Colorful, atmospheric 1930s Hollywood saga still has flaws. 3.5 Stars

The snake pit that was the Hollywood studio system of the 1930s gets a fine if flawed representation in Robert Mulligan’s acerbic comedy-drama Inside Daisy Clover.

Inside Daisy Clover (1965)
Released: 27 Apr 1966
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 128 min
Director: Robert Mulligan
Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
Cast: Natalie Wood, Christopher Plummer, Robert Redford, Ruth Gordon
Writer(s): Gavin Lambert (novel), Gavin Lambert (screenplay)
Plot: A tomboy turned movie star deals with the cruelty of Hollywood.
IMDB rating: 6.3
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 8 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 05/12/2020
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 3.5/5

The snake pit that was the Hollywood studio system of the 1930s gets a fine if flawed representation in Robert Mulligan’s acerbic comedy-drama Inside Daisy Clover. With a clutch of well-known actors showing us the ins and outs of the star-making system of that era, Inside Daisy Clover leaves an indelible impression even if storylines are sometimes truncated and characterizations are often bowdlerized due to the continuing repressive presence of the Production Code still dictating however feebly the ethics and morals of bygone eras.

Fifteen-year old Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood) has tired of eking out a penny-ante existence selling movie star photos along the boardwalk of Angel Beach, California, forcing her to submit a homemade record of her singing voice to a movie studio seeking new talent. Excited by their discovery, Daisy is sent to a soundstage to make a screen test for the head of the Swan Studio Raymond Swan (Christopher Plummer) who puts her under contract immediately. Because Daisy’s mother (Ruth Gordon) is in the early stages of dementia, her self-serving sister Gloria (Betty Harford) signs a seven-year deal for Daisy who though rebellious against one and all manages to complete her first film Back Lot Kid which is a raging success. But the studio’s tight control over both Daisy’s personal and professional life leads to a series of defiant behaviors including walking out on a performance of Christmas carols with a children’s choir, ditching the premiere of her first movie, and an impromptu marriage to the studio’s leading heartthrob Wade Lewis (Robert Redford), all of which exert pressures on the complex teenager that she finds increasingly hard to deal with.

Gavin Lambert has adapted his novel for the screen and includes many of the events in the life of this plucky, talented teen whose complicated existence seems to echo facets of the lives of former child stars like Judy Garland, Jackie Coogan, and Gloria Jean. Writer Lambert and director Robert Mulligan might have made the screen test sequence a little more elaborate than would otherwise be likely (full costume, set, and make-up for a new song for Daisy “You’re Gonna Hear from Me”), but there is no denying the dizzying impact of Daisy’s press debut (a special presentation of a mammoth production number of the same song we’d just seen in a simpler, purer incarnation) or the push-and-pull influences on the youngster from gorgeous matinee idol Wade Lewis and her demanding boss Raymond Swan whom the pair dub “The Prince of Darkness.” The scenes with Daisy’s introduction to the mysteries of love and sex (on Lewis’ beautiful sailboat and later in an Arizona fleabag motel) are glossed over with too much left for the viewer to piece together in his own mind (we’re aided somewhat by Swan’s wife Melora – Katharine Bard – recounting her own affair with the ambisexual Wade), but the soundstage-set scenes all ring remarkably true leading to the movie’s most harrowing and brilliant sequence: Daisy’s looping the first few measures of her big production number “The Circus Is a Wacky World” in a tiny sound booth which becomes a nightmarish prison forcing her to watch a person she neither likes nor understands leading to her nervous breakdown. A later suicide sequence of slapstick antics seems jarringly opposed to the tone of the latter half of the movie, but it all sets up the film’s denouement, a final rebellious act of a free spirit out to reclaim her own identity.

