Princess Daisy (1983)

Get out your schmaltz shovels, my friends, we’re back in the land of Judith Krantz.

This time, we shall spare ourselves the introduction by Krantz herself and take our chances that somehow, collective brains working overtime, we will find a way to understand “Princess Daisy” without her.  I know, it will be a challenge, but let’s do our best.

From the onset, it’s drenched in opulence as American actress Lindsay Wagner is watching an ultra-chic European polo match, though her binoculars are fixed on Russian Prince Stacy Keach (who would find himself in Krantz’s “Mistral’s Daughter” the next year and having a lot more fun).  “When will I see you again?” she asks Stacy, presenting him the winner’s trophy.  This is her very first line to him as well.  Boy, she moves fast!

He in a tuxedo and her in a floor-length gown, they head off to his stables where he asks, “do you believe in love at first sight?” and plants a big kiss on her.  Boy, he moves fast!

They get married in a Russian Orthodox wedding with Lindsay wearing a halter-top dress coated in faux feathers at the center and a veil that looks like cotton candy.  Boy, this movie moves fast!

Next scene, Lindsay has given birth to twins, but there is a problem.  One twin is perfectly fine, but the other has, as the doctor puts it, “permanent retardation,” which makes Stacy pound his fist against a doorjamb.  Sending nurse Sada Thompson out of the room, Stacy decides to lie to Lindsay and tell her the mentally challenged twin died.  “It’s God’s will and we must accept it, but think of Daisy,” he tells her, as if concentrating on one child is going to erase the memory of the other.

During a photo shoot of the family, mopey Sada makes an appearance and Lindsay feels she has to apologize to the photographer for the dear old thing’s behavior.  Sada had been Stacy’s nurse and now the baby’s.  “She’s very…Russian,” Lindsay notes, although that’s not exactly a clear description, but Stacy adds, “you must be patient, she remembers the Tsars…who are more interesting than Louis B. Mayer.”  One might beg to differ on that final point, but I don’t see how any of this really explains Sada’s gloomier-than-Mrs. Danvers attitude.

In a borscht-thick Russian accent, Sada waits until Stacy goes away for a bit to tell Lindsay the other baby is actually alive.  “Stop it, you crazy old woman,” Lindsay bellows, turning in what is easily her worst performance ever, a harsh thing to say since Lindsay has always been so dependable, but sadly true.  Lindsay decides to leave Stacy for this betrayal and surprisingly, Sada decides to go with her.  They are now friends.  We’re 12 minutes into the movie.  Boy, this…yeah, yeah.

Lindsay finds the other baby and hauls both of them, Sada in tow, off to America, where she asks friends to pick her up incognito.  That may not work as Lindsay barrels through the train station in a movie star outfit, huge sunglasses, 60 pieces of matching luggage, a nanny and two infants.  Those are the kind of things that get one noticed.

They years fly by with Stacy having sent Lindsay a zillion letters that have all gone unanswered, thrown to the wind off the cliff at her palatial estate.  Sada is asked by the mentally unchallenged twin why the other is so different and her explanation is downright scary, though honest, especially for a child.  You see, the questioner came out first and the birth of the other was slower, causing her problems.  That leads the child to ask if it’s her fault her sister is not as healthy.  Wow, talk about a guilt trip, unintended or not!    On top of that, money is tight and Lindsay will not return to acting, nor will she go to Stacy for money “until he can accept all three of us.”

Life without his family has sent Prince Stacy into a debauchery, so bad that he wakes up one morning in a London flat, his car rammed almost through the door, in the bed of Claudia Cardinale.  “I’ve been lying here wondering how to start this conversation,” he says before asking her where he is and, more importantly, who she is.  Most importantly, though, he wants to know if he was any good in bed, but she says they never made love, she’s a Mrs. and she’s off to go shopping.  At lunch a few hours later, the two are all starry-eyed.  “Is this really happening?  Can we make each other happy?” Claudia asks.  “You take my breath away,” Stacy replies.  “Here, have some of this lovely toast,” Claudia says, handing the pate-on-toast to Stacy, who bites into it sensually.  Okay, that may work for fruit and champagne in the moonlight, but there is nothing remotely sexual about pate-on-toast in a London pub.

