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In 1963 producer Alan J. Pakula and director Robert Mulligan scored a hit with Love With the Proper Stranger, starring Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen and Wood's performance earned her an Academy Award nomination. Two years later, Wood re-united with Mulligan and Pakula on a project that had personal resonance for her - Inside Daisy Clover (1965). Daisy Clover is a teenager during the thirties who goes from a tough-talking urchin living with her batty mother (Ruth Gordon) in a seedy beach town, to a Hollywood star, "America's Little Valentine." But she finds it's a nightmare instead of a fairy tale. The dark side of the Hollywood dream is represented by a manipulative studio boss (Christopher Plummer) and his deceptively serene wife (Katharine Bard), and by Daisy's disastrous romance with a self-absorbed star (Robert Redford).
Wood herself was a Hollywood rarity, a child star who seemed to have made the transition to adult stardom gracefully and effortlessly. But her apparently-ideal marriage to actor Robert Wagner had ended in scandal when she began an affair with Warren Beatty, her co-star in Splendor in the Grass (1961). That had also ended, and although Wood was a huge star, she did not have the lasting personal relationship she craved, just like the title character of Inside Daisy Clover. Wood loved Gavin Lambert's script for the film, which he adapted from his own novel. Lambert became a close friend of the actress during filming and recalled her saying, "at every key moment of Daisy's life, she's alone!" That insight, along with Wood's own experiences as a child star, added layers to her performance.
Unlike Wood, Robert Redford was a relative newcomer to Hollywood. Inside Daisy Clover was his third film. He had recently starred in a Broadway hit, Barefoot in the Park, and was being touted as the next big movie star. Redford's handlers warned him against taking the role of the homosexual Wade Lewis in Inside Daisy Clover. But it would be one of Redford's first important roles, and he wanted to do it. However, before he would accept the part, he insisted on a rewrite so that the character's sexuality would be less overt. And he played Wade Lewis as narcissistic, rather than sexually ambivalent. But to Redford's dismay, a scene was added after the principal shooting was completed that spelled out the character's sexual preference. Nevertheless, Redford's performance earned excellent reviews and won him a Golden Globe award as a "Star of the Future." Redford went on to make another film with Natalie Wood, This Property Is Condemned (1966).
Ruth Gordon, who played Daisy's mother, was primarily a stage actress and writer, and had not appeared in a film since Action in the North Atlantic (1943). However, Gordon was a good friend of Natalie Wood's, and the two women had always wanted to work together. Although studio head Jack Warner wanted a big movie name to play Daisy's mother, Wood fought for Gordon, and finally got her way. The performance won Gordon an Oscar nomination. Inside Daisy Clover was also nominated for art direction & costume design.
In spite of the strong performances and attention to period detail, Inside Daisy Clover was hurt, perhaps fatally, by having 21 minutes cut before release. As a result, it was criticized for having a split personality - was it a satire of the era it depicted, thanks to Lambert's clever script and deliciously campy production numbers (songs by Andre and Dory Previn, and choreography by future director Herbert Ross), or was it a melodrama? At the time, the film failed to find an audience. But over the years, Inside Daisy Clover has won a cult following. It contains one of Natalie Wood's most heartfelt performances, and one of Robert Redford's most nuanced ones, a milestone in his early career.
Director: Robert Mulligan
Producer: Alan J. Pakula
Screenplay: Gavin Lambert, based on his novel
Editor: Aaron Stell
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Costume Design: Bill Thomas, Edith Head
Art Direction: Dean Tavoularis; set decoration, George James Hopkins
Music: Andre Previn; lyrics, Dory Previn
Cast: Natalie Wood (Daisy Clover), Christopher Plummer (Raymond Swan), Robert Redford (Wade Lewis), Roddy McDowall (Walter Baines), Ruth Gordon (The Dealer), Katharine Bard (Melora Swan).
by Margarita Landazuri