Natalie Wood was too old to be playing the teenaged Daisy (Patty Duke would have been more appropriate casting), but she gives the role her all and even in some scenes with the proper lights and costumes looks a decade younger than she was at the time. As she did in The Great Race, Jackie Ward dubs most of the singing for Natalie though that is Natalie’s voice in the first four lines of her screen test version of “You’re Gonna Hear from Me,” one of the finest movie songs ever to be snubbed for an Oscar nomination. Christopher Plummer hits all the right notes as viperish studio mogul Raymond Swan. He’s unctuous when he needs to be and cold, calculating, and manipulative at other times. Robert Redford’s Wade Lewis is all charm and glamour on the surface but is the victim of the era when homosexuality could at best only be whispered about on the screen (in a nod to the Production Code, the character is made bisexual in the movie falling into love affairs with both sexes as the spirit moves him). Roddy McDowall has a cryptic role as Swan’s personal assistant always seemingly supercilious to stars whose profits pay his studio salary. Katharine Bard is the sweet-seeming wife of the studio chief forced to swallow her pride in the face of numerous disappointments and betrayals. Ruth Gordon, of course, steals all of her scenes as Daisy’s mother poised on the brink of losing her mind but still just cognizant of events happening around her, an entertaining performance that earned her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The movie is a beautiful thing from beginning to end with vibrant color and lots of details in facial features and in the Oscar-nominated sets and costumes. There are no signs of dust specks, dirt, or scratches, and the entire image simply sparkles.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix has impressive, robust fidelity. Dialogue has been crisply recorded and has been melded perfectly with Andre Previn’s vivid, lacerating score and songs and the various sound effects which punctuate some of the movie’s most splendid scenes. There are no age-related problems with hiss, pops, crackle, or flutter.

Special Features: 1/5

War and Pieces (6:41, SD): a Road Runner cartoon

Theatrical Trailer (3:32, HD)

Overall: 3.5/5

Inside Daisy Clover gives a relatively honest and engrossing look at the Hollywood of the 1930s and features some outstanding actors and production design that looks simply stupendous in high definition.

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Robert Harris

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Wonderfully crafted review!
 
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lionel59

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I agree. I recall one critic saying that it seemed like an adaptation which left out the best bits. Not having read the novel, I can't comment.
As a big fan of Natalie Wood, it is great to see Warner Archive focusing on her this year. I think the songs were the final collaboration between Andre and Dory Previn before an affair with Mia Farrow ended the marriage. Dory wrote a song dealing with her side of the situation which I recall hearing a lot when young. ('Beware of Young Girls')
The 2CD soundtrack of DAISY is great as it has all the incidental/background music as well as various takes of the songs including Natalie's versions. I'm guessing that as in WEST SIDE STORY, she was wanting to do her own vocals.( Someone on YT has married her vocals to the film.) One production number, 'A Happy Song' was deleted from the final cut but is referenced in the musical score. A pity Warners couldn't have searched for the out-take. A must get for me!
 

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I agree. I recall one critic saying that it seemed like an adaptation which left out the best bits. Not having read the novel, I can't comment.
As a big fan of Natalie Wood, it is great to see Warner Archive focusing on her this year. I think the songs were the final collaboration between Andre and Dory Previn before an affair with Mia Farrow ended the marriage. Dory wrote a song dealing with her side of the situation which I recall hearing a lot when young. ('Beware of Young Girls')
The 2CD soundtrack of DAISY is great as it has all the incidental/background music as well as various takes of the songs including Natalie's versions. I'm guessing that as in WEST SIDE STORY, she was wanting to do her own vocals.( Someone on YT has married her vocals to the film.) One production number, 'A Happy Song' was deleted from the final cut but is referenced in the musical score. A pity Warners couldn't have searched for the out-take. A must get for me!
One minor correction, Andre and Dory co-wrote the score to Valley of the Dolls in 1967, two years after this movie. The affair with Mia did not begin until 1968 when Andre was in London conducting the symphony orchestra. A year later, Dore discovered Mia was pregnant and that pretty much ended their marriage. Dory suffered a minor breakdown, got over it, and went on to write independently of her ex, producing and singing a decade's worth of albums from 1970-80. She died in 2012. He, in 2019. Mia survives them both.
 

