Daisy Kenyon (1947): Preminger Directs Joan Crawford in Melodrama

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 nonetheless a typical woman’s picture of its era.

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 but selfish lawyer.

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

The self-centered Dan refuses to make such a decision and the compromised relationship continuesuntil 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 for her.

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 and 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 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 “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 lacks command.

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

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 Raskin
Costume Design: Charles LeMaire