning streak (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, What’s Up Doc?), and while critics at the time treated it with more kindness than its reputation would suggest, it was nevertheless a film 1974 audiences found very resistible.

Part of this, I think, is attributable to something Bogdanovich references in his DVD commentary: that Daisy Miller was made several years before the vogue in Merchant/Ivory-style period picture adaptations of literary classics. But as a member of “the public” who was around at the time, I can say that a good deal of resistance to Daisy Miller had a lot to do with the public’s oversaturation with the Svengali/Trilby roadshow Bogdanovich and Shepherd treated us to on talk shows and in magazines.
Innocent flirt or fallen woman?
Bogdanovich likes to believe that people resented the couple’s happiness. Closer to the truth is that Bogdanovich and Shepherd failed to see how callous and unfeeling their public declarations of love and happiness came across given that everyone with access to Rona Barrett or Rex Reed knew it came at the cost of betraying a pregnant wife and abandoning a child.
True love may have been in flower for this “beautiful people” pair, but us common folk merely saw an oft-repeated Hollywood cliché: neophyte director dumps his lean-years wife for blonde goddess starlet at first flush of success. In addition, the public likes to think it makes stars, but Bogdanovich was shoving Cybill down our throats (he produced an ear-torture vanity project LP of his lady love singing songs by Cole Porter), branding her a star before it was earned.
I’m not sure what Bogdanovich saw when he looked at Cybill Shepherd (likely, the talented, funny, actress and singer she eventually grew to be), but at the time, I have to say I saw only a meagerly gifted girl of well-scrubbed attractiveness. She was wonderful in The Last Picture Show, but as part of a strong ensemble, not star material.
When it was announced that the inexperienced former model was to actually star in Daisy Miller, everyone (except Bogdanovich, apparently) seized on the irony of this well-known Orson Welles idolater in essence recreating those scenes in Citizen Kane where Charles Foster Kane insists on making his modestly-talented sweetheart into an opera singer for his own ego-driven reasons. No, by the time Daisy Miller made it to the screen, the public not only wanted this couple to fail, they needed them to.

While I recognize it’s unfair to judge a film based on the personal lives of the people making it, I’m also not so naïve as to not also understand that the obfuscation of reality and fantasy is the absolute cornerstone of the Hollywood star system. The public’s interest in Elizabeth Taylor’s real-life scandals helped make many an Elizabeth Taylor clunker into a hit (The Sandpiper), in fact, the studios relied upon it. The only time people in the film industry think the merging of private and professional is unjust is when it bites them in the ass at the boxoffice.
Winterbourne: "Wouldn't it be funny if they both were perfectly innocent and
sincere and had no idea of the impression they were creating?"
Mrs. Costello: "No, it wouldn't be funny."

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
With Daisy Miller, Peter Bogdanovich has crafted what I feel is a handsomely mounted, exquisitely filmed and costumed, and at times, genuinely moving adaptation of Henry James’ short novel. Uncommonly faithful to its source material, not only are the locations precise and the actors fit the physical descriptions of their characters to a T; but the script adheres so closely to the text you could actually follow along with the book while watching the film. 
Bogdanovich's cinematic eye is as sharp as ever, and the film never feels sluggish or airless like a great many costume dramas. Daisy Miller is a rarity in period dramas, in that it is very entertaining and watchable. Its flaws are minor and it plays very much like the old-fashioned period films of Hollywood's Golden Age, when sharp storytelling and keen pacing took precedent over the kind of over-referential stiffness that later came to exemplify films of the genre.
Indeed, so much is so ideal about Daisy Miller that it’s rather a shame my only complaint falls on the weakness presented by Daisy herself. The actress portraying her, not the character.
Daisy, making friends and influencing people. Not.
With a great deal of humor, and style, Bogdanovich has constructed a semi-tragic comedy of manners that feels like Theodore Dreiser American vulgarity meets Edith Wharton British propriety. He finds ample opportunities to dramatize the contrasts between the dreary Eurocentrism of the Miller family and the studied hypocrisy of Americans abroad who have adopted the customs of the British aristocracy.
Interweaving this with a love story that never can get started, Bogdanovich, who clearly envisions Daisy as something of an early suffragette and feminist, still leaves it up to us to draw out own conclusions as to whether Daisy’s independence is the result of a unique brand of Yankee boorishness or an admirable resistance to senseless social constriction.

