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Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce(1945)

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teaser Mildred Pierce (1945)

SYNOPSIS

Mildred Pierce is a working class woman struggling to make ends meet after she splits from her unemployed husband. To care for her two young daughters, she takes a day job as a waitress and moonlights as an independent baker, selling cakes and pies to local restaurants. When her youngest child, the sweet-natured Kay, dies of pneumonia, Mildred devotes all her time and energy to her spoiled teenage daughter Veda. With the help of local businessman Wally Fay and down-on-his-luck playboy Monty Beragon, she opens her own restaurant. It proves to be such a success that she soon expands it into a string of eateries in the Los Angeles area. But nothing she does pleases the willful Veda, not even marrying Beragon for his family name. It all comes crashing down on the night of Veda's eighteenth birthday, when Mildred loses her empire and Monty is mysteriously murdered. And Mildred is faced with having to make one last sacrifice.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Producers: Jerry Wald, Jack L. Warner
Screenplay: Ranald MacDougall, from the novel by James M. Cain
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Editing: Daniel Weisbart
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce), Ann Blyth (Veda Pierce), Jack Carson (Wally Fay), Zachary Scott (Monty Beragon), Eve Arden (Ida Corwin), Bruce Bennett (Bert Pierce).
BW-111m. Close captioning, Descriptive video.

Why MILDRED PIERCE is Essentials

Mildred Pierce has become so closely identified with the persona and myth of Joan Crawford that the achievements of the film itself and the other artists involved are often overlooked. Not that its connection to Crawford should be trivialized. Her performance here represents one of the most famous comeback stories in Hollywood history. She had been in the business about 20 years when she was tapped for this role (which was first offered to Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and Ann Sheridan, respectively). The much-noted Crawford durability had taken her from freewheeling flapper parts in the 20s to a Depression-era Cinderella of the early 30s to the glamorous and trend-setting MGM clotheshorse late in the decade, making her one of the biggest stars of the era and one of the three queens of the Metro lot (along with Garbo and Norma Shearer). But by the early 40s, her career was in decline. She left MGM in 1943 and landed at Warner Brothers, where she waited two years before making a significant film appearance (other than a cameo as herself in Hollywood Canteen, 1944). With Mildred Pierce, Crawford at 40 reinvented herself again, scoring a huge commercial and critical success and launching a new phase in her career as a tough-as-nails but nobly suffering woman "of a certain age" in cautionary melodramas of greed and possessiveness. Winning the Academy Award on her first nomination brought new respect for the actress who had clawed her way to the top, and it put her back in the category of major stars.

But Crawford isn't the only reason the movie is essential viewing for cinema lovers. Warner Brothers and producer Jerry Wald, a great friend and champion of the star for many years, made sure that the studio's most skilled technicians and crew were entrusted with bringing James M. Cain's popular novel to the screen. The production was helmed by one of Warner's most prolific directors, Michael Curtiz. Born in Hungary, Curtiz began as an actor and producer in the Budapest theater before moving to silent film work in Sweden and Germany. He came to Hollywood in 1926, where he established a reputation as Warner's most dedicated and tireless director (he stayed with the studio until 1953), cranking out hits in just about every genre- action: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), crime: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), historical epic: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), western: Santa Fe Trail (1940), war: This Is the Army (1943), and musical-comedy Romance on the High Seas (1948). Although he has never been considered among the top rank of artist-directors, many of his films have become classics- particularly his most famous and lasting success, Casablanca (1943). And it's a sign of the faith Warner Brothers had in Crawford that Curtiz, who had directed Davis, Bogart, Flynn, Cagney, and Robinson, was assigned to shepherd the actress through the role, even though he was reluctant to work with her in the beginning.

Wald also brought in a seasoned cast of supporting players; the studio's top composer, Max Steiner; Anton Grot to design the evocative sets; and, most notably, Ernest Haller, who had shared an Oscar with Ray Rennahan for the cinematography of Gone with the Wind (1939). Haller was one of four cinematographers who made tests with Crawford "with not very satisfactory results," according to an internal studio memo dated November 6, 1944. But he got the job anyway, and much of the look of the film can be credited to him and Grot, working together to create the stark daylight of Southern California and the expressive night shadows that underscore the characters' darkest motives and desires.