As Stacy and Claudia grow closers (and after sex on the floor), she is told he has a son by a first marriage and a daughter by his second.  Claudia, who oozes charm, can’t penetrate the son’s haughty exterior.  She even finds out he has no desire to ever meet his sister.  An ocean or two away, drinking and fancy schools are not a part of Lindsay’s life.  The mentally challenged sister is to be sent to a nearby and loving special school and Lindsay only speaks to the other daughter when she’s dispensing worldly advice (Sada fills her in on Tsarist Russia).  All of this costs money and Lindsay has to take a movie role to pay for it.

Apparently “Princess Daisy” has no breaks, moving along faster than a roller coaster, though of course we know eventually we’ll hit the part where it starts to slow down to an insane crawl.  Even tragedy can’t stop it.

Lindsay’s car goes over a cliff and she’s gone.  Sada has to take the girls to England and Stacy, who only greets his healthier girl.  Even Claudia is put off by his atrocious behavior toward the challenged daughter, but he parks her in an institution.  “Terrible, tragic, grotesque, a terrible punishment” is how he describes his challenged daughter to Claudia, who finds his treatment of her “inhuman.”  However, he does reveal his reason for this ill will.  His mother suffered from “insanity” and when his “heart turns to ice” at the thought of another like that.  When did insanity and retardation become the same thing?  That’s both preposterous and insulting.  It gets worse!  He then breaks down into sobs telling Claudia that he’s so proud of Daisy because she’s a link to his old world, the one destroyed and gone.  This has Claudia throwing her arms around his neck in sympathy.  Suddenly, she’s not so smart.

Fence-mender Claudia convinces the girl she wants to be her friend and understands her pain, patiently explaining everything to her.  She even convinces her to see her father, which she had been refusing to do until her sister was brought home.

Daddy’s little angel has to agree to a chi-chi lunch every Saturday, in return for being able to visit her sister, to whom she takes sweets from said lunches.  Just as the thaw is melting, Stacy’s son arrives, unexpectedly.  “Are you my brother?” she asks.  “Not quite,” he says, imperiously.

The years go by and Merete Van Kamp is now playing Daisy and Dani.

Merete has gotten used to her lavish lifestyle, nearly being tossed out of school because she’s been so spoiled.  A few sugary words and a smile to her father and he’s jelly.  And still she takes sweets to her sister after the Saturday lunches.  The only issue between father and daughter is her sister.  He has made her promise never to “speak to me of her again.” Merete brings up her frustration with her father’s attitude to Claudia (they may be married or maybe not, an apparently minor detail) and Claudia confides in her that he actually does go to visit the institution once a month.

Also grown up, but more snarly than ever, is Stacy’s son, now Rupert Everett.  Merete merrily asks him about his “castle” in Scotland.  “We don’t call it a castle.  We call it a home.  I’m not sure I can explain that to you,” he snaps snidely at dinner.  Stacy tears into him, telling him to be nicer to his sister.  “Wouldn’t that be taking noblesse oblige too far?” Rupert retorts.  “If you can’t be civil, you will leave my table,” Claudia barks.  “Your table?” Rupert pushes, causing Stacy to pound the table that is so valuable to everyone.

Stacy is so incensed at Rupert’s behavior that he rails to Claudia he will alter his will, where Rupert is currently designated as the executor for Merete’s money, knowing the current arrangement is too dangerous for his beloved daughter.  Take a guess as to what is coming with talk of wills.  Need more information for that guess?  Stacy has taken up flying.

With Merete, Rupert and Claudia watching, his plane crashes and Stacy is killed.  Ah, and the will was never changed since it was a “first thing in the New Year” promise and it’s now only Christmas.  Actually, the scene is really ghastly in terms of having his family witness the tragedy.  Rupert initially puts on a show of being sympathetic to his stepmother and half sister, but we know that won’t last long.  Claudia takes Merete to France, though Merete is worried about leaving her sister.  Claudia explains that her sister does not have the same “concept of time,” so Merete’s sadness is replaced by the fun of outdoor markets and seaside villas.

