Monday, 11 February 2013

Mildred Pierce


MILDRED PIERCE (BLACK AND WHITE, 1945)

Director:
Michael Curitz
Cast:
Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Ann Blyth and Bruce Bennet
Ages:
10 and up
Plot:
Mildred Pierce (Crawford) does anything her daughter Veda (Blyth) asks for. One day, she kicks her husband Bert (Bennet) out after he got kicked out of his partnership with Wally Fay (Carson) who continues the job solo. She needs the money and waits tables with Ida (Arden) whom Mildred likes. She goes into restaurant entrepreneurship with Ida to earn more money for Veda. Veda takes a lot and a lot, so Mildred kicks her out and marries Monte (Scott), an Italian-Spanish playboy. Monte soon ends up dead, but who did it?

From left: Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce and Ann Blyth as her daughter Veda.
Why it’s good:
Not in particular. It is a half show-splitting melodrama of where Veda just goes spoilt. The other half is a dazzling mystery from the start, where Crawford almost attempts suicide. Then the cops interview Mildred who tells the story of Wally, Monte, Bert, the daughter and Ida.
I can tell you the acting is really excellent. No one could fault the thirty-nine year old Joan Crawford as the title character. She ended a career slump with such a mystifying film with a really unattached Mildred who suffers from Veda almost all the time....“So you think just because you got some money so you can get some new clothes, but you can’t, because you are nothing but a common frump whose father worked at a grocery store and whose mother took in washing!” Veda would tell her mother. Eve Arden with her somewhat bizarre comic talent takes on Ida the fellow waitress. She was original, fresh and clean.

The score sends tiny terror down the spine through the brains. If Crawford were the spine, Veda was the spoilt rich girl. Lusting after Mom’s boyfriend was such an experience for her. The film is more of a melodrama than thriller and film noir.
Parent’s guide:
Monte is shot twice onscreen, once in flashback, one in real time. Six shots were used and four hit Monte while the other two bounce off the mirror. Also, there is always a fair bit of drinking and smoking in every character. Ida and Mildred share one in Mildred’s restaurant. Monte and Mildred kiss each other next to the fireplace on accident.

Trivia:
There was a hard time finding an actress to play Veda. So who did they turn to? The children star Shirley Temple, but she declined.

If you like this…:
Crawford’s films are all dramas, even those which aren’t. “Whatever happened to Baby Jane” (1962) is scary and a straight horror-thriller. “Queen Bee” (1955) causes destruction to her surroundings. “Dancing Lady” (1933) is an extremely kid-friendly musical. See the chapter of stars.

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