Daisy Kenyon

Lately, I've been interested in films which pose the question of both typicality and exceptional quality. Maybe speaks as much to my position as a cinephile who's also interested in non-evaluative historical explanation. And certainly some film scholars, such as Thomas Schatz or Paul Willemen, articulate the paradox in novel ways. Further, as my post on Underworld, suggests, as I expand my viewing I keep seeing good examples.

Daisy Kenyon (Fox, Otto Preminger) is just such a film. On one hand, it is a typical Fox approach to the woman's melodrama, with somber tone, and understated formal choices to match (the studio's understated formal choices are not always better ones, I should add: I much prefer The Lawless to Gentleman's Agreement). On the other hand, it is a Preminger film, when Preminger was arguably at his best. Great cinematography, fluid camerawork, and most of all a deft hand in directing three stars (Crawford, Fonda, and Dana Andrews) who don't naturally meld into a coherent diegetic universe. Like Fox's George Apley, Daisy Kenyon was a pleasant surprise, a revelation even.

What's even more relevatory was how much social problem content the film took up. The returning veteran, child abuse, and anti-Nissei discrimination: there was actually more topical content than films classified as social problem films. In some ways, these are as superficial as a McGuffin, but no matter: what's interesting was the reach of the social problem mentality in Fox's house style, so that it inflected films across genre lines. Mind you, I still have not tracked down the Fox musicals, which may hold out as the exception.


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