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One minor correction, Andre and Dory co-wrote the score to Valley of the Dolls in 1967, two years after this movie. The affair with Mia did not begin until 1968 when Andre was in London conducting the symphony orchestra. A year later, Dore discovered Mia was pregnant and that pretty much ended their marriage. Dory suffered a minor breakdown, got over it, and went on to write independently of her ex, producing and singing a decade's worth of albums from 1970-80. She died in 2012. He, in 2019. Mia survives them both.
Thanks for the correction, Nick.
 

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The 2CD soundtrack of DAISY is great as it has all the incidental/background music as well as various takes of the songs including Natalie's versions. I'm guessing that as in WEST SIDE STORY, she was wanting to do her own vocals.( Someone on YT has married her vocals to the film.) One production number, 'A Happy Song' was deleted from the final cut but is referenced in the musical score. A pity Warners couldn't have searched for the out-take. A must get for me!
That 2-CD soundtrack album is a MUST for fans of the film. It's wonderful hearing Natalie's versions of the songs (and "A Happy Song" really grows on you with repeated listens) which helps one understand why they needed to bring in Jackie Ward.
 
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One of my favorite films and of course the Blu-ray is lost in Brooklyn , shipping wise. :-(
 

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That 2-CD soundtrack album is a MUST for fans of the film. It's wonderful hearing Natalie's versions of the songs (and "A Happy Song" really grows on you with repeated listens) which helps one understand why they needed to bring in Jackie Ward.
Which makes it all the more ironic they let her do her own singing in Gypsy.
 

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Which makes it all the more ironic they let her do her own singing in Gypsy.
It works in Gypsy. Louise isn't supposed to be talented, and the songs fit Natlie's timbre quite well. Daisy is supposed to be a knockout singer which Natalie clearly wasn't, so they had to use a dubber. It's not that Natalie couldn't carry a tune, but her voice was untrained and her inability to breathe property or sustain in the right places points up her untrained voice.
 

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Clip dubbed with Natalie Wood's Voice

The above song as it is in the movie dubbed by Jackie Ward


This clip points out when it is Natalie and when it is Jackie Ward singing.
 
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Clip dubbed with Natalie Wood's Voice

This clip points out when it is Natalie and when it is Jackie Ward singing.
I appreciate your uploading these to make them a part of the review thread. The second one especially points up the differences in acting the song with a passable voice (Natalie) and singing the song full out (Jackie).
 

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I'm a big Natalie fan, but her singing is terrible. I've never understood how she couldn't hear how bad it was. Perhaps she was tone deaf. That would explain why she couldn't sing well nor hear how inept her attempts were.
 

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I'm a big Natalie fan, but her singing is terrible. I've never understood how she couldn't hear how bad it was. Perhaps she was tone deaf. That would explain why she couldn't sing well nor hear how inept her attempts were.
Well, I guess I'm tone death too.
 

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I didn't think Natalie sounded that badly to be honest with you.
As I mentioned earlier, it's not that she can't hit the notes, but her untrained voice is unsteady; she can't place it properly or consistently to emphasize the right words, phrases or notes that she wants to impart. And she's supposed to be this knockout singer with the voice of a Judy Garland, so it never would have worked.

I was just listening tonight to a clip on YouTube with Cyd Charisse singing (in her own voice) "It's a Chemical Reaction, That's All" from Silk Stockings. (She's dubbed in the film by Carole Richards.) She hits (most of) the notes, but you can tell she hasn't a clue where to emphasize words or phrases to get the lyrics imparted properly.
 

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One minor correction, Andre and Dory co-wrote the score to Valley of the Dolls in 1967, two years after this movie. The affair with Mia did not begin until 1968 when Andre was in London conducting the symphony orchestra. A year later, Dore discovered Mia was pregnant and that pretty much ended their marriage. Dory suffered a minor breakdown, got over it, and went on to write independently of her ex, producing and singing a decade's worth of albums from 1970-80. She died in 2012. He, in 2019. Mia survives them both.
Well, let me correct the correction - they did not write the "score" for Valley of the Dolls, they wrote some songs. The score was by Johnny Williams aka John Williams.
 

