Daisy Miller (1974)

Daisy Miller (1974)


In the 1800s, a forward-thinking American woman, “Daisy” Miller (Cybill Shepherd, The Heartbreak Kid), shocks Europe’s high society with her flirtatious behavior. Despite (or maybe because of) her odd attitude, an American expatriate (Barry Brown, Piranha) finds himself drawn to feisty “Daisy”.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Handsome adaptation of Henry James’s novella, faithfully adapted by Frederic Raphael, and skillfully directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Daisy Miller gets extra points from me for its splendid recreation of the period and meticulous camerawork. Perhaps it is a bit too punctilious for its own good. Still, the characters are a joy and the message of the story — individualism versus conformity — comes across strongly.

Daisy Miller caused serious damage to Bogdanovich’s career. After back-to-back hits — The Last Picture Show, What’s Up Doc? and Paper Moon — Bogdanovich suddenly found himself persona non-grata in Hollywood. It was a notorious box-office flop, which put an end to the newly created The Directors Company (a film company created by directors Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, and William Friedkin).

Critics weren’t enthusiastic about the film either. They accused the filmmaker of nepotism (Bogdanovich and Shepherd were an item in real life) and ridiculed Shepherd’s work. Personally, I thought she did a fine, fine job. Under Bogdanovich’s watchful eyes, Shepherd gives a persuasive performance. Later, the actress got recognition for being a splendid comedienne, and you can see glimpses of her comedic ability here.

Leading actor Barry Brown, who committed suicide a few years after he made the movie, is excellent too. The supporting cast is fantastic. Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein) plays Shepherd’s birdbrained mother. Mildred Natwick (The Quiet Man) steals every scene she’s in as Brown’s snobbish aunt. Eileen Brennan (Private Benjamin) plays a socialite and shes’ great too.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Daisy Miller is definitely better than its reputation suggests. I can sort of see why audiences rejected the movie — it’s a subdued, low-paced costumer, not the kind of thing blockbusters are made of. But it is a rather intelligent approach to Henry James’s well-regarded novella and much much better than Bogdanovich’s subsequent work. Color, 91 minutes, Rated G.

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