THE WOMEN CONQUER WHILE DAISY CLOVER FLOPS
I am trying to broaden my cinema horizons and watch classic or popular movies that I have never seen before on Turner Classic Movies. I recently just saw for the first time The Women (1939), with its all-female cast, and Inside Daisy Clover (1965).
Of course I heard of The Women’s top-billed actress Norma Shearer who I know was a huge movie star in the 20s, 30s and 40s but I had never seen a single motion picture of hers. I was very impressed with her in The Women. More so since she had on paper the less interesting role of the headstrong prideful wife who lets her husband go after she is set up by her cruel envious cousin to purposely discover that he has been having an affair with a viper who works behind the perfume counter at a department store. Shearer makes her character just as interesting as the more flamboyant women that surround her. The vixen is played by Joan Crawford who is equally good as Shearer. Less so is my fave Rosalind Russell as the malacious cousin who comes off like a fast-talking buffoon more annoying than humorous. No Auntie Mame is she here.
Another first for me was seeing pretty Paulette Goddard. Toward the end of the movie when Shearer hightails it to Reno for a quickie divorce, Goddard is along for the ride and stands out as a married showgirl who turns out to be the woman who stole Russell’s millionaire husband. Among the lesser roles, the best is the blonde actress who played the wisecracking co-worker of Crawford’s. She sees knows what a rotten she-wolf Crawford is and has a glib comment on everything Crawford says on the phone as she tries to entice Shearer’s husband away from a night out with his way to her apartment instead. This film was a surprising delight.
However much I enjoyed The Women, I despised Inside Daisy Clover starring Natalie Wood as a teenage actress in the thirties. It is surprising to me since this was a 60s movie, my cinema decade of choice. 1965 was not a good year for movies about Hollywood with the dueling Harlow bios but at least those movies were lively and fun. If you think Carroll Baker and Carol Lynley were miscast as Jean Harlow you haven’t seen anything like 26 year old Natalie Wood trying to pass herself off as a fifteen year old beach urchin who becomes Hollywood’s newest Judy Garland. That is bad enough, but the producers let her sing without being dubbed! She has one of the most annoying singing voices I ever heard. It is torture hearing and watching her catawail in the few musical numbers. Where oh where is Marni Nixon when you need her?
Wood is not entirely to blame for the movie being a failure in my eyes. The script really lets her down and didn’t give me an emotional connection to this unpleasant girl who becomes a star even though she shows no sign of talent. Finally realizing her Hollywood dream, Daisy is always brooding and unhappy. We know it is because Hollywood is trying to change her, but the screenwriter never gives her a scene to explain herself or to fight back. Even Daisy’s breakdown scene in a recording booth where she is looping dialog over and over is a bust. Perhaps if Wood just went over the top she would have rivaled Patty Duke’s breakdown-in-the-gutter scene in Valley of the Dolls.
Christopher Plummer is no help either playing a stone cold movie mogul who discovers Daisy. But a handsome young Robert Redford as a closeted matinee idol and the always amusing Ruth Gordon as Daisy’s wacky mother almost, but not quite, make up for Natalie Wood’s miscasting. She and this movie are just painful to watch.