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Otto Preminger: Anatomy of a Movie

Sunday, November 29, 2009
5:30 p.m. Daisy Kenyon
Otto Preminger (U.S., 1947)

Studio Vault Print

Daisy Kenyon is a delirious melodrama, tipping toward noir. Joan Crawford—with Mildred Pierce just behind her—takes on determined Daisy, a successful illustrator living solo in New York who has grown weary of her affair with Dan O’Mara (Dana Andrews), an arrogant Park Avenue attorney. Henry Fonda’s damaged war vet, Peter Lapham, soon appears and whisks her away to wifery. From this stock-sounding threesome, Preminger builds an off-kilter “women’s film” that stumbles like a broken high heel. The staggering truth is that Daisy, strong-willed and deliberate, is just as vulnerable as her lurching lovers, equally undone by circumstance. To sway things further, Preminger permeates the plot with unexpected social crises: a high-society wife who beats her children, Fonda’s unbalanced vet with PTSD, and a court case defending a Japanese American as the war recedes. An emotionally turbulent film built on surprising detail—if you can only see one early Preminger, pick Daisy.

—Steve Seid

• Written by David Hertz, based on the novel by Elizabeth Janeway. Photographed by Leon Shamroy. With Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews, Henry Fonda, Ruth Warrick. (99 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Criterion Pictures/20th Century Fox)