It's this look, as well as the flashback structure and cynical tone, that places Mildred Pierce among the moody postwar motion pictures that have come to be known as film noir. Some film scholars argue the movie belongs more correctly in the genre of "woman's melodrama" because, unlike film noir, it has a female at the center of its story and its conflicts revolve around family and relationship issues. But film noir films, for all their excursions into the paranoid underworld, are often about tangled and "unhealthy" relationships, too, and have much to say in their own way about gender politics. And like the typical male protagonist of film noir who is led astray by a double-crossing femme fatale, Mildred is also brought to ruin by a wicked female - her own daughter.

There are a couple of other points rarely mentioned about Mildred Pierce but worthy of consideration. One is the expressive use of sound. Notice especially in the police station scenes the way every little noise- the rustle of a newspaper, the buzzing of a telephone, a pencil being sharpened, the echoing voices and footsteps- are isolated and heightened to plunge the barely contained Mildred into paranoia and confusion.

Film scholar David Thomson, in his book America in the Dark (William Morrow and Co., 1977), also points out that this is one of the earliest incidences of suburbia taking a prominent place in American film. Movies of the 1930s, Thomson notes, took place in either the city or the countryside (or at least small-town America). Mildred lives for most of the story in one of those sunny California tracts "where all the houses look the same." Curtiz, Haller, and company bring the dark expressionistic feel of the urban crime thriller to the modest homes and neighborhoods increasingly familiar to most viewers in the postwar years. Mildred Pierce depicts the middle-class world of hardworking dads, piano-playing schoolkids, mom, and apple pie as violent, treacherous, and poisonous in its own way as the suburbia of American Beauty (1999).

There was nothing typical about Crawford's performance in Mildred Pierce. Not only was Oscar kind to her, but it revived her slowed career and led to Humoresque(1946), Possessed (1947), and later, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). In fact, Director Michael Curtiz had not even wanted Crawford for the role of Mildred, making her consent to a screen test. It seems he didn't like her trademark shoulder pads. After the success of Mildred Pierce, Curtiz and Crawford patched up their working relationship, and Joan gave her director a peace offering - a pair of custom made shoulder pads.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Mildred Pierce (1945)

Joan Crawford in the film version of her adopted daughter's scathing tell-all book, Mommie Dearest (1981), Faye Dunaway is seen rehearsing a scene from Mildred Pierce. As her abused real-life daughter looks on, Dunaway/Crawford enacts the scene in which Mildred slaps daughter Veda hard, then says remorsefully, "I'm sorry I did that. I'd have rather cut off my hand."

Carol Burnett did a hilarious send-up of the film on her long-running TV variety show, mimicking Crawford's trademark look with wildly exaggerated lips, eyebrows, and shoulder pads. In the skit, the character's last name was changed to "Fierce." Vicki Lawrence, a regular cast member on Burnett's show, also parodied Veda's character to perfection in the same skit.

Parodies of Crawford, especially as she appears in this picture, have long been a staple of drag acts. Fueled in recent years by Christina Crawford's revelations of her volatile, battering mother, drag performers have gotten a lot of humorous mileage out of screaming "Veda!" and repeating the famous Mildred line - "Get out before I kill you!" - with wide-eyed venom.

Because of his grand manner and curious way with the English language, director Michael Curtiz was often the butt of Hollywood jokes himself. One funny quote attributed to him was made famous by actor David Niven. During filming of The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), in which Niven appeared, Curtiz wanted many riderless horses in the background during the final charge. The director's instructions for the scene - "Bring on the empty horses." became the title of Niven's autobiography.

