When Mildred Pierce's wealthy husband leaves her for another woman, Mildred decides to raise her two daughters on her own. Despite Mildred's financial successes in the restaurant business, her oldest daughter, Veda, resents her mother for degrading their social status. In the midst of a police investigation after the death of her second husband, Mildred must evaluate her own freedom and her complicated relationship with her daughter. Written by
With those broad shoulders, those wall-to-wall eyebrows, that steely look on her face, and wrapped in those expensive clothes, the inimitable Joan Crawford exudes glamour and resolve as famed Mildred Pierce, housewife turned businesswoman, in this Michael Curtiz-directed film, part mystery, part melodrama.
The film's story, told in flashbacks, begins with mystery, and it is helped along by terrific B&W lighting. Most of the rest of the story is sheer melodrama, with talky dialogue that erupts from confrontations between various characters. The most important confrontations occur between Mildred and her ungrateful, scheming daughter Veda, who requires tons of money to be happy. As the story moves along, Mildred buys and successfully operates a restaurant, but it's not enough to win approval from her odious daughter. Mildred's love for Veda is deep. But Mildred, we learn, is also a take-charge woman who won't take any guff from anyone, at least from caddy suitors or prospective in-laws.
It's a great story. And in addition to the topnotch cinematography, the film has great production design, costumes, and editing. We're also treated to some pleasantly nostalgic music from the 1940s. Crawford gets good support performances from Ann Blyth, Eve Arden, and Jack Carson. I also liked Butterfly McQueen, the little lady with the high-pitched voice who plays Mildred's maid.
I suspect this film would have been worthy of praise, even with someone else playing the title character; the film is that good. But no other actress would have had the stage presence of the impressive Joan Crawford. It's mostly because of her that "Mildred Pierce" will be remembered and loved, for generations to come. It's also partly because of "Mildred Pierce" that Joan Crawford will be admired as a Hollywood legend, for generations to come.
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