Daisy Kenyon (1947)

Directed by Otto Preminger
Cinematography Leon Shamroy

Daisy Kenyon (Joan Crawford) is a Manhattan commercial artist having an affair with an arrogant and overbearing but successful lawyer named Dan O’Mara (Dana Andrews), who is married and has two children. He breaks a date with Daisy one night and she goes out with a widowed war veteran named Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda).

O’Mara and his wife Lucille (Ruth Warrick) fight constantly: about his job, the upbringing of their two daughters, about his cheating. That same night, Dan turns up at New York’s Stork Club with his wife and older daughter where Daisy and Peter are waiting to be seated. Daisy and Peter leave immediately. At the end of the date, Peter announces that he loves Daisy, and then leaves. Peter stands her up for their next date, but later he comes by unannounced and proposes to Daisy. She realizes that he is still in love with his late wife.

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After a brief and hesitant courtship Daisy marries Peter, although she is still in love with Dan. Daisy supports Peter’s post-war career. Peter is moody, sometimes quiet and withholding, sometimes wildly exuberant. Peter knows that Dan used to be in Daisy’s life. Daisy feels like she’s gotten over Dan. Dan’s wife, finally fed up with his cheating, wants a divorce, using full custody of the children as leverage to hurt Dan.

Dan asks Peter and Daisy to allow him to reveal the full details of his former relationship with Daisy during the divorce proceedings. Peter states that he won’t stand in Daisy’s way, that when they first met he needed her, but that he doesn’t anymore. He leaves. The trial begins, but Dan can see how much it’s hurting Daisy, so he stops the proceedings. He asks Peter to sign divorce papers, even though Daisy did not request them.

Daisy goes away to think. She gets into a car accident. Dan and Peter are waiting for her at the cottage. She asks Dan to leave. Daisy realizes she no longer loves Dan and remains with Peter.

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Good Crawford, but not don’t expect another Mildred Pierce

27 August 2001 | by nickandrew (PA) – See all my reviews

A lot of Joan Crawford titles are the actual characters she plays such as SADIE McKEE, LETTY LYNTON, MILDRED PIERCE, HARRIET CRAIG and this one. Made in 1947, two years after she won the Oscar for MILDRED and during a period where she was making some of her best films at Warners (she was loaned to Fox for this). However, this is one of the weaker ones during that time, but not a bad one. It’s a typical, glossy soap opera with Joan in a love triangle with married lawyer (Andrews) & soldier (Fonda). It’s rather predictable and drags towards the end, but Joan gives a good, solid performance. 2.5 out of 4.

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But What Happened to Tubby?

8/10
Author: David (Handlinghandel) from NY, NY
8 September 2005

In the early scenes, Crawford has a dog that looks like a border collie. His name is Tubby and she appears to dote on him. Suddenly, he disappears.

That said, this is one of Crawford’s very best movie’s. Twentieth Century Fox, and Otto Preminger, did beautifully by her.

So many things to say …! It takes place in the neighborhood where I was born and still live. The Greenwich Theater, where Joan attends a movie, was a staple of Greenwich Village. When it was twinned it started showing less interesting things but it was still a landmark. Then it was torn down and in its place stands a health club.

The diner where Henry Fonda waits for Crawford while she’s at the movie is still there. The curtain in its window looks the same — almost 60 years later.

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Crawford and Dana Andrews make a somewhat unlikely torrid romantic duo. But they work well together. The same can be said for Crawford and Fonda. Their romance is a bit more implausible but, again, they are directed beautifully and advance the plot admirably.

In a sense, this is Fonda’s closest brush with film noir. He is a vet who has also lost his wife. The scene in which he thrashes around a nightmare is brilliantly staged. The background music there, as elsewhere, is excellent.

