I saw this film once last year, when I was on a Joan Crawford kick. Now I am trying to see every Otto Preminger film that I can find. It is strange how you can see the same film in a different way when you watch it for different reasons.
As a Crawford vehicle, this falls in with other films she was in around the time as a woman torn between two men, or suspicious of the one man she is with. Indeed, a review in the New York Times at the time of Daisy Kenyon’s release surmised that “Miss Crawford is, of course, an old hand at being an emotionally confused and frustrated woman, and she plays the role with easy competence.”
But if you watch Daisy Kenyon as an Otto Preminger film, it is the social taboos that stand out. The biggest taboo dealt with here is adultery, which is at the center of the story, as Crawford plays a successful commercial artist who is having an affair with a married lawyer (Dana Andrews). When she gets married to a G.I. (Henry Fonda), the lawyer just won’t give her up. Unlike with Mildred Pierce, there is not a whole lot of character development for the title character, and it is unclear why these men are so in love with her. The many subplots in the film also deal taboos such as the treatment of Japanese-Americans in wartime America and child abuse.
Near the end of the film, there is a courtroom scene, as the lawyer is divorcing his wife in order to be with Daisy Kenyon. The defense attorney is cross examining Daisy about her relationship with the married man. She responds in a line that is classic Joan Crawford: “I don’t know if you have the legal right to ask such questions, but whether you have or not, I protest them. I protest you as a human being.”