Into the story comes Alexa Kenin, the daughter of Claudia’s friend.  Alexa is boy crazy, even using “horny” as a word playing Scrabble.  While Alexa is describing her perfect man, waiter Jim Meltzer has been serving the girls, but sides with Merete’s view that love is all that matters.  Merete and Jim go out on a date of bread and cheese to prove they are both romantics (to prove it to us, not each other).

In typical miniseries fashion, now that Merete is happy, Rupert swoops back into her life to make it miserable.  He rants angrily about Claudia, about Jim and anything else he can think of, and there’s a notably incestuous feel to his anger.  When Jim leaves after dinner, Rupert tells him to stay away, which makes Merete sad the next day as she waits for the date they had arranged with no beau arriving.

When Merete joins Rupert for sunbathing, sporting a body that makes Twiggy look obese, Rupert is all drool.  To keep her close, he wants her in school in London, rather than in France with Claudia.  Then he makes sure she’s still a virgin, though she’s clearly not catching on to his general theme.  Not even at the market when he walks her around, his arm draped over her shoulder or holding her hand during a jaunt through a flowery field.

Finally, though, in that flowery field, he gets on his knees and declares his love for her.  Merete is scared, but he forces himself on her.

Merete shows up for dinner that night in her standard white outfit, but distant and odd, causing Claudia to worry, though Rupert seems rather delighted.  He tries to sneak into her bedroom that night, but the door is locked and she sits crying on her bed.  He stalks her, even in a small winding French street where he pins her against a building and insists they are meant for each other.  She’s creeped out and luckily some villagers appear to interrupt his breathless declarations.  He sends her a little flower tiara for a festival the next day.

At the festival, where “I’m a Believer” is blaring, the extras are all having a very good time and Merete, still sporting that virginal white, puts on a brave face for beaming Rupert and unaware Claudia.  Even Jim is there, but he stays clear of her since Rupert is sitting right there.  “Rock Around the Clock” starts, so Merete dances with the locals (and Jim) to it and “Yakety Yak,” though using a dance style that was last performed in a Jane Austen novel.

Since American rock tunes seem to be all the rage, Rupert puts on a golden oldie in Merete’s bedroom when he comes to accost her for the second time, drunkenly demanding she wear the flower tiara he bought her.  Rupert forces it on her head and then assaults her for the second time in ten minutes.  Claudia had been given some sleeping pills by her doctor, so she is of no help.

Eventually, Merete tells Claudia, who has a showdown with Rupert.  “I’m willing to go to any lengths to protect her from you…any lengths!” she threatens, but he’s unmoved.  He controls Merete’s money and he knows Claudia would never air this noted family’s dirty laundry (which, as we know, is almost all white and shows dirt very easily).  Claudia disagrees and sets an ultimatum, that Merete be sent to America and he will disappear from their lives.  “Only for now.  Someday, she will come to me,” he hisses.

Not that anyone has mentioned her in ages, but Merete’s twin is still languishing in the London institution and this puts more distance between them.

By the time 1970 arrives, Rupert is still obsessed with Merete, writing her love letters, which she rips up.  Luckily, her old chum Alexa is her roommate in college and so focused on men that she doesn’t notice anything.  “You’re trying to turn celibacy into an art,” she scolds Merete.  “For a princess, you’re really square,” Alexa jokes when Merete says she wants to concentrate on her studies.

Merete is forced to call Rupert because all of her money had been tied up in a company that crashed.  “I’m afraid your inheritance no longer exists,” Rupert tells her and also notes, “you’ll have to come home and by doing it, live with me.”  Finally, Merete remembers her sister, worries for her safety, but decides to go to New York and make it as an artist.  Claudia, also wiped out, tells Rupert of the half sister he’s never heard of and even takes him for a visit.  He is going to have to pay the institution bills since he conveniently pulled all of his money out of the dying company.  He refuses, saying, “that creature in there has nothing to do with me!”