On their first day spent together, Mildred and Monty kiss by the fire accompanied by a song on his record player. The same tune recurs throughout the picture as a motif for the couple's affair. Careful listening reveals it's the theme Max Steiner composed for the Bette Davis picture Now, Voyager (1942).

Mildred Pierce certainly wasn't the first Hollywood film to deal with obsessive mother-daughter relationships. Years before, Claudette Colbert had suffered valiantly for her resentful child in Imitation of Life (1933) and in 1937, Barbara Stanwyck played the ultimate martyr, sacrificing her happiness for her daughter in Stella Dallas (Belle Bennett played the same role in the silent 1925 version). But Mildred Pierce was the first film to cast the mother-daughter relationship in such a dark light, with the latter being depicted as pure evil.

by Rob Nixon & Jeff Stafford

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teaser Mildred Pierce (1945)

When she heard of the Oscar campaign Warner Brothers and her publicist, Henry Rogers, were waging on her behalf, Crawford was skeptical about her chances. "People in Hollywood don't like me, and they've never regarded me as a good actress. But go ahead. We'll see what happens." Years earlier, she had told columnist Dorothy Manners, "The Oscars are rigged. [MGM studio heads] Mayer and Thalberg decide who to nominate, and then they tell the committee who should win. As long as I'm at MGM, I'll never even get a nomination, much less an Oscar." Her prediction turned out to be correct. Mildred Pierce was her first starring role away from the studio, and it earned her first nomination and only win. Crawford was nominated twice more: Possessed (1947) and Sudden Fear (1952).

Crawford was so sure she wouldn't win an Oscar for Mildred Pierce - and so nervous about delivering a speech if she did - she would not attend the awards ceremony on March 7, 1946. She put out the word she was very ill and took to her bed. But when she heard Charles Boyer announce her as the winner, she let out a shriek and, according to her daughter Christina, recovered her health very quickly. Soon her house was filled with hair and make-up people, photographers (in that order), actor Van Johnson (one of her biggest fans), and director Michael Curtiz who, with a small contingent from the production, delivered her Oscar. She was photographed in her nightgown in bed, proudly displaying the statuette, an image that dominated all the papers - Joan alone, unlike the other winners huddled together backstage. Before leaving, the photographers had her fake one last picture, lying as if asleep, clutching her award next to her.

The story covers a period of about four years in the first half of the 1940s. But the only indication in the picture that World War II was happening is Monte's statement, as he leers at Mildred's legs, that he's "grateful nylons are out for the duration."

The film was marketed for male audiences as well as female. One poster for the film shows a group of happy servicemen returning from the war. The poster tag line says: "Oh boy! Home and Mildred Pierce!" The sub-line suggests it was being sold as a good movie for couples: "Warner's Mildred Pierce is the big date of the day."

The advertising slogan for the film - "Don't tell what Mildred Pierce did!" - turned up everywhere, including a diner in downtown Los Angeles that latched on to Mildred's success in the restaurant business. A sign displayed by the diner read: "For 65 cents we'll not only serve you a swell blue plate - we'll tell you what Mildred Pierce did."

Among those who turned down the part of Mildred was Warner's contractee Ann Sheridan. "I didn't like the story," she said after reading an early script. "Mildred was too tough, and the kid was an absolute horror."

Ann Blyth, in the role of Veda Pierce, had previously played a few juvenile roles in innocuous fare like Babes on Swing Street (1944) before she got to sink her teeth into the plum role in Mildred Pierce. She is so convincingly evil, mean-spirited, and obnoxious in the role that her peers nominated her for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

In her autobiography, Three Phases of Eve, Eve Arden, who played Mildred's wisecracking pal (a role typical of her work in other WB films), said she thought the script for Mildred Pierce was "fairly interesting" but she would have never expected it to bring Crawford her only Oscar and Arden her only nomination (for Best Supporting Actress). The two actresses worked together two other times, in Dancing Lady (1933) and Goodbye, My Fancy (1951).

After the success of Mildred Pierce, Curtiz and Crawford patched up their working relationship, and Joan gave her director a peace offering - a pair of custom made shoulder pads. Michael Curtiz would go on to direct her once again in Flamingo Road (1949).

Cinematographer Ernest Haller photographed Crawford twice more in her career - looking her best in Humoresque (1946) and her worst in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).Hardboiled novelist James M. Cain proved to be a boon for filmmakers. Besides Mildred Pierce, his books provided the basis for the film noir classic Double Indemnity (1944, remade for TV in 1973), Slightly Scarlet (1956), and Butterfly (1981), as well as several others based on his short stories. His most-adapted work was The Postman Always Rings Twice, made into a John Garfield-Lana Turner movie in 1946 and starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange in 1981. It was also filmed by Luchino Visconti in Italy as Ossessione (1942) and in Hungary as Szenvedzly (1998).

Memorable Quotes from MILDRED PIERCE

IDA (Eve Arden): "Personally, Veda's convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young."

IDA (to Wally, when she notices him leering at her): "Leave something on me. I might catch cold."WALLY: "Just thinking. Not about you."

MONTE (Zachary Scott): "With me, loafing is a science."

MONTE: "I wish I could get that interested in work."
IDA: "You were probably frightened by a callous at an early age."

WALLY: "I hate all women."
IDA: "My, my."
WALLY: "Thank goodness you're not one."

MONTE: "Yes, I take money from you, Mildred. But not enough to make me like kitchens or cooks. They smell of grease."
MILDRED (Joan Crawford): "I don't notice you shrinking away from a fifty dollar bill because it happens to smell of grease."

MILDRED: "I think I'm seeing you for the first time, and you're cheap and horrible."
VEDA (Ann Blyth): "You think just because you made a little money you can get a new hairdo and turn yourself into a lady, but you can't. Because you've never been anything but a common frump whose father lived above a grocery and whose mother took in laundry."

MILDRED: "Get out, Veda. Get your things out of this house right now before I throw them into the street and you with them. Get out before I kill you!"

by Rob Nixon & Jeff Stafford

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teaser Mildred Pierce (1945)

James M. Cain was a popular novelist in the 1940s and a graduate of the "hardboiled" school of writing, one which was characterized by tough language, urban settings and crime-centered plots. Mildred Pierce was not a best-selling title for him, but it must have been interesting enough to catch the attention of producer Jerry Wald, whose fortunes were on the rise at Warner Brothers at that time. The studio bought the film rights for $15,000 in February 1944 and immediately set about making it more "acceptable" for the screen. The biggest problem right off was the general unpleasantness of the characters. The studio found them unsympathetic across the board. Mildred, herself, ends the novel miserable, drinking heavily, and fat - a physical detail Bette Davis might have found challenging if she had been cast in the role but it was unthinkable for Crawford.

Warner Brothers was concerned about getting the story passed through the Production Code censors, but they also had to make it more palatable to a mass audience. Mildred's vulgar expressions and lower middle-class behavior were dropped or softened, and she was made more noble, less a sinner than a victim of circumstance. In the novel, she has an affair with the sexually aggressive Wally Fay, but that was dropped from the movie, and only Wally's dogged but unsuccessful pursuit of her remain. On the other hand, daughter Veda and second husband Monty were made more villainous. Cain had given Veda the saving grace of talent and a passionate devotion to music. In the movie, she still takes music lessons and performs but it is merely a minor plot detail. And Monty is transformed from a down-at-the-heels society playboy to a more sinister backstabbing gigolo.

Another big change from the novel was the introduction of the murder plot. By all accounts this was Wald's idea, along with the flashback structure used in the film. Catherine Turney, one of the early writers on the project, suggested Wald got the flashback idea from the screen adaptation of another Cain other novel, Double Idemnity (1944), but according to Warners' assistant story editor Tom Chapman, Wald came up with the idea independently in the summer of 1943.

