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According to his daughter, director Otto Preminger had a choice – direct Daisy Kenyon or get sued by the studio. While he may not have initially wanted to take on the film noir, he nevertheless poured himself into the picture, working months in advance with the star, Joan Crawford, going over the script page by page.
He said, “I enjoyed working with Miss Crawford. We were alike because we were both people who tried hard. There are some people who scorn those who seem to be trying too hard. Miss Crawford and I were people who believed there was no such thing as trying too hard.”
1. Other stars were considered.
20th Century Fox originally wanted Jennifer Jones or Gene Tierney to star, especially after she had found box office success with Laura and Leave Her to Heaven. At a party, Joan Crawford expressed interest in the part to studio head Darryl Zanuck, and she was loaned out from MGM for the lead. Co-star Ruth Warrick said, “She begged on her knees to get the role. She had recently won an Academy Award for Mildred Pierce, in which she played her first mother part, and now she wanted to prove to the industry that she still could be convincing in a younger role.” Allegedly, the film noir’s dark lighting was to hide Crawford’s age.
2. Crawford picked her co-stars.
Joan wanted Dana Andrews and Henry Fonda for her male leads, and Fonda’s part was expanded after he accepted. She said, “When I heard that I would be working with Henry Fonda... that was chocolate frosting on a chocolate cake. He was an extraordinary actor and a lovely man. And Dana Andrews, an underestimated actor who wasn't fully appreciated because his style was to underplay, which is so difficult.” Interestingly, Andrews wanted to play Fonda’s role instead.
3. Crawford had a crush on Fonda.
Perhaps that’s why she wanted him to be her co-star. Either way, Joan decided to make a pass at him while he carried her up the stairs in a scene. His reaction wasn’t what she expected. “He almost dropped me down the stairs,” she remembered. “He was just the kind of man I liked. He was not only so handsome, but he was a wonderful artist. I admired his drawings and paintings. He was so talented as an artist as he was an actor.”
4. A film noir star has a cameo.
Daisy Kenyon features a scene in the well-known, celebrity hot spot the Stork Club. The actual set was a replica, and Otto Preminger wanted stars to appear in the background. Walter Winchell and columnist Leonard Lyons appeared, as did John Garfield, who was working on Gentleman’s Agreement at the time. Keep an eye out for him at the bar!