This societal drama is sensitively and amusingly played out, but what’s lacking is a Daisy capable of conveying even a hint of why, beneath all the flirting and white-noise chatter, she is worthy of the attention James/Winterbourne/Bogdanovich expend on her.
Watching Daisy Miller, I was left with the impression that the fatal flaw of the film is that Bogdanovich took Shepherd's appeal as a given. Certain that Cybill was "born for the role" and that she and Daisy were one in the same, he simply plops her in front of the camera. Gone is the protective, loving care of the sort lavished on her performance in The Last Picture Show. Here he allows Cybill to merely be Cybill, certain that audiences will find her to be as bewitching as clearly had found her to be. But it takes talent to project  one's personality on the screen, Shepherd at this point was simply too green.  

PERFORMANCES
For a brief moment in time Bogdanovich had wanted to star opposite Shephard in Daisy Miller with Orson Welles directing. While the idea sounds positively bananas, the side of me that loves Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Showgirls wishes it had actually happened.
In considering projects for Shepherd to star in, Bogdanovich stated that it was down to Daisy Miller and Calder Willingham’s 1972 novel Rambling Rose. Rambling Rose was made into a film in 1991 and garnered an Academy Award nomination for its star, 24-year-old Laura Dern.
I bring this up to illustrate why I think Cybill Shepherd’s largely cosmetic performance in Daisy Miller is what ultimately stops it from being the film it could be. Shepherd and Dern were roughly the same age when making these films; both stories about naïve young women who innocently threaten the pervasive social structure. 
Somber Barry Brown, who committed suicide in 1978, gives the film's best performance;
his sad-eyed melancholy fairly aching to be relieved by the life force that is Daisy

Going by type alone, Cybill Shepherd would have been-well cast as Rose, just as Dern would have made a fine Daisy Miller; but to look at what these two actresses do with these roles is to understand the subtle but lethal difference between capable amateur and gifted professional.
Shepherd is not awful in Daisy Miller, she does have her moments. But her performance is largely external and superficial. Saddled with a character who never shuts up and a director fond of long single takes, Shepherd obviously had her hands full. Thus (as my partner noted with his usual perspicacity) perhaps Shepherd can’t be faulted if, after delivering - in machine gun rap - what must be page upon page of dialogue and hitting all those marks, she invariably resorts to hoisting that prominent chin of hers and adopting a look of smug self-satisfaction at having simply made it through the whole thing without having made a mistake. It's clear she's doing the best that she can. Nuance of performance be damned, she remembered it all!
Try as she might, lovely Cybill Shepherd has but a single, all-purpose expression to offer the camera when it comes in for a closeup. Ideal for magazine covers, it's a non-look that communicates considerably less than Bogdanovich thinks

THE STUFF OF DREAMS
As literary heroines go, I find Daisy Miller to be a captivating (if exasperating) heartbreaker. I loved her on the printed page, her deceptively complex, out-of-step-with-the-times character fitting in with the women I fell in love with in Far From The Madding Crowd, Madame Bovary, Sister Carrie, and Anna Karenina. Perhaps because I liked the book so much and because Bogdanovich’s adaptation is so glowingly faithful to it, I can overlook the shortcomings I have about Cybill Shepherd in the role.
As I’ve stated, the film can be very moving at times (I get waterworks at the end, no matter how many times I see it), so perhaps, when I relinquish my desire for what Daisy could have been and allow myself to enjoy THIS Daisy (Shepherd is not without her charm), the emotions and thwarted romance of the story are able to reach my heart.
Mildred Natwick is a real delight in her brief scenes. This amusingly well-turned-out bathhouse is just one of many examples of Bogdanovich adding visual interest to dialogue-heavy sequences

Staying true to his devotion to creating a kind of Orson Wells-type repertory company of actors, Bogdanovich features many players from The Last Picture Show,  Eileen Brennan and Duilio Del Prete going on join Shepherd in Bogdanovich's next feature, the equally ill-fated At Long Last Love.

Had I seen Daisy Miller when it was released, I'm fairly certain I would have disliked it. In the heat of huge 1974 releases like Chinatown, The Godfather Part II, The Great Gatsby, Mame, The Towering Inferno, and countless disaster films and Oscar contenders  (1974 was a biggie!), I'm afraid I wouldn't have appreciated Daisy Miller's small-scale virtues.
When it comes to watching the film today, I'd be lying if I said it didn't mitigate matters considerably knowing that time and cruel fate has mellowed what once seemed so obnoxious insufferable about the Hollywood's "It" couple (Peter & Cybill) and my feelings about the project as a whole. It's easier to recognize and appreciate what a talented director Peter Bogdanovich is when he's not telling us so. Likewise, knowing that Cybill Shepherd went out and studied and ultimately matured into a very good actress and comedienne, that I like her introspective take on her younger self (her autobiography Cybill Disobedience is a great read), and respect her political activism; well...it all goes a long way toward getting me to relinquish my dogged resistance to her professional inexperience as Daisy and simply enjoy the many pleasures this film has to offer.
Funny how time has the power to work that kind of magic.


