Title: Inside Daisy Clover
Genre: Drama, Music
Director: Robert Mulligan
Writer: Gavin Lambert, based on his own novel
Music: André Previn
Cinematography: Charles Lang
From the director, Robert Mulligan, who brought us TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962), INSIDE DAISY CLOVER is also a labour of love of its star Natalie Wood when she is at the top of her game. It is Wood’s version of A STAR IS BORN, at the age of 27, the babyface Wood plays our titular 15-year-old tomboy heroine, who is discovered by the producer Raymond Swan (Plummer) of the Swan studio as a red-hot “America’s valentine” for her singing gift and darling appeal in the mid-1930s. Nevertheless Daisy’s spitfire nature is like a round peg in a square hole of the stardom and all its trappings – studio contracts, star-making procedure and hiding her personal background (she claims to be an orphan while in fact her lunatic mother is in a mental institution).
Her uninhibited rebelliousness gets a vent with a kindred spirit, another young actor of Swan studio, the heartthrob Wade Lewis (Redford), together they share romantic moments and take on feckless escapades, to challenge Raymond’s patience. Daisy deems that she has found the love of her life, but their hasty marriage lasts only one day, the revelation of Wade’s hidden peculiarity devastates her, this is Redford’s breakthrough role, and the bisexuality depicted here, although gay activity has never been shown on screen, is quite a bravado here, which also manifests novelist Gavin Lambert’s trenchant resolution to debunk the dark corners of the rapacious Tinseltown, on top of its showy
Since then, aggravated by her mother’s death – Gordon, who plays the cuckoo Ms. Clover, a woman jilted by her man and spends all day playing cards by herself, was honoured with an Oscar nomination, her first in acting category, and soon she would win one for ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) and as a distinguished writer, she had already gathered 3 Oscar nominations before – Daisy succumbs to an emotional breakdown which halts the production and is retreated to a beach house for recuperation, soon her refusal to back on track triggers Raymond to send off his ultimatum which callously reveals how cruel and impersonal showbiz is, out of despair, Daisy decides to commit suicide, however, this part could be the funniest scene in this dragging cautionary tale, her attempt is absurdly interrupted so that eventually she abolishes the idea, instead, declares a war against the disappointing world in the finale.
One dominant feature of this poor-received picture is André Previn’s pervasive string score, looms large against the film’s middling pace, sometimes even becomes at odds with the scenario as if we are watching a taut thriller, very bizarre indeed. Another contention is Wood’s acting, although her singing voice is dubbed and all the musical numbers are below-par to be a supposed smash by today’s view, she impresses in the beginning with her teenager spontaneity, but when she is inducted to the Hollywoodland, her lines are massively curtailed, most of the time she is merely an observer, and the story preferably relies on her emotional presentation and body movements, but Wood is not a show-stopper in expressiveness, thus albeit her biggest Oscar-inviting showpiece, aka, the crack-up in the studio, is brilliant and heartrending, it is quite understandably why Academy snubbed her that year.
Plummer, on the contrary, is well cast as a ruthless magnate reeks of disdain and Katharine Bard, who plays Melora Swan, actually is more awards-worthy than Gordon in my book, her headache to heartache implosion probably is the best part of the film, so is Roddy McDowall, underused as Raymond’s assistant, a great scene-stealer with his despised look and utterance as the messenger between Raymond and Daisy. After all, this picture is an above-standard movie industry accuser, rather bold at its time and needs a fair reappraisal from its contemporary audience.