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Cinematic Shorts: Mildred Pierce

Ring a Ding Ding

Mildred Pierce (1945)

      Mildred Pierce was the first Joan Crawford movie I ever watched, and it truly turned out to be the perfect introduction to the legend. Crawford won her only Best Actress Oscar for what was her first film with Warner Bros. after leaving a lengthy career with MGM. My first reaction to the woman was, “Golly, she’s gorgeous!” Having spent up until two years ago knowing Crawford only as the Faye Dunaway persona in Mommy Dearest I was a bit off base in my expectations.

     Mildred Pierce is also an excellent example of the type of roles for which Crawford was known as well as a mild reflection of her real life. The story follows a woman who pulls herself out of the lower class through a successful restaurant business, much as Crawford was raised by a lower class single mother and made her own success through acting. Crawford’s title character tosses men aside as the film goes along, also similar to the actress’ wanton relationship with men, all while spoiling a daughter who ultimately competes with her for the opposite sex.

     The film came out on the heels of what I consider to be the textbook example of film noir, Double Indemnity. In fact, DI star Barbara Stanwyck angled for the role of Mildred Pierce but lost it when Crawford impressed director Michael Curtiz with a humbling, voluntary screen test. Mildred Pierce certainly has a noir feel, though I did not identify it as that genre when viewing it. The black-and-white film is full of shadows — and murder, of course — among other aspects that can lead to its classification as such.

     I found Mildred Pierce to be a great starter Joan Crawford films, so for anyone who has not witnessed the cinematic icon, I would recommend it.

"I'm sorry I did that... I'd of rather cut off my hand (than slap you)."

  • Mildred Pierce is set to air at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, 1:30 a.m. Dec. 1, and 12:45 p.m. Jan. 7 on TCM.

Source: Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine

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