BONUS MATERIAL
When in Rome, Daisy and her family stay at The Hotel Bristol. Which also happens
 to be the name of the fictional hotel where Barbra Streisand wreaks havoc in What's Up, Doc? 

From 2004: Shepherd tells her favorite Elvis Presley anecdote on The Graham Norton Show
HERE
Cybill's bestselling 2000 autobiography is available for free download in its entirety on her website 
HERE


"I have never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me, or interfere with anything I do."
 Copyright © Ken Anderson

30 comments:

  1. Great minds think alike Ken! I returned to this just last month too, and you can read my verdict here http://randomramblingsthoughtsandfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/daisy-miller-1974.html

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    1. Hi Mark
      It always amazes (and amuses) me how often, when it comes to the movies some of my favorite bloggers chose as topics, how often there seems to be "something in the air" that draws us to want to tackle to same semi-obscure movies at the same time.
      Thanks for providing the link to your "Daisy Miller" review. I enjoyed your commentary regarding how Bogdanovich's application of Howard Hawks' cinema style to James' novella didn't fit your mind's eye interpretation of the book. I also remember that Cybill Shepherd was your pin-up dreamgirl when you were a kid.

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    2. Funny you should say that Ken. I roughed out a piece for later this year on Tippi Hedren's memoir and how certain directors/producers try to shove their personal idol down the public's throat: David Selznick/Jennifer Jones, Charles Feldman/Capucine, Hitchcock/Tippi. Of course, there was also Darryl Zanuck, who tried to make stars out of several of his playmate/starlets! And that's just the tip of the iceberg, but my piece will be about taking a total unknown quantity and trying to sell the starlet as the next big thing...

      Another variation was female stars who routinely slept with the director, producer, or male co-star to make sure the focus was kept firmly on HER. Joan Crawford practically drew up the blueprint!

      I long to read the male/male version of this Hollywood construct, Ken ; )

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    3. There you have it. Ideas (good one, I like to think) seem to have that quality: several people seem to be on a similar wavelength.
      The particular topic you're roughing out is one ripe for exploration, for it seems that the patriarchal structure of studios in the early days really led to the proliferation of a lot of these producer/director/talent "relationships."
      Also interesting is how when a big female star gets involved with some less famous/successful male, he almost always winds up as her manager or becomes an instant producer (Streisand/Peters, Suzanne Somers, Daunaway/O'Neil).
      Perhaps no one has tackled it as a subject because it's too unwieldy. In a lot of ways, remove the sex and gender politics from behind the scenes Hollywood and what do you have?
      I look forward to reading your article! As for me tackling the male/male side...maybe we can both think about it really hard and Poseidon will pick up the cosmic mantle. He seems to already know where a great many of the bodies are buried!

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    4. OK, Poseidon! Ken and I are putting out Samantha Stevens-like calls for you to cover the man/man movie "collaborations"! Emergency, come right away!

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  2. Ken, we could kill a couple bottle wines yakking about Peter Bogdanovich and Cybill Shepherd!

    I remember well the endless hoopla around boy genius Bogdanovich and dream girl Cybill. I'm more of the school of appreciating self-deprecation than self-promotion, so their smarmy appearances caused a lot of eye-rolling with this then-teen!

    I have not seen 'Daisy Miller' (but will now!) but I saw 'At Long Last Love.' Hollywood made a lot of bad musicals in the '60s and '70s, but ALLL is all BAD! The movie that knocked the pins from under their careers.

    I recall Peter and Cybill on 'The Tonight Show.' He was hosting, she was the guest. My sister and I were highly entertained by their clueless act. He was grilling her to share her "beauty tips" and she was trying to act like she was somewhere else! She was promoting her "Cybill Does It...To Cole Porter." Right up there with "The Ethel Merman Disco Album," but not nearly as fun. My sis and I couldn't believe how creepy Peter was and how Barbie-like Cybill came across.

