Tuesday, April 22, 2008

When I saw Daisy Kenyon a few weeks ago, I thought it was not just Otto Preminger's best film noir, but his best film. Putting his considerable craft to use in enlivening a Joan Crawford love triangle in which the corners (Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews) are regarded as partners worthy of her respect and therefore ours, he comes closest to satisfying David Denby's wildest dreams about his ecumenicism. Daisy Kenyon would be memorable just for the rare opportunity of watching Crawford play a human being of warmth and grace without telegraphing semaphores of empathy with her Eyebrows of Death to the lady in the very back row of the theatre; it may be the most attractive performance I've seen of hers. Matt Zoller Seitz:

Crawford never seems like she's slumming in these parts. She treats "working girls" with respect, embodying their hopes, their dreams, their small pride in possessions, their sadness. Crawford came from nothing herself, and her trip to the top was probably interspersed with many questionable choices. She understood compromise. She knew what it took to make it. So when I see her in Daisy Kenyon putting on a smock to get to work, fluffing up her couch pillows, crying because she's had a fight with O'Mara or lying in bed disgruntled because Peter didn't call when he was supposed to, I am not aware of Crawford the actress acting. I see Daisy Kenyon doing the best she can, trying to work things out.
And Dana Andrews is a wonder. This man got not one Oscar nomination, yet in films like this, Where The Sidewalk Ends, Fallen Angel, and The Best Years of Our Lives, he's the most believable man-of-the-world of forties cinema.

I won't go so far as to agree with James Wolcott that Daisy Kenyon surpasses Laura, but it's the work of a man whose flirtation with humanism allowed room for an irony that had no use for Douglas Sirk's paintbox colours and outsized Brechtian gestures.

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