Daisy Kenyon (1946) dir. Otto Preminger
Starring: Joan Crawford, Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews
There's a bit of false advertising labelling "Daisy Kenyon" as a 'Fox Film Noir'. Though it was made by 20th Century Fox, it's not a film noir. It's one of those domestic melodramas, that Douglas Sirk perfected in the 1950's - a so-called 'woman's picture'. In this film Joan Crawford plays a woman torn between two men - Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong. Her head and heart make the decision a difficult choice. The film is no classic and fails to generate much intrigue, excitement or even general interest.
Daisy Kenyon (Joan Crawford) is an artist, a single woman, who's stuck in an affair with a married man, Dan (Dana Andrews). Even though she calls off the affair Dan keeps coming back and Daisy just can't resist. One day a soft-spoken war veteran Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda) enters her life. The courtship is one-sided as Peter expresses his love with unwavering certainty. Daisy is fond of Peter, and some sparks are there, but she still feels something for Dan. Daisy needs to move forward in life and she decides to marry Peter. All is bliss until Dan announces to Daisy he's divorcing his wife Rosamund (Peggy Ann Garner). Daisy is back at square one.
Which guy will she choose, is the central drive of the film. But it's barely strong enough to hang your hat on. Dan is a complete shit, lacking in all moral fibre. He's introduced as a bloodsucking lawyer. When he does decide to take on a case pro bono, it's more of an effort to please Daisy. Peter, on the other hand, is played by Henry Fonda - Nice-guy-personified. Sure, he lacks the fast-paced self-important career of Dan, but he's grounded and secure and everything Daisy needs. Unfortunately Peter is too apathetic about his relationship. He takes no stand, when Dan comes back into her life.
Joan Crawford and Henry Fonda is a great pairing - on paper. But on screen they are like fire and ice. The pieces just don't fit, and their on screen scenes together lack spark. As the lead Crawford is as confident holding the film together as she always is. Few, if any, female stars can match her screen presence - ever. Unfortunately "Daisy Kenyon" is no "Mildred Pierce", or "Flamingo Road"
This is certainly no noir either. There is no threat, violence, danger or intrigue - elements which define the genre. Even as a woman's picture there's just not enough melodramatic juice to whet my appetite. I had the privilege of discovering "Imitation of Life" (click for my review). Watch either the 1934 version or the Douglas Sirk 50's version for a woman's picture that singes your moral extremities. "Daisy Kenyon" is for Joan Crawford fans only.
"Daisy Kenyon" is part of the Fox Film Noir Collection from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment