Telefilm Time Machine: Daughter of the Mind (1969)

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Ray Milland and Gene Tierney in DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969)

Ray Milland sees dead people. Or to be more precise, Ray Milland begins seeing the ghost of his dead daughter in the made-for-TV movie DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969). I thought I’d kick start my year-long look at telefilms with this compelling thriller based on a novel by author Paul Gallico (THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES; 1942, BITTER VICTORY; 1957, THE SNOW GOOSE; 1971, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE; 1972, etc.) and directed by Walter Grauman. DAUGHTER OF THE MIND was one of the first telefilms that premiered on ABC’s Movie of the Week and it’s one that I’m particularly fond of due to its supernatural premise and stellar cast.

The film opens with a suspiciously quiet shot of a cemetery where Professor Samuel Constable (Ray Milland) is visiting the grave of his recently deceased daughter Mary (Pamelyn Ferdin). On his drive home the sky turns dark and the Professor is startled to hear a young female voice cry out “Daddy!” followed by the appearance of an apparition of a young girl that suddenly materializes before him. In an effort to avoid the girl, the professor swerves off the road and realizes that he’s being visited by the ghost of his daughter who tells him “I hate being dead.” This strange encounter sets off a series of events that get the attention of Dr. Alex Lauder (Don Murray), a paranormal psychologist who’s encouraged to investigate Professor Constable’s ghostly claims at the request of his longtime friend (George Macready). Lauder visits the Professor’s home and learns that he and his wife Lenore (Gene Tierney) recently lost their daughter in a terrible car accident. Lenore seems to have come to terms with her child’s death but Professor Constable is still struggling to make sense of it. When Dr. Lauder begins to investigate the case he discovers that the Professor is also being watched by a team of U.S. counter-intelligence agents (led by a stern looking Ed Asner). The agents tell him that they think the ghost might actually be a Soviet spook trying to convince the Professor to abandon his work, which involves cybernetic research for the U.S. government.

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Like many made-for-TV movies from the period, DAUGHTER OF THE MIND only dabbles in the paranormal before it veers off in another direction involving international espionage and Russian spies but the unusual genre mix is one of the reasons why I find the film so appealing. The movie works best when it’s exploring the supernatural but it isn’t easily defined by conventional plot turns. Besides the eerie opening, DAUGHTER OF THE MIND contains one of the creepiest séance scenes I’ve come across, which isn’t a claim I make lightly. Although the film loses some of its steam after introducing spies into the proceedings, it still maintains some suspense thanks to an appearance by stuntman, and all around badass, Bill Hickman, as a threatening enemy agent determined to kill Don Murray’s Dr. Lauder. Other noteworthy appearances classic film fans should look for include John Carradine as a supernatural skeptic who helps Lauder solve the case and Virginia Christine as the Professor’s maid.

Director Walter Grauman is probably best remembered for the suspenseful drama LADY IN A CAGE (1964), which featured Olivia de Havilland as a wealthy middle–aged woman who gets trapped in an elevator that’s been installed in her home during a power outage and is subsequently tortured and tormented by a gang of hoodlums led by James Caan. You’d be right in thinking the plot sounds somewhat farfetched but Grauman smoothly handles the film’s various twists and turns and injects the movie with a remarkable amount of tension. He does the same with DAUGHTER OF THE MIND, which is supported by a strong cast of players and composer Robert Drasin’s moody soundtrack. Besides his film work, Walter Grauman had a long career in television directing popular shows such as THE FUGITIVE, PERRY MASON, KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATRE, THE UNTOUCHABLES and THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Crime and suspense were his bread and butter so it’s not surprising that he was able to effectively conjure up a sense of genuine dread in DAUGHTER OF THE MIND.

generayClassic film fans might remember that Ray Milland and Gene Tierney first appeared together in CLOSE TO MY HEART (1942), a delicate melodrama that takes a sympathetic look at a childless couple trying to adopt an abandoned baby. Despite their 13 year age difference, Milland and Tierney made an attractive couple and they had good chemistry on screen so it’s a shame that it took almost 20 years for them to be cast in another film together but fate had other plans. Tierney’s career was derailed by extreme depression following the birth of her severely disabled daughter and today I find it impossible to watch DAUGHTER OF THE MIND without thinking about the difficulties she faced with her own child. Tierney was only 49 years old when she appeared in DAUGHTER OF THE MIND but she seems older and more world weary. The spark in her eyes had dimmed and her voice had grown somewhat brittle from years of smoking. She was still an extremely beautiful woman but there’s a melancholy note in her performance that’s impossible to ignore. This would be the last film Tierney appeared in and in her heart wrenching 1979 autobiography she writes “In December (of 1969) I played the crippled wife of Ray Milland—my costar of eighteen years before—in a made-for-TV movie, DAUGHTER OF THE MIND, produced by Twentieth Century-Fox. That appearance would be my last before the cameras, not entirely by choice, but certainly without complaint. I had a fulfilling career: thirty-three feature films and three Broadway plays. My leading men included Gable, Tracy, Fonda, Ty Power, Bogart. I was fortunate to have been nominated for an Academy Award (LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN) and to have played a part, Laura, that a song and a portrait helped make mine forever.” Tierney briefly returned to television in 1980, but her personal trauma adds another emotional layer to this memorable telefilm that’s accentuated by Ray Milland’s heartfelt performance as her distraught husband.

On its somewhat flat made-for-TV surface, DAUGHTER OF THE MIND is simply a cold war mystery with a paranormal twist but Ray Milland’s sensitive portrayal of a grieving parent gives it an unexpected poignancy. At one point Tierney’s character describes her husband as a man who “wants so badly for the dead not to be dead” and over the course of the film you become keenly aware that she quietly shares his pain. At its core, this a movie about the complex ways in which we mourn and our inability to abandon the ones we love, even after death.

DAUGHTER OF THE MIND has never officially been released on DVD or video but bootleg copies of this early telefilm can occasionally be found on eBay and you can currently view it on Youtube but the quality is abysmal. It’s hard to imagine that any company would be interested in restoring and releasing it, but recently many telefilms are finding their way onto DVD thanks to the Warner Archives. DAUGHTER OF THE MIND is a Twentieth Century-Fox production so Fox would undoubtedly have to take charge of the release but in the meantime anyone interested in seeing this noteworthy made-for-TV effort is going to have to resort to buying bootlegs and relying on Youtube.

20 Responses Telefilm Time Machine: Daughter of the Mind (1969)
Posted By Doug : February 28, 2013 6:18 pm

Thank you, Kimberly, for re-visiting one of the most memorable tele-films from my youth-I remember watching it and being spooked by the idea of a little girl returning from the grave.
The quote from Gene Tierney’s autobiography was touching; I agree
that “Laura” was her most memorable role.
I didn’t know Gene Tierney back then, but was very familiar with
Pamela Ferdin, having seen her in quite a few shows; she was also the voice of Lucy in the Charlie Brown specials.
Checking her IMDB I see that she and I were born less than a month apart-very neat.
Looking forward to other entries in this series-thank you again.

Posted By Doug : February 28, 2013 6:18 pm

Thank you, Kimberly, for re-visiting one of the most memorable tele-films from my youth-I remember watching it and being spooked by the idea of a little girl returning from the grave.
The quote from Gene Tierney’s autobiography was touching; I agree
that “Laura” was her most memorable role.
I didn’t know Gene Tierney back then, but was very familiar with
Pamela Ferdin, having seen her in quite a few shows; she was also the voice of Lucy in the Charlie Brown specials.
Checking her IMDB I see that she and I were born less than a month apart-very neat.
Looking forward to other entries in this series-thank you again.

