If you haven’t seen it:
The original 1945 Mildred Pierce movie is, at times, a sensational film noir with Mildred the femme fatale involved with murder, sleaze, and betrayal. At other times it is a melodrama.
At its heart though, it is a touching story of a single parent struggling to do the best she can for her ungrateful children.
Based on a novel by crime writer James M. Cain, this film was a big hit in 1945. It stars Joan Crawford, giving the best performance of her career, and it was directed by Michael Curtiz, of “Casablanca” fame.
In 2011 it was remade as an HBO miniseries starring Kate Winslett; this was also a big hit, and won many awards.
If you have seen it:
Scroll down past the trailer for more.
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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.
The film begins with a murder, and then the story is told in flashback.
Mildred Pierce is an intelligent but discontented woman. Her husband, Bert, is nice but ineffectual, and he drifts away to find solace with another woman when he realizes that neither his wife nor his two daughters care much about him.
The elder daughter, Veda, is spoiled by her mother, who takes menial jobs in order to provide the girl with good clothes and an education. Veda appreciates none of this.
With the help of Wally, a real estate man, Mildred decides to open a restaurant and makes the acquaintance of Monte Beragon, an elegant but financially embarrassed playboy. She persuades Monte to let her use one of his properties as the restaurant location. As Mildred prepares for opening night though, tragedy strikes – her youngest daughter dies of pneumonia. Grief stricken, Mildred devotes herself to her business, which is successful, and before long develops into a chain of restaurants.
Veda becomes more and more spoiled and spiteful – she feigns a pregnancy in order to extort money from a smitten young rich boy. Mildred intervenes and tears up the cheque, telling Veda to leave. Several years pass, and Mildred has started to develop feelings for Monte but she changes her mind about him when she realizes he is more interested in Veda than her. However, because she has decided to try to win Veda back, she agrees to marry him if he will provide the high-society family background that she knows her daughter needs to made good social contacts. In return, Monte demands partnership in her business. However, the plan backfires, and Monte’s extravagant lifestyle result in bankruptcy for the company. Veda, who has been carrying on with Monte behind her mother’s back, kills him when he finally rebuffs her. Mildred takes the blame for the murder in order to save Veda, but the police soon arrive at the truth, and Veda is arrested. Mildred returns to her first husband, Bert, who is eager to have her back.
Steve Sunday Says:
“Mildred Pierce” – it’s not a very exciting title is it? I imagine that back in 1945 the name Mildred was a suitable one for a glamourous and exciting young woman, but not any more. Today, the name has gone out of fashion, and is now more associated with the sort of woman who has facial hair problems and collects ceramic plates with pictures of cats on them. So although the title is supposed to make us think the movie is about a dynamic and sexy heroine (like, say, “Jessica Jones”), it fails (“Ethel Jones” anyone?). I think this explains why I had this movie in my collection for over twenty years before I finally got round to watching it.
I am glad I finally got round to it though – it is exciting and thought provoking stuff. I actually watched it back to back with the Kate Winslett version, and loved both of them.
Trivia Trish Says:
- Before she was famous, Joan Crawford had supported herself as a waitress
- Shirley Temple was originally considered for the part of Veda Pierce.
- The tagline for the movie was (rather misleadingly) “Don’t tell anyone what Mildred Pierce did”
- The plots of the original novel, the 1945 movie, and the 2011 TV series are broadly the same, with a few important differences. The murder that takes place at the beginning of the film does not appear at all in the novel or the TV series. Also, the story in the novel and TV series runs from 1931 to 1940 – the great depression – whereas the movie covers just 4 years in the more prosperous 1940s.
Chris the Critic says:
Mildred Pierce is a classic example of an actress finding just the right vehicle just in time. Joan Crawford had begun her screen career at the age of 21 in 1925, playing small parts in MGM pictures. Over the next 18 years she became one of their biggest stars, but she left in 1943, feeling that MGM no longer considered her popular enough to promote her with top features. After a year of doing nothing, the slump came to an end when she read the script for Mildred Pierce, and agreed to make it straight away, with Warner Bros. She went on to win an Oscar for her performance.
Main Cast and Crew:
Joan Crawford … Mildred Pierce
Jack Carson … Wally Fay
Zachary Scott … Monte Beragon
Eve Arden … Ida Corwin
Ann Blyth … Veda Pierce
Bruce Bennett … Bert Pierce
Directed by Michael Curtiz