Thursday, February 7, 2008

DAISY KENYON (20th Century Fox 1947) Fox Home Video

Director Otto Preminger’s Daisy Kenyon (1947) is a preposterously painful faux film noir that presents Joan Crawford with the quandary of loving two men, but with only one final fade out at her disposal. Part psychological torture for the female martyr/part soap opera, the film bounces through variables of tragic ineptitude with Crawford doing her best to remain above it all, though oddly enough, rarely succeeding on this outing. This critic says ‘oddly’ because Crawford’s fortitude as an actress usually excels even in substandard tripe. Perhaps the treacle in David Hertz’s sopping wet screenplay is laid a little too thick even for Crawford’s valiant talents on this outing.

Crawford is Daisy, a commercial artist living in Greenwich Village. She’s moderately successful but unhappy. In short, Daisy needs love. Unfortunately, Daisy is put upon by slippery lady’s man, Dan O’Mara (Dana Andrews); a high profile lawyer who does not let his marriage to Lucille (Ruth Warrick) interfere with his philandering on the side. Winning Daisy over before telling her the truth, Dan forces her into a back room love affair that she finds distasteful and awkward. Still, Daisy cannot seem to get enough of Dan and so the stolen kisses and meetings in hotel rooms continue.

That is, until Daisy meets upstanding forthright citizen, Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda). Peter offers Daisy the sort of unfettered, idyllic romance that can actually lead to marriage. Furthermore, his proposal comes with no strings attached. Eventually, Daisy decides for herself that Peter’s love is true and the two are married. Unfortunately, at roughly this same junction, Lucille learns about Daisy’s affair with Dan. Lucille divorces Dan, sending him right into the arms of Daisy who must suddenly choose between waning affections for an old flame and growing desires with a new husband.

Preminger is working with superior talent but a terrible script. Alas, the latter proves the very torpedo to sink his ship. The dialogue throughout is contrived and insurmountably fragile. Crawford plays every scene to the hilt, though she frequently seems to be internally contemplating just how it is that she could have accepted such a bad role in the first place.

Dana Andrews is only somewhat convincing as the heel. Though he had played bad guys before, here Andrews seems to be struggling to remain true to his character – wanting instead to repent on the side of the amiable romantic suitor with only genuine love in his heart. Fonda is rather ill at ease in this role. Clearly, he has recognized the unimportance of the part and has decided to stroll through his lines with about as much conviction as a midget who has just been informed that he is the tallest man in the world.

In the final analysis, Daisy Kenyon is a film for die hard Crawford fans, though even then, it does not command respect for an actress with so much more to offer them than this.

The DVD transfer from Fox is adequate though not impressive. The B&W image retains a fairly clean patina with sufficiently balanced contrast levels. Film grain and a slight haze of digital grit intrude on an otherwise solid visual presentation. Dirt and other age related artifacts are also present. The audio is mono as expected, adequate for this presentation. An audio commentary and theatrical trailer are the extra features.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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