Only Merete can pay the bills, so she sells the last remaining piece of Tsarist bric-a-brac she has and then she needs a job.  She applies for a job at at agency that produces commercials, run by Paul Michael Glaser, who is irate that she traded on the owner’s name, a friend of her late father’s, to even get in the door.  That leads to the expected impassioned speech about her talents, her drive, how badly she needs the job and how good at it she will be.  She ends with, “sorry I wasted your time” and goes storming out. “Not bad,” Paul says, “except for that bit at the end where you went from Joan of Arc to Joan Crawford.” As usual, moving fast…

Merete gets the job, though she ruins a shoot, not that anyone cares.  Alexa moves to NYC and they lives together, but on her birthday, Alexa moans, “this being a grown-up is not all it’s cracked up to be.”  This despite their massive apartment (though sans furniture) and the apparent ability to be constantly high (it’s a bit more than a Valley Girl accent).  Alexa wants to know why Merete avoids men and won’t talk about her family.

Swimming in the opulence that Merete lacks, Rupert is the most sought-after bachelor in Europe.  By women.  At the opera, old men and over-tanned women discuss who will win him.  Paul wants to ask Merete out, but he finds her “unapproachable.”  “I think I’m becoming obsessed with your private life…I don’t know anything about it,” he tells her, prodding her about the fact that she disappears to the country every weekend and draws horses.

Frankly, Rupert doesn’t give Merete (either of them) a second thought, not until Eurotrash pals Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach (she was at least a Bond girl, though her acting is actually the more painful of the two) show him a magazine with Merete on the cover.  “Smashing dress, I wouldn’t mind having it myself,” Ringo quips, having as hard a time playing gay as Rupert does playing straight.  This scene is the weirdest in the movie.  Barbara can’t understand why someone with everything in the world is friends with them (an understandable question).  “Because we’re sensational and getting better at it every day,” Ringo notes and then describes the outfit he wants Barbara to wear on a date she has that night.  I was beginning to think “Princess Daisy” was taking itself way too seriously until these two arrived.

Gay or European, suddenly all of them fade into the background when television’s greatest ever he-man strides into the movie, though two-thirds of it have already been wasted without him: Robert Urich.  When first we meet, Robert wants to learn to ride a horse…in just three weeks!  “I never realized they were so…uh…tall,” he says, greeted with his first horse, though jumping on nimbly enough.  Except backwards.  “Now we’re both looking at a horse’s ass,” he jokes to the unsmiling instructor.  Robert is actually a very wealthy man, self-made no less, and takes to horse riding very quickly, looking dreamy in the requisite horse clothing.  He’s doing this all for “the horsey set,” invited to a country manse of a potential business partner.  His instructor tells him he’ll never fit in with that crowd, they will see through him.  He wants the instructor’s warn boots and for the right amount of money, gets them.

You guessed it, the minute Robert sets butt on a horse, he sees Merete galloping around, her blonde hair bobbing as the hosts tell him she has to be incredibly wealthy.  Unfortunately, also there are Ringo and Barbara wearing, I kid you not, matching outfits.  They have no money of their own, so they are forced to accept any invitations they get, especially this one because she knows Rupert’s sister will be in attendance.  Somehow, they come up with a grand scheme to throw a party for his swimwear line (keep laughing, they are so ridiculous even they know they are camping it up) without having to pay for it.  I know Ringo Starr is easily the most famous name in the movie, but stack him up against someone like Robert Urich, and he’s just a doofus with two pieces of shaved wood stashed somewhere nearby.

Robert and Merete meet while she’s sketching under a tree, and she notices his boots immediately.  What his instructor failed to tell him is that those boots can only be worn by the master of the hunt (“fall off, Auntie Mame, fall off…fall off!”) and he rides away in shame.  At that night’s cocktail party, Merete is forced to endure Ringo and Barbara, who invites her to a dinner party.  Fortunately, Merete will be in Venice shooting a commercial, but not seeing her brother.  “You see, I was right, there is bad blood” between siblings.  Wait, it took meeting her to figure that out?  Wasn’t that obvious by the fact that they didn’t even know Rupert had a sister until seeing her on a magazine cover?

