A hard-working mother recounts the recent events
of her life that led to the murder of her husband.
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Ranald MacDougall
Starring Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Ann Blyth,
Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Bruce Bennett
Based on the novel by James M. Cain
Oscar Wins - Best Actress (Joan Crawford)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress
(Eve Arden), Best Supporting Actress (Ann Blyth),
Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography
If you want consistently engaging stories and vibrant characters, look no further than film noir. I've no idea why this genre all but disappeared in the mid-twentieth century. It's dependable as hell. Mildred Pierce is a great noir that apparently completely changed the novel, but has become a classic retelling all its own thanks to Michael Curtiz's direction and Joan Crawford's amazing lead performance. The ultimate purpose of art is to inspire emotion, and in me, this film certainly inspired all sorts of anger at Mildred's horrible, spoiled, pompous bitch of a daughter Veda (Blyth). Great performance, but holy hell what an irredeemable character. Brace yourself.
In the first scene, Mildred's (Crawford) rich husband Monte (Scott) is murdered. We're led to believe Mildred did it and tried to pin it on her friend Wally (Carson), a poor simp who can't quite get the message that Mildred will never sleep with him. When Mildred is arrested, she tells the police how her life ended up so fractured. All she ever wanted was for her kids to be happy, even if that meant taking a job as a waitress. Mildred is surrounded by toxic assholes, even her own family, as everyone mocks her for trying to work for a living instead of just waiting for someone else to hand you a stack of cash. Anyway, Mildred's lifestyle grows thanks to her hard work and starts attracting suitors and pushing away her daughter Veda. I won't spoil it, but the character development is top notch and the ending is pretty satisfying.
Mildred Pierce is the only Oscar win for legendarily difficult actress Joan Crawford. I don't think she was all Mommie Dearest all the time, but her reputation preceded her. Ultimately, it's a deserved win for a great performance that resides within a great movie that holds up today.