    I agree that time has cleared the air and that here and there, both Peter and Cybill have done some good work. I think of Shepherd in the same category as Raquel Welch, a person famous for her looks, who managed to later make the most of a modest talent. I should read Cybill's memoirs to see if she addresses her side of the story regarding the downfall of her two popular TV shows.

    As for Peter, isn't it ironic after being part of a sordid triangle, he went to an even more tragic one, with Dorothy and Paul Stratten? Again, in the thrall of turning a model into a movie star.

    Frankly, I can't abide watching or listening to Bogdanovich in interviews, pompous and self-aggrandizing. I listened to a bit of his commentary on the 'Mask' DVD, the one hit movie Peter had a decade after ALLL. His calling Cher "impudent" made me laugh out loud...at him! At least he had the good humor to recall asking Cher what she was thinking of when she trashes the house after Rocky's death, improvising throwing an object at the dining room light. Cher's response: "You!"

    BTW, remember when Bogdanovich star Burt Reynolds spoofed Peter's pompous persona in 'Hooper?' What, you missed that one? ;) Burt cast Robert Klein as a auteur who loves to drone on about classic movies and name-dropping...

    I also remember Frank Sinatra's famous quote when asked to write an endorsement for Cybill's Cole Porter album. After taking a listen, Frank's response: "Some guys will do anything to bang a broad!"

    Crass, but kinda sums it up!

    Beyond looking at 'Daisy's" virtues, you really covered the whole Hollywood mindset about making movies/making movie stars!

    Cheers, Rick

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    1. Hi Rick
      Boy, that Johnny Carson show you describe sounds like the epitome of why the public cooled to this pair. I never saw that, but I suspect even Shepherd & Bogdanovich would cringe about it now (on talk shows in promoting her book she was clear on the fact that she and Peter were obnoxious. On of the things that made me change my feelings towards her.
      But you bring up a good point. When truly talented people like Audrey Hepburn & Olivia De Havilland always came across so humble and modest about their fame, it was truly galling that Bogdanovich and Shepherd were so self-enchanted and swell-headed about their success. It was a complete turn-off.
      There is something almost too karma based about what both individuals went through, real life being the hardest on Bogdanovich both professionally and personally (even if you didn't like him, no one would wish his latter fate on their worst enemy). I think Shepherd has found religion now and has appeared in one of those Christian "faith" films, and Bogdanovich acts quite a bit these days.

      MASK was never a favorite, but I'd like to check it out for the director commentary. I own a copy of AT LONG LAST LOVE and hope to write about it sometime, but even though there seems to be a desire amongst cinefiles to resurrect this new "director's cut) version a misunderstood classic, I find it SUCH a slog. It has one breathtaking number to redeem nearly two hours of amateur tedium.

      I had NO idea about HOOPER (and well I shouldn't), what you describe actually makes me want to see it! Robert Klein as Bogdanovich is classic casting from the getgo.
      Yes, we really could go on at length about being teens during the Bogdanovich/Sheperd era. We at least could shed some realistic light on the myth Bogdanovich likes to keep alive; that people were merely jealous of their happiness (and since Cybill admits to cheating on him with Elvis among others...that "happiness" was a bit of a show).
      I love the Frank Sinatra quote!! Had I known it, that would be the quote I'd use to head this essay instead of the quote from THE LION IN WINTER.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Rick! A lot of fun dishing...all that was missing was the bottle of wine.

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  3. Having just found your site while doing research tonight, I'd like to thank you for the wonderful hours of reading you have just given me and to scold you for taking me away from my project!

    Seriously, though - you're a wonderful wordsmith with great insights and a definite musicality to your writing...

    Hopefully, I'll have more to comment on in the future, but for now I just wanted to say that when it comes to the Bogdanovich canon and its very clear dividing line - in both quality and coherence - the loss of Polly Platt as Production Designer cannot be overstated. Her artist's eye and attention to production detail are immediately missed once she's gone...

    Thanks again for a most wonderful evening of distraction and I look forward to more reading!

    Best,
    Dan

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    1. Hello, Dan
      First off, I have to say my partner and I got the biggest laugh from your identifying name here because in our household, saying "Oh, but yes!" is the quickest way to get the other to crack up, as we both adore and associate it with Barbara Eden's delightful performance as Diana Jordan in the Country Club Dance episode of "I Love Lucy."

      Although I am sorry to have taken you from your project, you paid me the nicest compliment a writer can receive.

