Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dana Andrews Blogathon begins here!

The Blogathan is now!
Check out my post below and then click on the links to the posts by other bloggers to get their take on Dana Andrews and his films. Be sure to leave comments on the various posts and let us know what you think!

“Hello, Honey Bunch”—Dana Andrews in Daisy Kenyon
Daisy Kenyon, based on the best-selling novel by Elizabeth Janeway, is one of many films referred to as “women’s pictures” during Hollywood’s Golden Age. In many ways it fits that genre perfectly, especially with Joan Crawford—“an old hand at being emotionally confused” according to The New York Times review—playing the title role. However, in director Otto Preminger’s hands, it’s so much more, with the male protagonists, Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews, also grabbing the spotlight. Of the two, Andrews has the more complex and challenging role. He brings a sense of humanity to a character who may or may not deserve it.

Crawford at the top of the triangle
An obtuse triangle
Andrews plays prominent attorney, Dan O’Mara who is married to Lucile (Ruth Warrick). They have two daughters Rosmund (Peggy Ann Garner) and Marie (Connie Marshall). O’Mara leads a double life: On the one hand he’s a family man, and on the other he’s a philandering husband carrying on an affair with Daisy (Crawford), a single career woman. The relationship is a strained one primarily because O’Mara refuses to divorce his wife and marry Daisy. Daisy is torn between her love for Dan and her desire for a relationship that doesn’t need to be kept secret. To complicate matters further, Daisy meets World War II veteran, Peter Lapham (Fonda) who immediately proposes marriage. Daisy accepts his proposal and the two are married. But it’s Daisy’s complicated relationship with Dan that is the most intriguing.

Adored and despised
Trouble in the O’Mara household
As the wayward husband, Andrews is charming, lively, and exciting. It’s easy to understand how Daisy might be attracted to Dan. And why else would she put up with all the complications—although they’re starting to wear her down as the movie begins—that he brings with him. Dan is the perfect chameleon. When he is with his two daughters—who adore him—he’s seemingly thoughtful and loving. At the office he is authoritative, but still charming. One look at the adoring expression of his secretary Marsha (Victoria Horne) and you know this is true. Dan’s relationship with Lucile is chilly at best, if not downright cold. One senses from their early interactions that the marriage was probably on the rocks before Dan began his affair with Daisy. Dan’s law partner is Lucile’s father. Did Dan marry Lucile to advance his career? Now that he’s a high-powered New York attorney, is Dan bored with his wife and family? To make things more complicated (and interesting), Dan takes on an unpopular case. He defends a Japanese-American veteran who had his home and property taken from him while he was serving overseas. Dan calls it as he sees it, a clear act of prejudice. An injustice that should not be ignored. Like many characters in Preminger films, no one is all bad.

Daisy and  Dan: It's complicated
An man of contradictions
In his review of the film in the Times, Thomas M. Pryor said “As the philandering father, Dana Andrews gives a performance that is full of vitality and technical grace, but it lacks authority, Mr. Andrews, somehow, just doesn’t appear to be the type.” But that’s exactly the point. Andrews’s O’Mara is a man of contradictions. He’s conflicted and extremely unhappy. It’s pretty obvious that Daisy wasn’t his first extramarital affair. On the surface, O’Mara seems to be a man in control, but in his solitary moments, Andrews’s facial expressions reveal Dan’s inner conflict, his sorrow. When he finally leaves his wife and dissolves his partnership, Dan seems happy at last. Lucile, bitter over the way she’s been treated, sues Dan for divorce and sole custody of their daughters and drags Daisy into the suit accusing her of alienation of affections. To spare Daisy from the ugly court proceedings, Dan gives in to Lucile’s demands. He gives up his daughters. In Dan’s mixed up mind, he somehow thinks Daisy will divorce Peter and marry him. That’s one complicated plot line, even for the movies! 