Still scheming, Ringo, in a sleep mask, satin pajamas and eating caviar, tells Barbara he’s decided to “do away with our humble beginnings” and gave an interview saying he’s related to Romanian royalty.  Via Liverpool, he neglects to add, never able to hide his accent.  To stir up trouble, Barbara calls Rupert to inform him Merete will be in London for one day, though his secretary can find no evidence of her.

Back in umpteen versions of white, Merete takes a side trip to see Claudia, her hair now streaked with gray, despite the fact that not even a decade can have slipped by and a style maven like Claudia would color that out before even the servants could see it.  Even dependable Sada Thompson is still attending to her and Merete is teary to be back “home,” though it is the place where Rupert raped her.

A gigantic rainstorm and a strike of every local (yes, every single local, the question is asked) strand Merete and Paul in Venice.  “If I had to be stuck somewhere with someone, I’m glad it’s Venice…and you,” he says glumly as she plays “Chopsticks” on a courtyard piano.  They decide to go touring and perpetually pissy Paul decides they should see the dungeons where Casanova once lurked.  The man can’t string together two sentences, but he knows about Casanova’s psychology.  Merete is thrilled to see churches and such because when she was young, she only cared about the ice cream in Venice.  “You accomplished the impossible.  You made me relax,” Paul says, but our dim Merete doesn’t take that with insult.  Nor does she realize he meant “together” until he says so.  “Making love doesn’t have to be a life-changing experience…but it can change an afternoon,” he tells her, not a completely sure-fire way to waltz a woman into bed, let along this iceberg of the species.  
But, after Merete goes for yet another walk, she decides to have dinner with Paul and then they dance in his room because the “musicians are on strike.”  There’s a fire too, so we know what’s coming, since “Princess Daisy” has no concept of subtlety (and no time to waste).  Though Merete nearly blunts the moment with her insistence on lighting patterns and too much talk, they do have sex.  And she seems to have liked it, though when the phone rings and wakes him up, all he can say is, “strike must be over.”  
It is and the sunshine means they can shoot their commercial.  Merete sees Paul pawing the models, but a faithful coworker tells her not to bother with him, he’s “never gonna change.”  He later reports that a very chilly Merete told him, “if you were the last person on a desert island, you wouldn’t have a relationship with a coconut.”  Wow, there’s a stinger!  
Worlds collide when Robert Urich comes to a meeting at the agency, since it’s his commercials they are shooting.  Merete slumps under a hat so he doesn’t see her.  No immediate danger of that, as Robert is too busy hating the campaign being pitched.  “I don’t throw out an idea unless I know how to replace it,” he rails, before demanding a laundry list of model qualities, ending with “she better be blonde.”  Cue Merete’s hat being torn off.  “She’ll be perfect,” he says.  “I’m not for sale,” she barks.  “I have no intention of buying you…this is not the 18th Century and this is not a horse sale,” he says, actually making that line seem less idiotic than it is because he’s Robert Urich and can make any crap dialogue work.
Yacht party!  As Ringo goes around touching up the models, Barbara is playing anti-Cupid, holding the surprise of Rupert’s impending arrival until it’s too late for Merete to disappear.  He recognizes her, despite the fact that she’s thrown a splash of blue into her outfit and when he creepily touches her hair and tells her to move back to London, she yells and stomps away, much to the satisfaction of Barbara and Ringo.  
In desperation, and angry that Merete is apparently disgracing the family name by working, he offers to not only support her and her sister, but also Claudia, whom he claims has fallen on hard times but hasn’t mentioned it to anyone.  “That’s blackmail, you’re trying to buy me!” Merete hisses, right on the money for once, and just as Barbara and Ringo stop by to get yelled at as well.  