      I am 100% in accordance with you regarding the unsung collaborative influence Polly Platt had on Bogdanovich's work. There's a great clip on YouTube of a "Picture Show" reunion in which Bogdanovich tries to underplay Platt's contribution to the film. Timothy Bottoms gently chastises Bogdanovich and doesn't let him get away with it. He goes on to elaborate on how instrumental to the film's success she was.
      I'm really glad you happened upon this blog and do hope to hear from you in the future. You made my day!
      Thank you!

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  4. Ken, do I sense an "At Long Last Love" review in the near future? I imagine it at least being approached like 1974's "Mame" in taking the good in it with the bad :) Films like that, this one, and "The Front Page" (also 1974) seem to be right up your alley.

    I howled at the Eastwood line. Ironically, spurring the DGA to change its rules was one thing Shepherd and Bogdanovich's affair didn't cause.

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    1. Yes, I think it's inevitable that I will one day write about "At Long Last Love." It was a movie musical that came out around the time of TOMMY and FUNNY LADY and I was excited as hell about the prospect of seeing it.
      And you're also right (you seem to know me too well!) in that my approach is likely to be along the lines of my essay on "Mame." It's not a favorite, but there are enough delights to prevent me from doing a hatchet job on it.
      "The Front Page" I remember seeing only once, at a theater when it came out. I need to take a look at it again. The mid '70s was really a fruitful time for movies and I guess I was old enough to go to them on my own by then.
      Thanks for reading this post, and a bigger thanks for having read enough of them to actually know how my twisted mind works and where my questionable tastes lie.

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  5. I just signed up for the Film Struck channel so I look forward to finally watching this. I have a copy of Daisy Miller (the book) in my desk drawer at work as I type this (Don't leave hoem without it?). I'm curious, Ken, what other Henry James adaptation do you like, if any? They were throwing a lot of them at us for a while. I actually liked (not loved) Jane Campion's Portrait of a Lady.

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    1. Hi Tanya
      You're going to LOVE Filstruck! I've been getting my Chabrol fix thanks to that site. Had something like that been around when I was in film school, I think I would have flunked out from binge-watching.
      I haven't seen many of them (I own a copy of Portrait of a Lady, but I want to see the film before I read it), but I've seen all of the adaptations of "Washington Square" and none have matched "The Heiress" for me. I think "The Innocents" is a brilliant adaptation of James' "The Turn of the Screw." I read "The Bostonians" and loved it, but I was disappointed in the film adaptation.
      In fact, it's because of my experience with "The Bostonians" that I don't want to read the book of some films before I see the film. A film adaptation is so much a separate creation (it has to be slighter and more abbreviated and less internal) that if I take to the book a great deal, I keep waiting for the film to live up to my expectations. When I read the book after a film, I have a much more pleasant experience, for it often feels like the meat being applied to the skeleton, and the reverse experience actually enriches the film for me.
      The most recent film I saw that was adapted from a Henry James novel was "The Wings of the Dove," which I thoroughly enjoyed. Now I have to get around to reading the book.

      if you have any film adaptations that are favorites or would recommend, please pass them on.

      By the way, I love that you have a copy of "Daisy Miller" in your desk at work! Enjoy Bogdanovich's DAISY MILLER, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to again prattle on about my favorites.

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  6. A fine review, but as you justly consider him to have given the finest performance in the movie, you really should have devoted some space to discussing Barry Brown !!!! He was an immensely talented, extremely intelligent, and incredibly well-read person, and his voluntarily joining the 27 club just four years after the film came out was a real tragedy and a loss to the world. Since you went so much into the interplay of real life and fiction in the movie, you should have commented on the supreme irony that it was Frederick/Barry and not Daisy/Cybill who was soon pushing up daisies in winter. Life can be a real kick in the ass, but in this case there is one overwhelming consolation -- We can forever run the film and glory in Barry Brown as Frederick Forsyth Winterbourne !!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks very much, but as far as I'm concerned there are no "shoulds" when it comes to what I choose to write about. No film critique can (not should it feel compelled to) cover every aspect of a film and its production. My intent and purpose was to cover "Daisy Miller" through the locus of the Shepherd/Bogdanovich relationship.
      Perhaps it's a matter of semantics and what you mean to say is that you "wished" I had covered more of Barry Brown--a more appropriate expression conveying what YOU would have liked to see as opposed to telling me what I SHOULD have done. A thought which makes me laugh.