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It works in Gypsy. Louise isn't supposed to be talented, and the songs fit Natlie's timbre quite well. Daisy is supposed to be a knockout singer which Natalie clearly wasn't, so they had to use a dubber. It's not that Natalie couldn't carry a tune, but her voice was untrained and her inability to breathe property or sustain in the right places points up her untrained voice.
I agree Matt. Like Audrey Hepburn in FUNNY FACE, Natalie got away with her own voice in GYPSY. She speaks a good deal of her final version of Let Me Entertain You and her first version is meant to be a bit awkward and unprofessional. Some souces say Marni Nixon helped her out with some notes for 'Little Lamb'. I believe Marni denied that, so maybe another singer. Her attempts to sing in WEST SIDE STORY are more embarrassing than her efforts as DAISY. Terrific actress who mimed well to others. Back then, we got the best possible performances in musicals. Things went downhill when stars were permitted to sing good scores poorly (egs. Clint Eastwood, Lucille Ball, Sophia Loren).
For those interested, here is a comprehensive list of film dubbing talent:
 

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Looking at the above clips (Natalie sounded better at the start of the circus song than she did later on), I couldn't help noticing the cinematic conceit in 'You're Gonna Hear From Me'. It begins in the correct ratio for the period but then morphs into full Panavision, with compositions one would not see in the 1.37:1 Academy ratio. (Ironically, when I first saw this on tv in the '70's, that was cropped to a square like the rest of the film). As in other ' 60's movies, the make-up and hairstyles are anachronistic (FUNNY GIRL is guilty of this in a major way. More accurate period detail would not have caused films like these to look so dated).
As the book was said to be loosely based on Judy Garland (Shirley Temple was a bigger child star from this period but she is clearly NOT the basis for this character. Garland also had at least one husband with homosexual leanings), I wonder if she ever made a comment on the book or movie. It occured to me today that two former child stars are in it from a slightly later period: Natalie and Roddy MacDowall. (In WEST SIDE STORY, three of the major performers are ex-child stars, Wood, Beymer and Tamblyn).
The song lost the Oscar to the popular but overplayed Shadow of Your Smile. As big an oversight in my opinion as Three Coins in the Fountain beating out The Man That Got Away and almost the travesty of justice which took place when Talk To The Animals won over its competitors. (The rightful winner IMO, To Sir With Love, was not even nominated that year).
The Circus song is used effectively in DAISY in her breakdown scene, but I have always found it an irritating ditty which gets on my brain. (Someone once wrote that using it in place of water boarding when interrogating terrorists may be effective!).
Another movie released soon after this which was similarly attempting to expose the dark side of Hollywood - THE OSCAR-has also come out on blu ray recently. In comparison, DAISY looks like CITIZEN KANE.
 

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I agree Matt. Like Audrey Hepburn in FUNNY FACE, Natalie got away with her own voice in GYPSY. She speaks a good deal of her final version of Let Me Entertain You and her first version is meant to be a bit awkward and unprofessional. Some souces say Marni Nixon helped her out with some notes for 'Little Lamb'. I believe Marni denied that, so maybe another singer. Her attempts to sing in WEST SIDE STORY are more embarrassing than her efforts as DAISY. Terrific actress who mimed well to others. Back then, we got the best possible performances in musicals. Things went downhill when stars were permitted to sing good scores poorly (egs. Clint Eastwood, Lucille Ball, Sophia Loren).
For those interested, here is a comprehensive list of film dubbing talent:
In "West Side Story", Wood was filmed lip syncing to her own vocals. Marni Nixon's voice was dubbed in post production except for the 'A Boy Like That/I Have A Love' duet. Both Wood and Moreno were deemed not up the task, so Nixon and Betty Wand recorded those vocals prior to filming.