With only a small amount of time and no one else left, Merete goes to dinner with Robert, dressed in very uncharacteristic black.  Merete decides to play her version of hardball, insisting on $1 million, a two-year contract and nothing else objectionable to Robert, who agrees to her terms and gets her to smile.  Unfortunately, when he mentions a “business engagement” after dinner, she sours a bit.
When Paul hears of the deal, he is furious, and Merete is in her war white, so she’s not backing down.  He tells her how smart she is, “how much I depend on you,” but she won’t listen.  “I have responsibilities,” she carps.  This means Robert and Paul are going to lock horns at many a late-night creative session, though $20 million helps to sway Paul.  During a shoot where she’s supposed to be dressed as on a horse, everyone feels it’s wrong.  Merete takes off the jacket, so that she’s just in white, of course, and BAM, they get the perfect picture.  She’s disappointed to learn that Robert will not be attending their upcoming shoot in England (apparently the only place to do a horsey photo spread).  However, eagle-eyed Merete (at least one of her senses works) spots him watching the shoot from afar.
“The fact is, I’m wild about you,” Paul tells Merete in a pub, wondering why Robert is so stand-offish.  “Oh,” she replies and takes his hand.  “Why are you doing this to my hand?” he asks.  “Because you’re my dear friend,” she says.  “Oh,” he parrots.  She tells him she “wanted” to love Paul, but it wasn’t to be, hinting at some darkness in her past and then going the psycho-babble route that fizzles because Merete has so much trouble with dialogue, and this much at one time is mind-numbing.  “I don’t want to be your girlfriend, ever,” she ends with a laugh and Paul laughs too, though with the movie’s most perplexing line: “Some one’s having a Bar Mitzvah here tonight.  I’m not sure if it’s you or me.”  
In white, in curlers and feeding the ducks, Merete is surprised by Robert showing up.  Robert jogs through a cliche bit about growing up poor and hard work and such, but just as he’s about to ask her some big question, they are interrupted.  
It’s been a few hours of screen time and at least a decade of the movie’s time before Merete goes back to the institution to see the other Merete, and then only for a passing second.  It’s more important to put on a pink (pale enough to pass for white in some lighting) dress and have lunch with Robert at the very restaurant where Stacy took her every Sunday.  “You’re still here?” she asks the head waiter.  “We’re all still here, you are the one who left,” he says without a trace of malice (and probably not much tip if he continues this line of thinking).  
The two have a very heartfelt lunch, where Robert admits he’s always striving to get the approval of “the rich folks” and Merete finally tells at least part of her life story, everything but Rupert.  It’s a serious scene, totally expected, but very one-sided.  Only Robert scores, and when he says, “I could be falling in love with you,” try not to melt.  He sounds so sincere, not easy to do playing the scene against a blank wall.  On the way out, Merete sees Rupert, stops as his table and just stares.  The reporter he’s with swears she looks just like Rupert’s half sister in America and nonchalantly notes, “everybody has a twin somewhere.”  That comment gets the wheels in Rupert’s head spinning. 
Rupert, really upset that Merete is happy with Robert, calls Barbara to find out what’s going on between the new couple and she relays the conversation as she paints Ringo’s toes while he reclines in a bubble bath.  “Just who’s side are you on?” he asks.  “The only side I’ve ever been on, ours,” she replies.  You know, a good writer of trash like Dominick Dunne had a knack for inserting characters like this into his plots.  They were comic relief, but also had a point (and sometimes were even his stand-ins).  These two wandered in from some 70s acid trip and are frankly getting annoying.

