Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 4 May 2012

"You're gonna hear from me..."

I had not seen INSIDE DAISY CLOVER since I saw it on release back in early 1966 and again its from a book I loved as a teenager, which became a very flawed film which is fascinating to see now (like that curious Julie Andrews musical STAR!, see post below). Natalie Wood was a huge star then - one of the few child stars who grew up successfully in the movies (she played the daughter of Maureen O'Hara, Bette Davis, Margaret Sullavan, Claudette Colbert and others and she was the perfect 50s teenager with Jimmy Dean in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, and of course so iconic as Debbie in THE SEARCHERS, then Warners teamed her with teen heart-throb Tab Hunter in 2 films, she dated Elvis, married Robert Wagner  ... she was MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR in '58 and then the early '60s saw her in Kazan's SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS with Beatty, GYPSY (one of my favourite musicals) and WEST SIDE STORY.  We liked her a lot in LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER with McQueen in Robert Mulligan's 1963 charmer (another one to re-see soon), and Mulligan also directs INSIDE DAISY CLOVER, where Nat at 27 plays 15 year old Daisy, the foul-mouthed teenager in 1936 Hollywood, living with her mother The Dealer in a rundown shack at Venice beach, and near the Santa Monica pier where Daisy runs a movie star photo stall.

She wants to be a singer and records her voice and sends it to the Raymond Swan studio ... so far so good...but the question is:  Where is everybody? The movie looks deserted as there is hardly anybody in it apart from the principals. When Daisy is summoned to the studio the only people there are Swan (Christopher Plummer - his next role after SOUND OF MUSIC) and his glacial wife Melora (Katharine Bard), and that silent assistant Roddy McDowall. There is no real period detail or feel for the 1930s. Daisy looks like a 50s or 60s kid with that haircut.  Suddenly she is a huge star and we hear (and hear, and hear..) her song "Your're Gonna Hear From Me" (music and lyrics by The Previns - Andre and Dory).The '30s clips of Gable & Lombard, Bogart, Power etc at Daisy's premiere do not fit in at all with the look of the rest of the film ...

Her tomboyish Daisy—an overnight singing sensation in mid-thirties Hollywood— soon hates her Hollywood existance and doesn’t seem to understand anything that is said to her, and the pace gets so s-l-o-w than one wants to reach for the fast-forward button - the director Robert Mulligan can’t quite find the rhythm, either. The studio takes over her life as her mother is put in a home and her selfish greedy older sister whom she despises is made her guardian. Then there is the young Robert Redford, playing alcoholic bisexual star Wade Lewis. He looks terrific in that striped top he wears and it is poignant now seeing him and Daisy clamoring onto his yacht and going sailing ... after he sweeps Daisy off and marries her and she wakes up alone the next morning. She soon finds out from Melora, also carrying a crush for Wade, that he "can never resist a pretty boy" and is off with the latest number.

After her breakdown Daisy ends up with a nurse in a house on the beach, as her next film remains uncompleted, to Swan's fury: as he says "You don't cost me money, you make it" and reminds her that there are more out there like her... after a protracted attempt at suicide (which goes on and on...) with the gas oven, Daisy regains her freedom by leaving the gas on to blow up the house as she walks away and the film freezes. It is already over 2 hours long by then ... so there was no way they could continue the story with, as in the novel, Daisy moving to New York and making new friends and reinventing herself as a cabaret lounge singer, with another great song "I wonder what became of me?" - that would have been the really interesting bit.

So the look and period feel of the film seems all wrong, there seems to be nobody at the studios in those peak movie years of the 1930s, Natalie though gives it her all even if maybe too old for the part. It is scripted by Gavin Lambert from his novel, and he became good friends with Natalie (who died aged 43 in 1981), writing a good biography on her, (before he died himself in 2005 aged 80; he also wrote a good book ON CUKOR and other novels and books on Hollywood, as well as the screenplays for THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS STONE and SONS AND LOVERS among others) and editing "Sight & Sound" during the '50s.

Whatever the similarities to Judy Garland (child star, breakdowns, involvements with gay or bi guys, a New York comeback), there are certainly allusions or references to Cukor's A STAR IS BORN: the scene where Wade wipes her makeup off, and she is madeup to look like a kid (just like Judy was), and when they run away to get married, and the malicious hack at the studio - Jack Carson there, McDowell here. Natalie too gets an intense emotional scene as here she breaks down in the recording booth .... Ruth Gordon is perfect as the Dealer (just like she was in ROSEMARY'S BABY and HAROLD AND MAUDE) and 1966 too was Redford's year what with THE CHASE and his other one with Natalie THIS PROPERTY IS CONDEMNED, Sidney Pollack's film of a minor Tennessee Williams, which I have been meaning to rescue from the "pending pile".
PS: I have now rescued the original novel by Lambert (from a box in the garage) and was surprised to see that it is set in the 1950s! - Daisy's diary begins in 1951 and continues into 1952 and it is 1957 when she leaves Hollywood for New York - so why on earth did they take it back to the 1930s, Lambert wrote the script so must have gone along with what Pakula/Mulligan wanted, but Natalie had the '50s look in spades, that was her era - they made no attempt to give her a 1930s look or make the film look set in the 1930s.Wade in the novel is surely based on James Dean - Redford makes him look too wholesome!

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