Paying the devil its dues – Rediscovering ‘Inside Daisy Clover’ (US 1965 – 128 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - January 13, 2014
Paying the devil its dues – Rediscovering ‘Inside Daisy Clover’ (US 1965 – 128 mins)

This under-rated big studio flop was considered a failure at the time considering the film-making talent involved, but I’ve always had an immense fondness for this moralistic tale of the harsh world of the movie business, due primarily to the hugely enjoyable central performance from Natalie Wood.

The rise, fall and re-birth of a young Hollywood hopeful, ‘Inside Daisy Clover’ tells the sordid tale of freckle-faced tomboy Daisy Clover, whose dreams of Hollywood stardom are realized when she achieves screen success at the tender age of fifteen. Her stardom is short-lived however, and after a brief marriage to a closet homosexual, she suffers a nervous breakdown, resulting in her attempting suicide.

Twenty seven year old Natalie Wood is excellent as 15 year old Daisy. While the movie was not one of Natalie’s best remembered, her acting is very impressive, especially in Daisy’s breakdown scene in the sound recording booth, which is both powerful and frightening. The scene near the end where Natalie attempts to gas herself in the oven, (but is constantly interrupted), seems to be played mostly for laughs. But I find this prolonged scene entertaining, bringing a much needed smile to the films dark proceedings.

Christopher Plummer almost steals the show as tyrannical film producer Raymond Swan, a sort of ‘Prince of Darkness’ type figure. Swan’s character is fairly similar to Peter O’Toole’s Eli Cross, in ‘The Stuntman’ (1980) – another ruthless tale of the fickle movie-making industry.

29 year old Robert Redford had one of his early roles as matinee idol Wade Lewis, the closet homosexual who briefly marries Daisy, if only to reassure the public of his ladies man persona. Veteran actress Ruth Gordon was nominated for a Supporting Oscar, for her wonderful role as Natalie’s eccentric mother. She would go on to win the award three years later for her sinister turn in Polanski’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968).

Forty year old director Robert Mulligan had a talent for period detail, and often made movies involving young characters on the cusp of self-discovery. Titles such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1962), and ‘Summer of ‘42’ (1971) especially, played heavily on this theme, and with much greater success.

Although at times the movie is rather synthetic, even cartoonish, in its execution, ‘Inside Daisy Clover’ remains an entertainingly cynical showbiz saga. Featuring a couple of fine performances from Natalie Wood and Christopher Plummer, the movie is a colourful rags-to-riches story, firmly reminding us that, there’s no business like Show Business.

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