Daisy Kenyon (1947): Preminger Directs Joan Crawford in Melodrama, Co-Starring Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews

Fox

One of Otto Preminger’s weaker films, largely due to the familiar potboiler melodrama, the miscasting of Danna Andrews in a lead role, and Joan Crawford’s mediocre performance, Daisy Kenyon is a typical woman’s picture of its era.

Daisy Kenyon
Daisy Kenyon 1947 poster.jpg

1947 US Theatrical Poster

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

Crawford plays the title role, a Greenwich Village New York commercial artist, who’s been forced into an uneasy relationship with Dan O’Mara (Dana Andrews), a married, high-powered  selfish lawyer.

An ambitious career woman, the deeply in love Daisy wants to be happy too, and thus she pressures Dan to make a choice between her and his wife and mother of his child Lucille (Ruth Warrick).

The self-centered Dan refuses to make such a decision and the compromised relationship continues until Daisy meets another man, Peter (Henry Fonda), who offers complete commitment.

Nonetheless, opting to be loved rather than love, Daisy marries Peter. Meanwhile, this being a melodrama, Lucille overhears a passionate telephone conversation between her hubby and Daisy and reacts hysterically, prompting the fed-up Dan to seek divorce. Dan now proposes to Daisy, hoping she would leave Peter.

Torn between the two men, one emotional, the other more rational and objective, Daisy, realizing she has ceased loving Dan, opts to stay with Peter whose admirable qualities of patience, self-confidence, stability and good nature promises a better future.

The film was dismissed by most critics as deja-vu for Crawford, as the New York Times wrote: “Crawford is an old hat at being an emotionally confused and frustrated woman and having man-trouble again”

Known for his subtle and detailed mise-en-scene, Preminger does what he can with the text, but clearly his heart is not in it. Even so, Preminger was praised for “keeping the film going at a nice clip, and this helps greatly to gloss over the threadbare portions of the narrative, which would be a lot more obvious in other hands.”

Of the three thespians, it’s Fonda who gives the most diffident performance, perhaps because he didn’t care much about the material or movie. This was Fonda’s last picture at Fox and to fulfill his contract he accepted the kind of role he had not played since “That Certain Woman” (with Bette Davis) and “I Met My Love Again,” back in the 1930s.

Miscast, Dana Andrews, who had starred in Preminger’s superlative noir thriller “Laura” in 1944 and as the sensitive vet in “The Best Years of Our Lives” in 1946, tries too hard to be selfish and aggressive, but ultimately he lacks command.

And Crawford, well, is Crawford, again, and considering that she was reportedly in love with her co-star Fonda, there’s little evidence of that infatuation on-screen chemistry.

Crawford played several movies named after the heroine’s name: Mildred Pierce, Daisy Kenyon, Harriet Craig.

Credits

Produced and directed by Otto Preminger.
Screenplay: David Hertz, based on the novel by Elizabeth Janeway.
Cinematography: Leon Shamory
Art Directors: Lyle Wheeler and George Davis.
Editing: Louis Loeffler
Score: David Raksin
Costume Design: Charles LeMaire

Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Release date: December 25, 1947 (U.S.)

Running time:  99 minutes
Budget $1.852 million
Box office $1,750,000 (U.S. rentals)

 

Cast
Joan Crawford as Daisy Kenyon
Dana Andrews as Dan O’Mara
Henry Fonda as Peter Lapham
Ruth Warrick as Lucille O’Mara
Martha Stewart as Mary Angelus
Peggy Ann Garner as Rosamund O’Mara
Connie Marshall as Marie O’Mara
Nicholas Joy as Coverly
Art Baker as Lucille O’Mara’s attorney

Newspaper reporters Walter Winchell, Leonard Lyons, and Damon Runyon, along with actor John Garfield, make cameo appearances in the film.