Posted By DevlinCarnate : February 28, 2013 7:24 pm

i’m only familiar with this because i remember, as you mentioned,it veered off course from the supernatural to the political,which as a 10-12 year old i had very little interest in,i wanted Scary and Spooky….in 1975 Ray Milland starred in the Dead Don’t Die a combination zombie/gangster telefilm which really grabbed my attention,even though George Hamilton was top billed,and i believe it’s available on DVD

Posted By DevlinCarnate : February 28, 2013 7:24 pm

i’m only familiar with this because i remember, as you mentioned,it veered off course from the supernatural to the political,which as a 10-12 year old i had very little interest in,i wanted Scary and Spooky….in 1975 Ray Milland starred in the Dead Don’t Die a combination zombie/gangster telefilm which really grabbed my attention,even though George Hamilton was top billed,and i believe it’s available on DVD

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 1, 2013 10:39 am

Poor Gene Tierney, her charmed life screwed up by one criminally thoughtless person. Humphrey Bogart barely got her through THE LEFT HAND OF GOD (1955). As I recall, Tierney seems rather frozen-faced in that picture. But she is quite good as a Washington, DC, socialite hostess in Otto Preminger’s ADVISE & CONSENT (1962),though her screen time is limited.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 1, 2013 10:39 am

Poor Gene Tierney, her charmed life screwed up by one criminally thoughtless person. Humphrey Bogart barely got her through THE LEFT HAND OF GOD (1955). As I recall, Tierney seems rather frozen-faced in that picture. But she is quite good as a Washington, DC, socialite hostess in Otto Preminger’s ADVISE & CONSENT (1962),though her screen time is limited.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : March 1, 2013 10:58 am

Thanks for this first telemovie post. Despite Youtube’s poor visual look, I plan on watching this. Milland is one of my favorite actors and he could ply his craft so well, whether comedy or drama. I do question some of his late in career role choices, but this one sounds really good.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : March 1, 2013 10:58 am

Thanks for this first telemovie post. Despite Youtube’s poor visual look, I plan on watching this. Milland is one of my favorite actors and he could ply his craft so well, whether comedy or drama. I do question some of his late in career role choices, but this one sounds really good.

Posted By MedusaMorlock : March 2, 2013 11:45 am

Great post, Kimberly, about one of my favorite or at the very least most-remembered telefilms from long ago. Hard to believe that Tierney was only 49, and what a life she had, but still so lovely and talented.

You know that I’m SO happy to see any TV movies getting their due — I keep waiting for more to turn up on some of the lesser pay TV channels since they basically IS no syndication anymore of movies. They’re out there — somebody needs to pay attention to them!

Great post and I was also always fascinated by Pamelyn Ferdin. She was evidently friends with a friend of my sister’s from elementary school who lived down our street. One time there was talk that Pamelyn was visiting down our block but I never got a glimpse, alas! She is also in my mind forever because she appeared in one of the worst original series “Star Trek” episodes called “And the Children Shall Lead”, which also stars attorney Melvin Belli, decked out in a huge iridescent caftan, and Craig Hundley, who was a child actor and jazz prodigy.

But “Daughter of the Mind” — wonderful!!!

Thanks again for a great post!

Posted By MedusaMorlock : March 2, 2013 11:45 am

Great post, Kimberly, about one of my favorite or at the very least most-remembered telefilms from long ago. Hard to believe that Tierney was only 49, and what a life she had, but still so lovely and talented.

You know that I’m SO happy to see any TV movies getting their due — I keep waiting for more to turn up on some of the lesser pay TV channels since they basically IS no syndication anymore of movies. They’re out there — somebody needs to pay attention to them!

Great post and I was also always fascinated by Pamelyn Ferdin. She was evidently friends with a friend of my sister’s from elementary school who lived down our street. One time there was talk that Pamelyn was visiting down our block but I never got a glimpse, alas! She is also in my mind forever because she appeared in one of the worst original series “Star Trek” episodes called “And the Children Shall Lead”, which also stars attorney Melvin Belli, decked out in a huge iridescent caftan, and Craig Hundley, who was a child actor and jazz prodigy.

But “Daughter of the Mind” — wonderful!!!

Thanks again for a great post!

Posted By Women of the White House : March 3, 2013 10:53 pm

I wish there was a channel like Turner Classic Movies for classic television!! Time Warner could back it!!

Kimberly: Did you buy this from Ebay?? or watch the Youtube version??

