So when, after many years, the opportunity arose for me to finally get a look at Inside Daisy Clover in color, digitally-restored, and widescreen, I couldn't pass it up. Alas, 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|
Two things struck me on seeing Inside Daisy Clover again after so many years: 1) A common complaint I have about '60s period films, one so pervasive I should by now accept it as a given (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.
2) 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, which seldom moves beyond the surface, the other 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.
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 in the early scenes.
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.
|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
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.
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
|"Listen world, you're gonna love me!"|
Intergalactic megalomaniac Daisy Clover foists herself on an unsuspecting planet
|Character actor and vaudevillian song and dance man Paul Hartman (best known as Emmett the handyman on The Andy Griffith Show) seen here with Natalie Wood in a deleted scene. Most likely from the film-within-a-film "Dime Store Kid."|
THE AUTOGRAPH FILES: