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Thursday, January 17, 2019

'Inside Daisy Clover' DVD: Natalie Wood Channels Judy Garland

The Warner Archive November 20, 2018 DVD release of the 1965 Natalie Wood drama "Inside Daisy Clover" evokes memories of the gritty "tell it like it is" films, such as "Easy Rider" (1969) and "Five Easy Pieces" (1970). of the era. The larger picture is that "Daisy" arguably is a brutal semi-fictionalized portrait of Judy Garland and of Wood herself to a lesser extent. Wood being 26 when she makes this film about America's 15 year-old "little Valentine" is the smoking gun regarding this theory.

Although Ruth Gordon only receives an Oscar nomination for her perfect portrayal of the senile mother of Clover, that role nets her a Golden Globe. Cast member Robert Redford gets a Golden Globe for "Most Promising Newcomer - Male" for his role as macho man movie star Wade Lewis, who is fond of beards. It is interesting that Redford is two years older than Wood but plays a character who is roughly a decade older than Clover. 

The following YouTube clip of a '60stastic trailer for "Daisy" uses an entertaining apt newsreel tone to convey the "True Hollywood Story" aspect of the film.

"Daisy" opens in August 1936 with Angel Beach, California tough street kid Clover telling the audience that it is her 15th birthday; the graffiti that she adds to the wall against which she is slouching reflects her disdain for her older sister Gloria; a latter scene establishes that marrying up is the chosen route of Gloria to escape the trailer-trash existence of Clover and their mother.

Other glimpses of the "before she was a star" life of Daisy include her hilarious fending off the advances of her horny teen boy friend. We also see Gordon just now reporting the disappearance of her long-absent husband. The rationale for this delay is one of the best lines in this well-written film by Alan J. Pakula ("To Kill A Mockingbird") and Robert Mulligan ("Mockingbird" and "Summer of '42".) 

Stardom literally arrives on the doorstep of the double-wide that Daisy and her mother share when Hollywood producer Raymond Swan (Christopher Plummer) sends a limousine to deliver Daisy to a screen test in response to a record of herself that she submits as an entry in a talent contest.

The realities of fame soon set in for Daisy. Gloria swoops in to get a piece of the action; Ma gets shipped off to Shady Pines, and Swan invents a new life story for his latest discovery. This is not to mention coercing Daisy into adapting her private life to conform with her public image. A notable scene in which the studio goes well beyond having Daisy wearing a Kansas farm girl outfit and toting (pun intended) a terrier is one of the most memorable in this exceptional film, 

Redford showing up at just the right place and time leads to sweeping away Daisy; sadly, in true Hollywood style, the honeymoon period is cut short. Additional trauma and drama pushes our starlet closer to the edge.

All of this climaxes with the dam breaking; the final scenes truly show the price of fame. 

The appeal of all this is that both Daisy and the audience learn a moral. Resenting a celebrity for earning far more in a few months than most of us earn in a lifetime is reasonable. We must remember that, especially in this Internet Age and #MeToo era, that that compensation includes payment for sacrificing any privacy and for never dropping a facade, Tom Cruise deserves tremendous credit for never responding to a cry of "show me the money" by showing that moron the finger. 

Archive lightens the mood by including the 1964 Road Runner cartoon "War and Pieces" as a DVD extra. The epic name for this outing is apt based on it being the last Chuck Jones cartoon for Warner Bros until the '80s. The cleverness of the variations on the theme of traps backfiring on Wile E. Coyote are too amusing to spoil. Suffice it to say that Jones goes way beyond our villain holding a stick of dynamite when it explodes. 

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