Just as the campaign is hitting its zenith and Merete becomes super famous, sensational news hits the papers about her sister being “locked up in a dingy institution,” which is, of course, untrue.  It’s a lovely place.  She goes tearing off to Robert’s lawyers, who cite the clause in her contract that she can’t do “anything to embarrass” the company, as if having a mentally challenged sister is embarrassing.  “The fact that they printed mostly lies doesn’t matter to you,” she chooses to say, oddly more worried about the scandal aspect than her sister.

Merete hurries to England to find out that the institution allowed her sister to be photographed because Rupert sent a photographer to take a “private family photo.”  As for Rupert, he’s gotten all weepy and begs his fiancee, which she does after rolling her eyes.  But, unfortunately, he calls out his sister’s name during the act.  Oops.  That never goes over well with another woman, and especially not when the name of the other woman is your sister!

Not getting any smarter, Merete agrees to meet Rupert at the country house, way out in the country.  Alone.  He drunkenly seems almost sorry, but then pulls out a shotgun and tells her to shoot him.  Instead, she gives him a dressing down, but when he points the gun at her and insists she declare her love, she refuses. He informs her he could shoot her, bury her and that “in the spring, wildflowers will grow out of your hair.”  That doesn’t even make sense to her, so she questions it.  He doesn’t have a reply.  She calmly walks away and naturally, moments later, is startled by a gunshot.

Merete goes to recover in white pajamas at Claudia’s.  Claudia gets her to fight for the truth, to print her side of the story, but also to realize that her sister is happy in her own world, a clue that no matter how much longer this story goes on, we won’t be including said sister.  Wrapped up that uncomfortable plot point nicely, eh?

Of course, Robert follows her to France, to Claudia’s villa, no less, on a horse!  When she wakes up under a tree and he’s there on the horse, he says, “whistle ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever’ if you’re happy to see me.”  Lines don’t get clunkier than that!  At dinner, he drags us even further into the muck of “mush,” as he even calls it, with a giddy speech about his passion for her, all under the watchful gaze of proud Claudia.  A gentleman to the core, he then says, “I’ll see you in the morning.”  As he lays in shirtless glory in his bedroom, she, in a white nighty, sneaks into his, whispering, “if you’re glad to see me, whistle ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever.'”  Okay, if you’re going to go for cloyingly cute with this back-and-forth reference, why pick THE MOST unromantic song ever?  It kills whatever sap might be forming.  Though they spend the night together for what is presumably her first gratifying sexual experience, he waits until a cab ride the next day to propose.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he says to a crowd of friends and family in what looks like some mini Kremlin, “I give you, Princess Daisy,” and she comes out in a puffy wedding gown and jewels that would have made Princess Grace blush, let alone some poor-as-dirt daughter of dead Russian nobility circa 1980.

Like every Judith Krantz novel and thus every adaptation (which she and her husband tended to produce), “Princess Daisy” suffers from a serious case of being too serious.  Other than Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach, everyone is so earnest.  The casting of unknown and untalented Merete Van Kamp is a wild miscalculation.  The lead part requires an actress with a natural vivacity, let alone someone who can play twins.  Merete seems frozen the entire time.  A better choice would have been Lindsay Wagner herself, in the movie long enough only to give birth and die, though obviously a bit too old for the part.  We’ve seen Stefanie Powers and Lisa Hartman in Krantz movies and though neither would themselves claim to be great actresses, they both have undeniable presence, lots of charm and the ability to smile their way through trash.  Merete can barely smile.  Luckily, pros like Lindsay, Stacy Keach and, above all, Robert Urich, help get us through what should be much more fun.  This story has riches to rags to riches, jet setters, everything that made 80s television such a guilty pleasure, but saddled with a boring leading lady, “Princess Daisy” just never manages to stay awake long enough.  There are giggles aplenty because the plot is so utterly inane (and bears what must be an intentionally striking resemblance to every miniseries that deals with the last of Russian nobility), because Merete is so inept and because Ringo Starr is playing a gay man who designs swimwear, but that’s not quite enough to get us through the snoozier parts.  Though there’s no hope of this ever being more than mindless trash, it never really tries too hard to be anything but.

There is also something supremely frightening that the core of the movie concerns one twin’s pure love for her less fortunate sister, while the movie does everything it can to avoid said sister.  It’s not even a case of being stuck in the time because by the early 80s, this kind of thing was already derisible.  It’s just…well…I’m not sure, maybe unsettling.  It doesn’t work.  It’s the main character’s motivation, but only when it’s convenient to remember and the reasoning behind everyone’s horror of knowing her is ludicrous.

And remember how many times I noted that everything moves to quickly?  Loyal friends, you know I RARELY say that about romance miniseries (or any miniseries for that matter), but this one could actually use another hour to clean up its plotting.  No, not another hour of barely literate cheese like the original three, mind you, so maybe I shouldn’t finish the thought…

Categories: Romance Miniseries

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