Wald farmed out the script to a number of writers. According to Chapman, rather than pass a script version on to a new writer to add or subtract from it, Wald preferred to have each writer make his own fully unique contribution and then Wald would synthesize the final script from those. He originally set Cain himself on the task of writing a treatment incorporating the murder and flashback, but the author hit a dead end in his efforts. Over the months a number of people worked on different versions. Well-known contract writer Turney was supposed to bring in the "woman's perspective," but she and Wald disagreed on so many details that she was dropped and only bits of her script used. William Faulkner also added distinct touches of his own; he wrote a scene in which a distraught Mildred is cradled by her maid (Butterfly McQueen) singing a gospel song. The famed writer was deemed unsuitable to continue on the project. Finally after seven months and as many different scripts and treatments, Jack Warner gave an enthusiastic go-ahead to the screenplay credited to Ranald MacDougall in September 1944.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Mildred Pierce (1945)

By late September of 1944, Jerry Wald had a director and a script but no actress to play Mildred. According to screenwriter Catherine Turney, no actress wanted to play the mother of a teenager (even though Mildred's line, "I married Bert when I was 17," places her in her early 30s at the film's opening). Bette Davis claimed she never saw a script, but that seems unlikely, given her status as Queen of the Warner Lot with first refusal on all "A" projects. One actress who did want the role was Barbara Stanwyck, who had memorably portrayed the coldhearted Phyllis Dietrichson in Billy Wilder's film version of Double Indemnity (1944), adapted from another James M. Cain novel. "I knew what a role it was, and I knew I could handle every facet of Mildred," Stanwyck said. "I laid my cards on the table with Jerry Wald. After all, I'd done a dozen pictures at Warners by then...I'd paid my dues, and I felt Mildred was me."

Curtiz favored Stanwyck, too, and when Wald suggested Crawford, the director fumed that she was a "has-been" and he wouldn't work with "her high-hat airs and her goddammed shoulder pads." Unexpectedly, after nearly 20 years in the business and more than 60 films, Crawford humbled herself and agreed to do a screen test. Curtiz liked what he saw and cautiously went with the casting decision, but he put his foot down when Wald wanted Shirley Temple for the part of Veda. "Vonderful!" Curtiz yelled. "And who do ve get to play Mildred's lover? Mickey Rooney?" Crawford agreed to test with a number of young actresses, and Ann Blyth, who got the part, remembered her as "the kindest, most helpful human being I've ever worked with. We remained friends for many years after the film. I never knew that other Joan Crawford that people wrote about."

Ironically, Mildred Pierce was made around the time Jack Warner asked the studio's cinematographers and art directors to "devise new means of cutting corners without losing any of the quality." Apparently there was concern that too much detail was being used in sets (by Anton Grot), which in turn, took more time to light and thus slowed up production. Despite this proclamation, Mildred Pierce suffered no loss of set detail. Beneath its noir lighting lay strikingly complex settings like the Beragon beach house. So essential to the plot that it opens the film, Beragon's home is a twisting maze of rooms and staircases that perfectly represent Grot's desire to build "menace into the sets."

Mildred Pierce began filming December 7, 1944. Within the week, Curtiz wanted Crawford canned, claiming she was altering the look and interpretation of the character to make her more glamorous. There were the inevitable arguments over shoulders, with Crawford tearfully (and not altogether truthfully) claiming her dowdy off-the-rack Sears dresses were unpadded. Curtiz started referring to her as "Phony Joanie" and "the rotten bitch," laying into her mercilessly in front of cast and crew. Crawford wanted the director fired and replaced "with a human being."

"I had to be the referee," Wald said later. "We had several meetings filled with blood, sweat, and tears. Then everything started to settle down. Mike restricted himself to swearing only in Hungarian, and Joan stopped streamlining the apron strings around her figure and let them hang."

