The greatness of this film is found in the way it handles, examines, and explores a love crisis—sans melodrama or excitement or explosive tension. The pace of the editing is steady, the movement of the camera is smooth, the music is balanced, and the faces, expressions, and gestures of the main actors (Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews, Henry Fonda) are even. Nothing in the film overheats, overflows, or blows up. Yet the heart of Daisy Kenyon is a time of trouble—a single fashion illustrator, Daisy Kenyon (Crawford), has had enough of a love affair with a married man (Andrews), a successful lawyer. She wants him to finally make a hard decision: divorce his wife and marry her, or stay with his wife and end the affair.
Daisy also has a lover on the side, a traumatized war veteran (Fonda). The lawyer is the father of two young women. His daughters hate their mother, who is a mess of emotions and the only adult in the film who acts like a child. The lawyer, the fashion illustrator, and the soldier go through this crisis (the men love the woman, the woman loves the men) with grace and composure. Only once does the lawyer lose his cool, but he soon apologizes for the unpleasant and unnecessary episode. Only once does Daisy lose her mind and crash the car, but her head immediately clears and her reason is restored. Only once does the soldier have a bad dream, but he comes out of it quickly and gets a grip on himself.
There are no bad people in this film. Each of the main characters has a flaw, a strength, and, most important of all, a profound understanding of the complexities of love. The movie ends with a long kiss. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Jan 13 at 7:30 pm.