      Of course, the benefit of this comments section is that readers like yourself have the opportunity to introduce and extrapolate on that which doesn't fall within the author's chosen scope or isn't addressed.
      Barry Brown is one of my favorite unsung actors from the '70s, his personal demons seeming to infuse his screen performances in BAD COMPANY and DAISY MILLER with a poignance and solemnity not altogether on the printed page.
      His personal story is a sad one, but, indeed, he left behind a small but impressive body of work.

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    2. OK, I didn't read close enough to see the specific cast you decided upon, I just looked at it as a review of a film. But an example of that way of being heartless and annoying the hell out of everyone that you attributed to the narcissistic lovebirds was that Shepard took a strong disliking to Barry Brown on the set, and if she felt like tearing into him, Bogdanovich would join in with alacrity -- it's actually a miracle the final result is so polished. And I did achieve my purpose of hearing your opinion of Barry RIP.

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    3. Anonymous: if you want....I wrote a short biography about Brown below. I got to tell you he may very well be my favorite actor of all time. I guess the hatred Brown felt for Cybil was mutual, as Ken wrote about. one part I left out of my "review" is that Barry would tell his friends, if they asked about Daisy Miller, he would say, "Every 5 minutes I wanted to scream at Cybil, "LEARN YOUR FUCKING LINES". His gift for acting is undeniable. But my crush on him will never go away. One of the most beautiful men I have ever seen...swoon.

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  7. I love Cybill Shepherd but throughout the 70s and early 80s seeing her in a movie always made me uneasy. Like watching a stand-up comic bomb or an Olympic skater crash into a wall. In Daisy Miller and the At Long Last Love she’s less a chatterbox than a robot. The difference was that Cybill always seemed cool with it. So did poor besotted Peter B. Instead I was the one mopping up flop sweat. I felt so embarrassed. That’s why Taxi Driver was such a relief and even more so, for me, The Heartbreak Kid.

    Even at the beginning of her career with the right director, she was so good. Even natural! I have to call out one of my favorite scenes in The Heartbreak Kid when Cybill first introduces her father, Eddie Albert, to Charles Grodin. It’s a long, dialogue-heavy, brilliantly acted scene and if you can manage to take your eyes off Albert and Grodin, (nearly impossible!) watch Cybill sitting between them. I’m not sure how much was Elaine May or how much was Cybill’s instincts but she does more with an imperceptible blink and dart of the eye and the bite of a breadstick than in all her “starring” roles put together. She doesn’t say a single word yet you know she’s playing with Grodin, you know she admires her daddy, and you know she’s absolutely delighted with daddy taking down her new boyfriend. If it’s true that great acting is listening, then Cybill’s performance here is a great one.

    I also think she’s absolutely marvelous in Chances Are and Texasville. And like some aging groupie, I waited for her at the stage door after seeing The Best Man on Broadway and she was so gracious and happy and giggled when signing my poster for The Heartbreak Kid. And given that poster is mostly white space, she wrote large and grand. "Heartbreakingly yours, Cybill Shepherd"

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    1. Very evocative description of the effect early Cybill had on you. So relatable.
      Because I never watched her TV show(s) the tide for Cybill Shepherd began to turn for me after seeing her in Texasville & Taxi Driver, and significantly, a TV interview in which she took responsibility for her youthful arrogance and confessed to not being very proud of the hurt she caused others with her various affairs with married men.

      I saw The Heartbreak Kid when it was released, but haven't since. Without seeing it I can well imagine that she comes off in that scene a just as you describe. For me she never was devoid of talent, she was just given too much to shoulder too soon.
      I'm glad she studied.
      And what a terrific anecdote about meeting and getting her to sign your poster! To hear that a actor has grown as both a person and a professional is always a perfect addendum to a career that got off on the wrong foot.

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  8. Hi Ken,

    I also wanted to ask you if you've ever been approached to do a DVD commentary. What an asset you'd be to unsung films like Windows, The Fan, The Night Digger,and Once is Not Enough! And what a fresh and personal perspective you'd bring to "sung" ones like Rosemary's Baby, Bonnie and Clyde, and The Birds. Just asking...and hoping.
    Thanks!
    Max

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  9. Hi Max,
    Thanks for thinking I could offer anything to the commentary track of a DVD. I have never been approached, but I honestly think - for certain films - I could offer a lot of insight and backstory (plus it would be fun just to see how it's done).
    The closest I ever came was when I was approached to be one of the talking heads in a Bonus Material documentary on the latest "Xanadu" DVD release. I enjoyed it a great deal.
    Very nice of you to inquire and express interest, Max. From your mouth to God's ear!