Crawford claimed Curtiz gained respect for her after she stood up to his "post-graduate course in humiliation," and she admitted that once they reached detente, "he started training me."

by Rob Nixon & Stephanie Thames

back to top
teaser Mildred Pierce (1945)

By late September of 1944, Jerry Wald had a director and a script but no actress to play Mildred. According to screenwriter Catherine Turney, no actress wanted to play the mother of a teenager (even though Mildred's line, "I married Bert when I was 17," places her in her early 30s at the film's opening). Bette Davis claimed she never saw a script, but that seems unlikely, given her status as Queen of the Warner Lot with first refusal on all "A" projects. One actress who did want the role was Barbara Stanwyck, who had memorably portrayed the coldhearted Phyllis Dietrichson in Billy Wilder's film version of Double Indemnity (1944), adapted from another James M. Cain novel. "I knew what a role it was, and I knew I could handle every facet of Mildred," Stanwyck said. "I laid my cards on the table with Jerry Wald. After all, I'd done a dozen pictures at Warners by then...I'd paid my dues, and I felt Mildred was me."

Curtiz favored Stanwyck, too, and when Wald suggested Crawford, the director fumed that she was a "has-been" and he wouldn't work with "her high-hat airs and her goddammed shoulder pads." Unexpectedly, after nearly 20 years in the business and more than 60 films, Crawford humbled herself and agreed to do a screen test. Curtiz liked what he saw and cautiously went with the casting decision, but he put his foot down when Wald wanted Shirley Temple for the part of Veda. "Vonderful!" Curtiz yelled. "And who do ve get to play Mildred's lover? Mickey Rooney?" Crawford agreed to test with a number of young actresses, and Ann Blyth, who got the part, remembered her as "the kindest, most helpful human being I've ever worked with. We remained friends for many years after the film. I never knew that other Joan Crawford that people wrote about."

Ironically, Mildred Pierce was made around the time Jack Warner asked the studio's cinematographers and art directors to "devise new means of cutting corners without losing any of the quality." Apparently there was concern that too much detail was being used in sets (by Anton Grot), which in turn, took more time to light and thus slowed up production. Despite this proclamation, Mildred Pierce suffered no loss of set detail. Beneath its noir lighting lay strikingly complex settings like the Beragon beach house. So essential to the plot that it opens the film, Beragon's home is a twisting maze of rooms and staircases that perfectly represent Grot's desire to build "menace into the sets."

Mildred Pierce began filming December 7, 1944. Within the week, Curtiz wanted Crawford canned, claiming she was altering the look and interpretation of the character to make her more glamorous. There were the inevitable arguments over shoulders, with Crawford tearfully (and not altogether truthfully) claiming her dowdy off-the-rack Sears dresses were unpadded. Curtiz started referring to her as "Phony Joanie" and "the rotten bitch," laying into her mercilessly in front of cast and crew. Crawford wanted the director fired and replaced "with a human being."

"I had to be the referee," Wald said later. "We had several meetings filled with blood, sweat, and tears. Then everything started to settle down. Mike restricted himself to swearing only in Hungarian, and Joan stopped streamlining the apron strings around her figure and let them hang."

Crawford claimed Curtiz gained respect for her after she stood up to his "post-graduate course in humiliation," and she admitted that once they reached detente, "he started training me."

by Rob Nixon & Stephanie Thames

back to top
teaser Mildred Pierce (1945)

Joan Crawford's Oscar® winning performance as Mildred Pierce (1945), determined mother of the ever-ungrateful Veda (Ann Blyth), marked Crawford's debut at Warner Brothers after a long career at MGM. Based on the novel by James M. Cain, Mildred Pierce is a dark tale of thwarted desires and the American dream gone wrong. Art Director Anton Grot's sets exploited this theme and presented a visual interpretation of how the up-and-coming American middle class should live.

Ironically, the film was made around the time Jack Warner asked the studio's cinematographers and art directors to "devise new means of cutting corners without losing any of the quality." Apparently there was concern that too much detail was being used in sets, which in turn, took more time to light and thus slowed up production. Despite this proclamation, Mildred Pierce suffered no loss of set detail. Beneath its noir lighting lay strikingly complex settings like the Beragon beach house. So essential to the plot that it opens the film, Beragon's home is a twisting maze of rooms and staircases that perfectly represent Grot's desire to build "menace into the sets."

