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The Essentials - March 2011
Remind Me
Mildred Pierce,Mildred Pierce

Trivia & Fun Facts About MILDRED PIERCE

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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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