Posted By Women of the White House : March 3, 2013 10:53 pm

I wish there was a channel like Turner Classic Movies for classic television!! Time Warner could back it!!

Kimberly: Did you buy this from Ebay?? or watch the Youtube version??

Posted By Drue : March 5, 2013 8:14 pm

Gee, I never thought I would ever hear of anyone remembering or liking this film but me. Apparently I was so young when I saw this that I only remembered two things, the theme music, and the hand. A couple of years ago I started to scour YouTube for barely remembered movies that stuck in my memory for one reason or another, and this was one of those movies. I have a ton of memories of one-of-a-kind Made For TV Movies. Horror at 37000 Feet, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Bad Ronald, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Killdozer, Satan’s Triangle, The Day the Earth Moved, The Devil’s Rain, This House Possessed, The Terror Within, One of my Husbands is Missing, The Crying Woman. Thats an entire childhood of fun there.

Posted By Drue : March 5, 2013 8:14 pm

Gee, I never thought I would ever hear of anyone remembering or liking this film but me. Apparently I was so young when I saw this that I only remembered two things, the theme music, and the hand. A couple of years ago I started to scour YouTube for barely remembered movies that stuck in my memory for one reason or another, and this was one of those movies. I have a ton of memories of one-of-a-kind Made For TV Movies. Horror at 37000 Feet, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Bad Ronald, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Killdozer, Satan’s Triangle, The Day the Earth Moved, The Devil’s Rain, This House Possessed, The Terror Within, One of my Husbands is Missing, The Crying Woman. Thats an entire childhood of fun there.

Posted By Doug : March 5, 2013 8:25 pm

For Women of the White House:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retro_Television_Network
It may not be everywhere, but it is in a lot of markets.

Posted By Doug : March 5, 2013 8:25 pm

For Women of the White House:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retro_Television_Network
It may not be everywhere, but it is in a lot of markets.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : March 6, 2013 2:36 pm

Thanks for all the generous comments! I’m glad I’m not the only one who appreciates this neglected telefilm. And it’s nice to see so many Tierney fans sharing their thoughts.

MedusaMorlcock – Pamela showed up in a lot of movies & TV shows I watched growing up. She seemed to be everywhere! Thanks for bringing up that Star Trek ep. I had completely forgotten it.

Women of the White House – I own a horrible video copy of the film that I bought years ago from a bootlegger but the print is no better than the version currently uploaded to Youtube so I recommend starting there if you want to see it.

Drue – Lots of good title mentioned there and I’m sure I’ll be talking about one or two in the future.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : March 6, 2013 2:36 pm

Thanks for all the generous comments! I’m glad I’m not the only one who appreciates this neglected telefilm. And it’s nice to see so many Tierney fans sharing their thoughts.

MedusaMorlcock – Pamela showed up in a lot of movies & TV shows I watched growing up. She seemed to be everywhere! Thanks for bringing up that Star Trek ep. I had completely forgotten it.

Women of the White House – I own a horrible video copy of the film that I bought years ago from a bootlegger but the print is no better than the version currently uploaded to Youtube so I recommend starting there if you want to see it.

Drue – Lots of good title mentioned there and I’m sure I’ll be talking about one or two in the future.

Posted By Benzadmiral : April 1, 2013 4:11 pm

I remember this film when it was new. Gallico wrote at least one more novel about Dr. Alex Lauder, the parapsychologist who hoped against hope he’d really find something supernatural, but who always was disappointed by fakery. For that matter, no two of Gallico’s books were alike — this is very different from “Poseidon Adventure,” which was completely unlike “The Silent Meow” and “The Snow Goose.”

Posted By Benzadmiral : April 1, 2013 4:11 pm

I remember this film when it was new. Gallico wrote at least one more novel about Dr. Alex Lauder, the parapsychologist who hoped against hope he’d really find something supernatural, but who always was disappointed by fakery. For that matter, no two of Gallico’s books were alike — this is very different from “Poseidon Adventure,” which was completely unlike “The Silent Meow” and “The Snow Goose.”

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