Ann Blyth, in the role of Veda Pierce, had previously played a few juvenile roles in innocuous fare like Babes on Swing Street (1944) before she got to sink her teeth into the plum role in Mildred Pierce. She is so convincingly evil, mean-spirited, and obnoxious in the role that her peers nominated her for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

There was nothing typical about Crawford's performance in Mildred Pierce. Not only was Oscar kind to her, but it revived her slowed career and led to Humoresque (1946), Possessed (1947), and later, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). In fact, Director Michael Curtiz had not even wanted Crawford for the role of Mildred, making her consent to a screen test. It seems he didn't like her trademark shoulder pads. After the success of Mildred Pierce, Curtiz and Crawford patched up their working relationship, and Joan gave her director a peace offering - a pair of custom made shoulder pads.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Producer: Jerry Wald
Screenplay: Ranald MacDougall (based on the novel by James M. Cain)
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Set Decoration: George James Hopkins
Editing: David Weisbart
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce), Ann Blyth (Veda Pierce), Zachary Scott (Monte Beragon), Eve Arden (Ida Corwin), Jack Carson (Wally Fay), Bruce Bennett (Bert Pierce)
BW-111m. Close captioning, Descriptive video.

by Stephanie Thames

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teaser Mildred Pierce (1945)

AWARDS & HONORS:

Mildred Pierce won the Best Actress Academy Award for Joan Crawford. It also garnered nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Eve Arden and Ann Blyth), Cinematography (Ernest Haller), Screenplay (Ranald MacDougall).

It also won the National Board of Review Best Actress Award for Joan Crawford.

The film was chosen in 1996 to be one of the motion pictures preserved on the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.

Critics Corner: MILDRED PIERCE

Mildred Pierce was one of 1945's most talked-about movies and a top hit for Warner Brothers, bringing in about $5 million.

"Joan Crawford is playing a most troubled lady, and giving a sincere and generally effective characterization of same, in the new drama of James M. Cain origin, Mildred Pierce. It is a tribute to Miss Crawford's art that Mildred comes through as well as she does." - Thomas Pryor, The New York Times, 1945.

"Miss Crawford is very intense and restrained in the title role. She plays with studied under-emphasis a doting mother who spoils her monstrous daughter so badly that the latter tries to steal her second husband away from her." - Howard Barnes, The New York Herald Tribune, 1945.

"The film is compelling, an apotheosis of Crawford's MGM Cinderellas in the dark disquiet of Warners' film noir." - Ethan Mordden, Movie Star: A Look at the Women Who Made Hollywood (St. Martin Press, 1983).

"Miss Crawford's heavy breathing was certified as acting when she won an Academy Award for her performance here." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies (Henry Holt and Co., 1982).

"For the first time, despite Crawford's brooding glamour, the woman on the screen is the woman in the movie house. Mildred Pierce is significant because of the straight-faced but patronizing view of this woman's definition of a good life. In hindsight, it becomes a piece of social criticism - more subtle than Warners - or director Michael Curtiz recognized, I suspect." - David Thomson, America in the Dark (William Morrow and Co., 1977).

"Everything about Mildred Pierce is first-rate, from stellar production values to Curtiz's marvelously paced direction, which refuses to allow sentiment to rule the story. The MacDougall script, adapted from Cain's terse novel, is adult and literate, with plenty of sharp dialogue. The Curtiz string-pulling is greatly aided by Grot's imposing sets, Haller's moody photography and Steiner's haunting score. Bravely cresting the waves of disaster is a mature Crawford in a real tour de force, defying the industry to write her off as washed up. She's matched every slap of the way by Blyth, here giving the performance of her career. The support in Mildred is, without exception, expertly handled. Scott is an exceptionally attractive snake and Arden turned in a definitive job as Crawford's wisecracking pal. Two peak scenes among aficionados of Saint Joan: Veda smacks Mildred; Mildred calls the police. Unforgettable." - TV Guide Online.

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