Most of the characters speak in a sort of Henry Higgins manner. “Hurricane” is pronounced just as Eliza Doolittle was taught to say it: “hurricen.” Crawford always had that quality — “syew” for “sue,” “cahn’t” for “can’t.” But the movie withstands these petty issues. It’s exciting and it is beautifully cast. Ruth Warrick is superb in the small role of Andrews’s wife. Peggy Ann Garner is too, as one of his daughters. So is the girl playing his other daughter. And Crawford’s roommate, whose name I don’t recognize, is convincing as well.

This is one of the lesser known vehicles of all three of its stars and not one of Preminger’s better known, either. But it’s fascinating and deserves kudos for all concerned.

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A womans’ movie where the men are not dopes

8/10
Author: rontaube from Twin Cities, Minnesota
11 September 2002

I liked this film a lot because it’s a rare movie where Joan Crawford doesn’t overshadow her male co-stars and here she is pitted up against two fine male actors who match her emotions and intelligence. Dana Andrews was never better stepping out from his usual good guy roles to play a heel with compassion. Mr Andrews acting is both subtle and emotinaly strong. Coming off his strong performance a year earlier in the Best Years of Our Lives he was clearly at his peak at this time. There is a lot going on in this film from suggestions of child abuse on the part of Ruth Warrick to an interesting spin on the theme of infidelity where the most sympathetic character is the “other” woman Daisy Kenyon. I can see why this role would have appealed to Ms. Crawford having played variotions on it in “The Women” and “Rain” among others throughout her career. She is the wise one here and it makes the movie very interesting for that reason. I won’t say who wins her in the end but it leaves a nice smile on your face and you have a little laugh to boot.

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Love triangle with rich noir shadows

7/10
Author: imogensara_smith from New York City
13 May 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Preminger Paradox has often been noted: Otto was a notorious tyrant on the set, but his films are like courtrooms in a good way. Everyone gets a fair hearing. The keynote of Preminger’s movies is moral ambiguity; they never turn on a simple axis of good and evil, and they feature few characters who are entirely sympathetic or unsympathetic. And despite his legendary tantrums, he consistently drew subtle, tamped-down performances from the actors he terrorized. DAISY KENYON displays all of these virtues and uses them to complicate what would otherwise be a conventional love-triangle plot. The film is impressive in its nuance, complexity and ambivalence. It’s not completely satisfying, but perhaps that’s the point. By the end, you realize that no possible outcome to the story can really be a happy ending.

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It’s trite but tempting to say that this is a Joan Crawford movie for people who don’t like Joan Crawford. Despite her central, eponymous role, Crawford as Daisy is never as interesting as the two men in her life, Dan O’Mara (Dana Andrews) and Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda). Neither Andrews nor Fonda wanted to do the movie, presumably feeling that they would be playing second fiddles to the female star, but they outshine her. Crawford wanted desperately to do the movie, and it’s easy to see why: at 40-something she gets to play an attractive young career-woman being fought over by two very attractive men. (Some predicament! I guess that’s why they call this a “woman’s picture.”) However, girlish dresses with lace collars don’t make Crawford look any younger, and the shadowy lighting allegedly designed to hide her wrinkles only adds to the inappropriate sense that she might be about to reach for a carving knife. Crawford is great in MILDRED PIERCE, SUDDEN FEAR and POSSESSED, all made around the same time. Here she’s not only too old but too strong and too alarmingly intense for a character who should be softer and more likable.

