Thursday, September 7, 2017

Chance's Corner: Mildred Pierce Review

Joan Crawford, considered to be "Box Office Poison" in 1938 by the Independent Film Journal because her high salary didn't reflect in her bankability, looked to restart her career at Warner Brothers, and after submitting herself to a screen test, she landed the lead role in Mildred Pierce. It seemed to a be a low point for Joan, but as we all know now, it would turn out to be one of her highest highs.

Mildred Pierce is essentially a melodrama that was retooled as a film noir, and the two genres blend extremely well. This unique blend allows a strong, female character (that's not a femme fatale) to take the lead in a rather dark, murderous plot, and the plot here may be the most sinister of all. Mildred Pierce is about a single, hard-working mother (Joan Crawford) who tries to make ends meet, while also pampering her two daughters, Veda (Ann Blyth) and Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe). It's not just a matter of spoiling them, though. Mildred wants to provide a life for them that is devoid of the economic hardships that she has faced. Unfortunately, Mildred's hard work is hardly suitable to her oldest daughter, Veda. With every great film noir, there is a great femme fatale, and Mildred has found hers in her own daughter.

Joan Crawford, no matter what you may or may not believe about her, was without a doubt a phenomenal actress dedicated to her craft. Mildred Pierce may have netted Joan her one and only Oscar win for Best Actress, but it solidified her star status for all time. She's not the only great thing about Mildred Pierce, though. There's also Michael Curtiz's sharp direction, the beautifully dark shadows overcast with cigarette smoke, intense mother-daughter slaps, Eve Arden's crackerjack performance (that should have won her the Oscar), and so much more. Mildred Pierce really does spoil its viewer, and unlike Veda, we appreciate it.

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