Reel life and real life converge
Dan at the Stork Club with Leonard Lyons
and check out John Garfield on the left!
Even though Dan is pretty much a heel, we sympathize with him. As noted earlier, characters in Preminger films are often neither heroes nor villains, but something in between. Preminger and screenwriter David Hertz give Andrews plenty to work with. When he’s stalking Daisy at her apartment, the lighting is low and shadowy. Small things like taking a swig from a quart of milk while he’s waiting in the hallway outside Daisy’s empty apartment is a great little bit that Andrews pulls off with natural ease. Andrews and Fonda brilliantly underplay the interactions between their characters. They act almost like best friends and fraternity brothers vying for the same girl in college. Preminger has Dan mingle with some real-life New York characters like Walter Winchel, Leonard Lyons, and Damon Runyon at the Stork Club (recreated on a Twentieth Century-Fox sound stage). If you look carefully as the camera scans the Stork Club bar, you’ll get a glimpse of John Garfield, who supposedly, was filming Gentleman’s Agreement at the time, and did the cameo as a favor to Preminger. And you’ve got to love the way Andrews calls everyone “Honey Bunch.” Andrews makes it all seem real and plausible—Dan O’Mara knows these folk! 

Dan is looking pretty grim.
A broken man
The film concludes when the three have a showdown of sorts at Daisy and Peter’s New England cottage. By this time, Daisy has decided that life with Peter may not be as exciting or passionate as it was with Dan, but she has a better chance at happiness with a man like Peter. Dan, not accustomed to losing in court or in love, is devastated. He’s finally made the decision to divorce his wife and the woman he wants doesn’t want him. The picture of Dan in the backseat of the cab as he’s about to leave the cottage is one of deep hurt and despair. He’s given up his marriage, his daughters, his law partnership and he’s left with nothing. He’s a truly broken man.

Backstory: According to Andrews’s daughter, Susan, in the documentary Life in the Shadows—The Making of Daisy Kenyon, Andrews only made the film because he knew Fox would sue him for breach of contract if he didn’t. His daughter thought it was a good role for him, but suspects because his character doesn’t get the girl at the end he didn’t want to star in it. Crawford, on loan from Warner Brothers, requested and got both Fonda and Andrews to star opposite her. Obviously too old for the role, Crawford wanted the audience (and studio executives) to believe that she could still play the types of roles that made her a star at M-G-M when she was still in her twenties.

Backlot mystery
Check out the movies playing in Daisy’s neighborhood—the Fox backlot. Mr. Lucky is the main feature starring Cary Grant and Laraine Day. The second feature is The Woman in the Window starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett, but we only see Robinson’s name on the marquee. Daisy Kenyon opened at the Roxy in New York on Christmas Day 1947. Mr. Lucky was released in 1943 and The Woman in the Window  was released in 1944. Both films would have been at least two years old when Daisy Kenyon was released. Neither film is a Fox production. Mr. Lucky and The Woman in the Window  were released by RKO, not Fox. One wonders how those two films ended up playing in Daisy’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. 

Noir classic?
Fox has included Daisy Kenyon in its “Film Noir” DVD collection, which is an odd fit considering it doesn’t quite match that genre. The film incorporates some noir techniques like the great shadowy cinematography by award-winning director of photography, Leon Shamroy. Some suspect this technique was used to soften Crawford’s features and make her appear younger than she was; Crawford and Fonda were both 42 years old when the film was released, Andrews, the baby of the group, was 38.

Check out the great posts on Dana Andrews below. Click on the respective links to read them. Enjoy!

Another Old Movie Blog and its take on Swamp Water (1941). Is this Dana’s first breakout performance?

They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To takes on Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956). Will you have doubts after you read this post? 

Speakeasy serves up Fallen Angel (1945). Can a fallen angel be redeemed by love?

Carl Rollyson, author of the new biography releasing this September, Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews gives his short take on A Walk in the Sun (1945). Is it the best World War II film ever made?

bettiwettiwoo makes us take another look at Laura (1944), as if you had to twist our arms to do so!

Once Upon a Screen reviews The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Is this Dana’s best film role?

Bobby Rivers TV takes a look at the career of Dana Andrews in Overlooked by Oscars: Dana Andrews and shares how Andrews’s performance in The Best Years of Our Lives impacted his life.

Paula’s Cinema Club examines Boomerang! a film totally dependent on Dana carrying the movie. Does he deliver the goods?

The Shades of Black and White blog reviews State Fair. Is this musical version better than the original or the 1962 remake?

What Happened to Hollywood takes a look at the gritty Where the Sidewalk Ends. Another great collaboration between Andrews and director Otto Preminger.

Cinema_Fanatic pictures Laura, another take on the classic. Is this a fair portrait?

Immortal Ephemera shows some mettle with The Purple Heart. Dana heads a strong cast in this WW II classic.

Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings on Wing and a Prayer. Did Dana reach new heights with this role?