Hot off the success of The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon, Peter Bogdanovich elegantly directs the surprisingly bland Daisy Miller. Based on Henry Miller’s novel of the same name, the author was always interested in the social conventions of his day, Daisy Miller examines the fortunes of a young American woman on a European tour. As with much of Miller’s work, this isn’t a happy story.

In 1878, at a Swiss spa, upper-class expatriate American Frederick Winterbourne (Barry Brown) is traveling with his disapproving aunt (Mildred Natwick). There, he meets pretty, empty headed Daisy Miller (Cybill Shepherd), someone who revolts against America’s Victorian society with her brash forward behavior; her demanding, intolerant younger brother Randolph (James McMurtry); and her giddy, hypochondriac (Cloris Leachman). As they traverse Europe, the Miller family proves that wealth doesn’t necessarily equate to class.

Ever the flirt, Daisy takes great pleasure in ruffling Winterbourne’s starchy feathers, oblivious to the fact that she has succeeded in merely confounding him. When the two meet again in Rome, Winterbourne’s cautious courtship of Daisy is affected by the staunch social conventions of both families. Daisy doesn’t give a wit about social graces, while Frederick is ruled by them. Though there’s clearly an attraction between the two, the relationship is continuously stalled by the misunderstanding of gestures.

Marking the end of Peter Bogdanovich’s winning streak, Daisy Miller is flat and uninteresting. The film looks great, but the story never connects on an emotional level. Bogdanovich was criticized for casting his girlfriend, model turned actress Cybill Shepherd in the title role. Those criticisms are justified. Simply miscast, Shepherd manages to recite lots of dialogue in a breathless manner. While she has some obvious charm, Shepherd fails to imbibe Daisy with even an ounce of sympathy. It’s a shame, because the rest of the cast is very good: Barry Brown handles his role well, though he has little personality. Duilio Del Prete as the gregarious Mr. Giovanelli, Eileen Brennan as the disapproving Mrs. Walker, Mildred Natwick as Fredericks’ similarly conservative aunt Mrs. Costello, and George Morfogen as the manservant Eugenio.

Daisy Miller has potential as a portrait of individuality and irreverence among the rich. Unfortunately, Peter Bogdanovich feels to capture the subtlety present in Henry James’ novel. A bomb at the box office when it was released in 1974, Peter Bogdanovich’s career as a director never really recovered.

Kino Lorber’s recent Blu-ray does a great job of showcasing the impressive sets and Oscar nominated wardrobe. Albert Spagnoli’s cinematography is an obvious standout. The smallest details, like the stitching on Daisy’s outfits, come through with great clarity. Black levels are deep and inky throughout. Colors are strong and provide fine contrast. No scratches or other anomalies are present.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track initially sounds a bit eroded where dialogue sounds soft. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between. The score sounds nicely balanced throughout.

English SDH subtitles are available.

The following extras are included:

  • NEW!! Remembering Daisy Miller: Interview with Star Cybill Shepherd (10:14)
  • NEW!! Audio Commentary by Film Historian and Critic Peter Tonguette
  • Audio Commentary by Director Peter Bogdanovich
  • Introduction by Director Peter Bogdanovich (12:45)
  • Theatrical Trailer
Daisy Miller (1974)
3.3 Reviewer