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Daisy is a successful commercial artist involved with a married man. She loves him but knows it’s a dead-end relationship, so she agrees to marry another man whom she doesn’t love, but who needs her badly. This is pretty standard stuff, but in detail it’s oddly persuasive. Dan O’Mara is a glib, high-powered lawyer, spoiled and overconfident, a man who cheats on his wife and treats her with cold contempt. He’s a heel—and yet Dana Andrews makes him not only sexy but somehow sympathetic. (This was the third of four films Andrews made with Preminger, a quartet that gave him his best roles and made brilliant use of his gift for ambivalence.) Everything comes too easily for Dan; he knows he’s smarter than the people around him, and his charm is irresistible, despite his slick habit of calling everyone “honeybunch” and “dewdrop.” His daughters adore him, his secretaries adore him, maitre-d’s adore him. Then everything goes wrong: he loses the first case he ever really cared about (defending a Japanese veteran dispossessed of his land), he loses his daughters to divorce, and then he loses his mistress. The bleakness that comes out in his face feels like it was there all along, under the smirk. Dana Andrews had the most haunted eyes in Hollywood. Here they’re haunted by self-knowledge.

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Peter Lapham is a lonely, psychologically wounded veteran and widower. He’s gentle and low-key; his vocation as a yacht-designer hints at something graceful and fine in him. But there’s something creepy about him too; he declares his love for Daisy on their first date, then forgets to call her, then sets up surveillance and follows her home. “The world’s dead and everyone in it is dead except you,” he tells her unnervingly. Peter is obviously the more deserving man, but his method of pursuing Daisy is sneakily passive-aggressive, and they are never as convincing a couple as Daisy and Dan. You can’t tell up to the last minute which man she will end up with, or even which one you want her to end up with, which is the film’s triumph.

DAISY KENYON has been released on DVD as part of Fox’s Film Noir series, which is misleading, but there is something hard to place about the film. The look is typical forties high-gloss (Daisy lives in a ridiculously palatial “Greenwich Village” apartment, which her lover refers to as a “hovel,” on an eerily deserted studio street), but the shadows are as dark as any noir. And there is an undercurrent of unpleasantness throughout the film—nightmares, child abuse, racism, adultery. This too is typical of Preminger, who did more than anyone to force Hollywood to grow up and face the facts of life. The shadows aren’t only in the cinematography; they don’t just fall across the characters but spread from inside them.

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Reception

Reviews at its release were generally positive, if dismissive. Otto Preminger himself stated that he forgot he had made the film. Variety‘s review stated that the central “triangle, in which Dana Andrews and Henry Fonda fight it out for the love of Joan Crawford, is basically a shallow lending-library affair, but it’s made to seem important by the magnetic trio’s slick-smart backgrounds – plus, of course, excellent direction, sophisticated dialog, solid supporting cast and other flashy production values.” T. M. P. in the New York Times noted, “Miss Crawford is, of course, an old hand at being an emotionally confused and frustrated woman, and she plays the role with easy competence.” Otis L. Guernsey, Jr. in the New York Herald Tribune commented, “Preminger accomplishes no mean feat in guiding these people in and out among the interweavings of their own complexes, and he does wonders in varying the action of similar scenes.

Initial dismissal of Daisy Kenyon has given way to some critical reappraisal in recent years; it has earned a cult following, with some calling it a misunderstood masterpiece and one of Preminger’s best films. Mike D’Angelo, giving the film a grade of 99 out of a possible 100 points, hailed Kenyon as “the most bluntly realistic romantic melodrama I’ve ever seen.” Dan Callahan of Slant Magazine, awarding Kenyon three and a half stars out of four, called the film a “troubling and ambiguous portrayal of three real, unknowable characters (and actors) in constant flux”, saying that the film “distilled [soap opera] to its real life essence, until what’s left is nothing more than the ultimate mystery of art.”Fernando Croce, giving the film four and a half stars out of five, called the film “a scrupulously cooled romance and a portrait of a postwar nation, but first and foremost… a fluid chart of thorny personal spaces brushing against each other.” Independent filmmaker Dan Sallitt voted for it as one of his ten favorite films in a 2012 Sight & Sound poll.

Daisy Kenyon currently holds a 100% percentage rating on review aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.6/10, based on 5 reviews. Critics Roundup, a website that describes itself as “the first movie review aggregator to select reviews based on writing quality instead of popularity”, also reports that 100% of 12 critics reviewed the film positively.

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