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  10. Now, here's the deal. I am so over the moon and beyond the stars happy that you chose Daisy Miller here....I want to tell you all I know and love about my favorite (or in my top 3 favorite) films of all time.
    I saw it once about 15 years ago on VHS. I wasn't paying attention, must have been doing something, eating dinner I suppose. but the real reason I didn't watch and just turned it off was because the quality was damn HORRID. The picture, sound quality, lines going in and out.
    But I managed to get a very good glimpse of the good looking costar of the film....and had no clue who the heck it was. I have a pretty good memory and knowledge of actors, but I couldn't place him. and keep in mind he was very handsome, the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.
    I went to the library but no luck. So I forgot about the whole thing. then, 3 years ago, I happened upon a website a friend told me about, of actors who were not well known but could have been major stars. and there was the handsome man with the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen....actor Barry Brown.
    Barry Brown's mother had bipolar disorder (she burned down a house when Barry was a teenager and was arrested) Barry inherited the disorder. He left home for Hollywood at 19 and landed an ABC contract for television. Robert Benton saw him and cast him in the dark comedy Bad Company (with Jeff Bridges). Peteer Bagdonovich saw Brown in the film and immediately said ( it's true): I saw him and I thought....that's Winterbourne...I have to find him...I have to cast him in this role. He did.
    Bagdonovich said that Brown was "difficult". He said Barry was phenomenal in the part, but he Bagdonovich said he carried it with him throughout the movie. Bagdonovich said it was almost impossible to communicate with him.
    It didn't help that Brown hated (as in HATED) Cybil Shepard. It's amazing to see how wonderful they are together in the film and know that Barry wanted to scream at her when she constantly forgot her lines. It was at the time that Bagdonovich was having an affair with her and it would take over the production and Barry thought it was unprofessional.
    Barry was worried about the movie. He knew it would be good. But he didn't know if it would be a hit. If it were a hit, he would get parts in films, and still fulfill his contract, what little was left. Brown went into despair when the movie bombed. He started drinking constantly, even at work. He gained the cliché reputation of the "difficult actor" and burned all of his bridges.
    His brother, a writer, said that his manic depressive behavior kicked into high gear. His brother said that he would try to stop drinking but after he stopped, he was erratic, crying, desperate, paranoid and in constant fear.
    Brown had finished a B movie called Pihranna in the summer of 1978. In his last filmed scene (as a police officer) Barry was drunk, walked off the set and drove to the airport. He didn't even change clothes. He still had his police costume on. One morning he went to see Barry at One morning Barry's brother went to see him at his small house in LA. He walked in to see that Barry had committed suicide.
    I write this, to tell about his life. He was a great actor. His Winterbourne is one of my favorite parts and performances. I can't describle what it is that makes him so damn good in this movie. I told a friend that it may have to do with those beautiful eyes. They're the most expressive, sad, heartbreaking....his emotions throughout are transcended through his expressions, through those looks. I'm not sure if he's using a specific technique. I never really thought about it very much. the part comes so easily to him. like Bagdonovich said, "Barry IS Winterbourne". So, there he is....forever my movie star crush. I always wonder what he would have done, could have done...had he not left us so early. the mystery is and will always be so sad for me.

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    1. Hi Cinemarocks
      I got such a kick out of your enthusiasm for this movie and for Barry Brown! Your rundown of his personal and professional history is a welcome addition to this post, for he is one of the major assets of the film as far as I'm concerned.
      i remember all the promising hype surrounding him early in his career, and i recall seeing him on a couple of TV episodics during my youth, but never saw him in a film until I was an adult.
      I've known about the tragedy of his life and indeed i think His writer brother addresses the family legacy of depression and mental illness in some tome of his.

      That being said, I think your comments stand as a marvelous testament to Brown and his too-brief career, and I hope readers appreciate the extra info and backstory you've provided.
      I'm happy this is one of your favorite films and that you shared your thoughts and memories of your movie star crush with us. Thank you for contributing such a heartfelt and informative comment!

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  11. And I hope this satisfies you,"Anonymous". Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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  12. I remember seeing Cybill on Larry King, she told him in retrospect it wasn't that great starting at the top and not "paying dues". He didn't know what to say.

