Inside Daisy Clover (1965): Mulligan’s Gothic Hollywood Melodrama, Starring Natalie Wood and Redford

Robert Mulligan, who made the great American Gothic film and classic coming-of-age “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in 1962, is less successful with the Gothic Hollywood melodrama, “Inside Daisy Glover.”

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

The tale concerns a troubled adolescent who goes from rags to riches, and after achieving movie stardom, she collapses into mental breakdown.  Gavin Lambert wrote the screenplay for this 1965 feature, adapting his own 1963 satirical novel of the same title.

Set in the 1930s, the plot centers on Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood), a teen-aged tomboy who dreams of major Hollywood stardom . She is discovered by a well known film producer, Raymond Swan (Christopher Plummer), and is quickly thrown into the spotlight of Hollywood, thus becoming an overnight sensation.

Once she becomes famous and successful, she is forced to deal with the pressures of celebrity, and with her mother, who is put in a psychiatric hospital. Daisy finds comfort and love from teen star Wade Lewis (the young, extremely handsome Robert Redford).  Their lifestyle of heavy drinking and partying is damaging to both of their careers and healths.

They decide to get married, which upsets Ray (Wade calls him “Prince of Darkness’), fearing that the romance would interrupt Daisy’s career progression and busy schedule.  On their honeymoon in Arizona, Wade disappears quite mysteriously.  Daisy returns to Ray’s house, and Ray’s wife Melora (Katharine Bard) tells Daisy that her movie idol and husband is actually a latent homosexual.  Ray reveals that he knew about Wade’s sexual orientation, but he wanted Daisy find out for herself.

Daisy takes her mother out of psychiatric care and moves to a beach house in Venice.   Shortly after her mother dies, and Daisy, only 16, suffers through nervous breakdown. Moved to her beach house, she spends day after day silently in her bed, under the care of a private nurse.  Melora visits, reassuring Daisy she is not jealous of her affair with Ray. Wade comes to visit Daisy, but Daisy remains silent and depressed.   For his part, Ray is frusrated that it takes her so long to recover, wishing she could complete a picture she had begun.  Daisy stubbornly refuses his advances and threats to her career.

Daisy decides that suicide is her only option, so she lays her head in the oven in the hopes of suffocating, but she’s constantly interrupted by visitors, ringing phones, and even burning herself.  Daisy turns the gas oven back on, and strolls out of the house.  When the house explodes behind her, and when a passerby asks what happened, she simply replies, “Somebody declared war!”

At the time rumors were spreading as to who exactly inspired the characters.  For some, Daisy Glover was loosely based on Judy Garland, while other suggested that Daisy and her mother are based on Marilyn Monroe and her real-life crazed mother, Gladys Baker.

Unfortunately, Mulligan stumbles with giving the narrative the proper rhythm and right tone, which veers from the serio dramatic to the excessive melodramatic, and from the comic to the farcical and then all the way to the campy. 

The movie is hampered by big melodramatic scenes that are overacted (on the verge of hysteria) by all concerned.

Ruth Gordon received her first Oscar nomination in the supporting league for this role; four years later, she would win the Supporting Actress Award for playing a modern witch in Polanski’s Gothic “Rosemary’s Baby.”

You can detect in the cast the very young Elliott Gould (then married to Barbra Streisand), who plays a cop.

Andre Previn wrote the score, and Herbert Ross (who would become a director himself) choreographed the musical numbers, which are neither exciting nor well-integrated into the narrative.  

Upon its release, the film was a commercial and artistic failure, but later on, gained some  cult following as a result of repeated showings on TV.

As in “West Side Story,” Natalie Wood’s singing voice is dubbed, this time around by singer Jackie Bard, with the exception of the introduction to the song “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” (by Dory Previn and Andre Previn, who composed the score). The song was later recorded by Streisand for her 2003 Movie Album.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Supporting Actress: Ruth Gordon

Art Direction-Set Decoration (color)

Costume Design: Bill Thomas and Edith Head

Cast

Daisy Glover (Natalie Wood) 

Raymond Swan (Christopher Plummer)

Wade Lewis (Robert Redford)

Walter Baines (Roddy McDowall)

The Dealer, Daisy’s Mother (Ruth Gordon)

Melora Swan (Katharine Bard)

Gloria Goslett (Betty Hartford

Harry Goslett (John Hale)

Cop (Harold Gould)

Credits

Produced by Alan Pakula

Directed by Robert Mulligan

Screenplay: Gavin Lambert based on his own novel

Camera: Charles Lang

Editor: Aaron Stell

Music: Andre Previn

Art Direction-Set Decoration (color)

Costume Design: Bill Thmas, Edith Head

Running Time: 128 Minutes