Posted by: reederwi | August 13, 2010

Ruth Gordon, Inside Daisy Clover (1965)

The 1965 film Inside Daisy Clover, directed by Robert Mulligan and adapted for the screen by Gavin Lambert from his own satirical 1963 novel, tells the story of a teenaged tomboy named Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood) who dreams of hitting it big in 1930’s Hollywood. Daisy, who is a troubled adolescent, lives along the beach in sunny California with her mother (Ruth Gordon), who is a dealer of tarot cards. All of Daisy’s dreams come true when she is suddenly discovered by the well-known film producer, Raymond Swan (Christopher Plummer). Once Daisy hits the big time, she is forced to deal with the pressures of her overnight success- including the sudden placement of her eccentric mother into a psychiatric hospital. Daisy finds comfort in another Hollywood star, Wade Lewis (Rober Redford) and soon the two are out partying night after night. Daisy and Wade decide to get married and this angers the impatient Swan because he feels that the marriage will serve as a disruption to his starlet’s career. On their honeymoon, Wade disappears quite mysteriously, leaving Daisy with many unanswered questions. Daisy returns to Swan’s house where she finds his wife, Melora (Katharine Bard). Melora breaks the news to Daisy that her Hollywood heartthrob husband is actually a closeted homosexual. Daisy springs her mom from the hospital and heads out to the beach to live. Shortly after her mother’s death, Daisy’s life falls into a tailspin and soon she makes several attempts at ending her own life. In a fit of rage, Daisy takes her career and her life, into her own hands.

The film had two major things going for it, yet it failed on both fronts. First, ace director Robert Mulligan could not recreate the success for Inside Daisy Clover that he had achieved just three years earlier with his classic film To Kill a Mockingbird. Second,  Inside Daisy Clover was supposed to serve as a vehicle that would bring Natalie Wood her first Best Actress Oscar. After two unsuccessful Best Actress nominations- in 1961 for Splendor in the Grass and 1963 for Love With the Proper Stranger, Wood seemed destined for Oscar gold with her star turn in this film. But Wood’s luck ran out and she failed to even receive a nomination. In the end, the film did receive three Oscar nominations- two in technical categories for Best Art Direction and Best Costumes, respectively. The third nomination for the film went to Ruth Gordon, nominee, (150) as Daisy’s looney fortune telling mother known simply as “The Dealer.” While lovably off-kilter, Gordon’s presence in the film was less than remarkable. The candidly cooky eccentric character that the 69 year old Gordon played in this film was a foreshadowing of what was to come just three years later- a decidedly similar, yet more ferociously pitch-perfect performance in Roman Polanski’s brilliantly macabre Rosemary’s Baby- for which Gordon took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1968.  Gordon lost the Oscar this year to Shelley Winters in A Patch of Blue.

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