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    1. Hi loulou
      I might have seen that interview as well. "Grown up" Cybill has always been an eye-opener for me when giving interviews because she genuinely illustrates what maturity means.
      She looks back at her beauty as a gift, she recognizes it opened doors, admits to having been "obnoxious" during her heyday, and, best of all, speaks of her time going on stage and studying acting as the turning point for her, both professionally and personally. She has actually learned from her experiences.
      For all his brilliance, Bogdanovich rationalizes quite a deal, and when I saw them on a dais together in later years talking about "Picture Show", it was clear she was now the adult to his child.

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  13. Ken,

    Once again you have inspired me to watch a movie and in October, yet, the month I reserve for the spooky and the macabre. I do remember seeing Daisy Miller when it came out in 1974 but it was not the best choice for 13-year-old me. (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Young Frankenstein were more my speed.) But revisiting it a few decades later was worth it. It was a subtle, underplayed movie compared to some of the other costume dramas from 1974 like The Great Gatsby and Murder on the Orient Express, and very artfully done. Cybill Shepherd was not well served by Bogdanovich, but she seemed to me to almost there. I thought she looked and moved very well. Her bold swagger when we see her walking outdoors for the first time was a delight to watch. Her line delivery just wasn’t as refined as her movements.

    I was very impressed by Barry Brown, though. He was able to project Winterbourne’s desire and despair lurking under his affable, polished exterior. There was a beautiful, heartbreaking edge to his performance. You could just see him yearning to break out of convention and not finding the courage to do it. I was very sorry to learn about the circumstances of his early death. The rest of the cast was excellent, as well. I just made a mental note to never make Eileen Brennan angry.

    Coincidently, I have been reading a bit about Peter Bogdanovich the past couple of weeks. He is a real jerk, but that early run of movies is amazing. Your comment about seeing him interviewed with Cybill Shepherd really summed it up. He just stopped growing. The info about Polly Platt was also fascinating. I wonder how much of his early success was due to the women he worked with? After the Dorothy Stratten tragedy, I suspect he had a hard time finding talented women who wanted to be anywhere near him. That must have been a factor in his subsequent flops. Anyway, thanks for the good read. I can't wait for you next piece.

    Michael

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    1. Hi Michael
      That is SOME testimonial...getting you to detour from your October horror films to take in a little Henry James. I enjoyed reading your comments. With your mentioning that it struck you as a subtle and underplayed period film, I was reminded that Bogdanovich felt it should have been marketed as a small arthouse film but that his previous films were so successful, everyone was expecting another "Paper Moon"-size hit.
      And what a great thing to remark upon--Daisy's bold walk! I would bet Bogdanovich would love your noticing something like that.
      From the details noted about Barry Brown's performance to your comical comment about Eileen Brennan, it sounds as though your revisited experience of the film as a good one.
      Bogdanovich's life fascinates me a bit. There is something almost theatrical in its structure: He idolizes an artist (Orson Welles) then his own career almost takes an almost identical course of quick success/fast decline. His early days of unbridled ego and the unrepentant hurting of others (his seemingly intentional failure to acknowledge the scope of the contributions of Polly Platt) takes a tragically karmic twist. Fascinating stuff.
      Well, thank you for flattering me in saying that I inspired you to check this film out, and everyone reading your comments here are sure to be grateful (as I am) that you shared them with us. Happy Halloween horror marathon!

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  14. Hi Ken - I've never seen this one but it looks like a sumptuous production. I happen to like Cybill Shepherd and thank Mr. Bogdonavich for discovering her...though it was a blow to poor Polly Platt.

    Have you ever seen the film Irreconcilable Differences with Ryan O'Neal and Shelley Long? O'Neal plays a Bogdonovich-like director who dumps his collaborator wife Long for a young unknown, played by a young Sharon Stone. It's one of my favorite little-known films.

    Paper Moon and What's Up Doc will always be my favorite Bogdonovich films, followed by Last Picture Show. But Daisy Miller does look a bit better than At Long Last Love (one hopes!!)
    -Chris

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    1. Hi Chris
      I've never seen the film "Irreconcilable Differences," but someone else recommended it to me as being something of a roman a clef of the Platt/Bogdanovich bust-up. Now that you say it's one of your favorites I should most definitely seek it out. Like Scorsese's films can be slip into The De Niro Years/The DeCaprio Years, I think Bogdanovich's Polly Platt years are his best. "Daisy Miller" is one of the last gasp efforts of the Bogdanovich I fell in love with--kind of a grab bag of efforts after this. Hope you get a chance to check it out sometime! thanks for reading, Chris! Always a pleasure to see you here.

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