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Mildred Pierce (1945) Poster

Trivia

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Michael Curtiz was initially less than keen at working with "has-been" star Joan Crawford as she had a reputation for being difficult. Curtiz was soon won over by Crawford's dedication and hard work.
Monty's Beach House, used in the key opening scene and several others, was actually owned by the film's director, Michael Curtiz. It was built in 1929 and stood at 26652 Latigo Shore Dr. in Malibu. It collapsed into the ocean after a week of heavy storms in January 1983.
Joan Crawford was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Mildred Pierce. She was not at the award ceremony because she was home in bed with pneumonia. However, in the special features of the dvd, her daughter Christina says that she faked her illness. Joan did not think she would win the Academy Award and she did not want to attend the ceremony to be humiliated. It was said that after she heard that she won the award for Best Actress, she jumped out of bed, did her make up and put on her best negligee to meet the press.
After seeing the film, James M. Cain sent Joan Crawford a signed first edition of the original novel. The inscription read: "To Joan Crawford, who brought Mildred Pierce to life just as I had always hoped she would be, and who has my lifelong gratitude."
Shooting the early scenes, director Michael Curtiz accused Joan Crawford of needlessly glamorizing her working mother role. She insisted she was buying her character's clothes off the rack, but didn't mention that her own dressmaker was fitting the waists and padding out the shoulders.
Joan Crawford had been under contract with Warner Brothers for two years before starring in this movie. To get the role, she had to submit to a screen test after years of flops at MGM - her previous studio - and turning down several scripts at Warner Brothers.
William Faulkner contributed to the script, but his additions were not used. He wrote a scene that had Butterfly McQueen consoling Joan Crawford while singing a gospel song.
Warner Bros. didn't want to cast Ann Blyth as Veda because she was under contract to Universal, and it would necessitate a loan-out. Joan Crawford coached Blyth privately for her screen test and after viewing it, Warner's began negotiations to "borrow" her for the film.
According to Ann Blyth, Joan Crawford instructed her to actually slap her in the staircase scene.
Shirley Temple was originally considered for the part of Veda Pierce.
The film's release was deliberately held back until September 1945 in the hopes that it would find a more sympathetic audience in a post-war atmosphere.
Mirroring her own life, Joan Crawford had also supported herself as a waitress and saleswoman before she achieved success as an actress.
The ad slogan "Don't tell anyone what Mildred Pierce did" was parodied by a Los Angeles diner which had a sign that read: "For 65c we'll not only serve you a sell blue plate - we'll tell you what Mildred Pierce did."
After hearing exaggerated rumors about her behavior at MGM, Michael Curtiz was unsure about casting Joan Crawford in the title role. However, she so badly wanted the role that she offered to do a screen test, something an established star was never expected to do. Curtiz directed the screen test and after watching it, astonished, agreed that Crawford was perfect for the part.
Ann Blyth remembered Joan Crawford as "the kindest, most helpful human being I've ever worked with. We remained friends for many years after the film. I never knew that other Joan Crawford that people wrote about."
Producer Jerry Wald was keen to exploit the potential of James M. Cain's novel. He envisaged the idea of a climactic murder, then restructuring the story using flashbacks. He also infused the project with a higher moral tone that is in the original novel. With these changes, he was able to extract a cautious go-ahead from the Breen Office, which then prompted studio head Jack L. Warner to approve the purchase rights to the novel in early 1944.
Despite rumors to the contrary, no other actress was offered the title role apart from Joan Crawford.
Eight different screenplays from a succession of writers were written before Ranald MacDougall's version was accepted.
A theme heard throughout the film and especial noticeable when Monty and Mildred kiss by the fire on their first meeting, was written by Max Steiner originally for Now, Voyager (1942).
Joan Crawford's favourite film of her own.
Jerry Wald acted as peacemaker during arguments between Joan Crawford and Michael Curtiz. He recalled, "I had to be the referee. We had several meetings filled with blood, sweat, and tears. Then everything started to settle down. Mike restricted himself to swearing only in Hungarian, and Joan stopped streamlining the apron strings around her figure and let them hang."
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Virginia Weidler was considered the front runner for the part of Veda until Ann Blyth tested only three weeks prior to shooting.
There were conflicts between Michael Curtiz and Joan Crawford. He wanted her canned, claiming she was altering the look and interpretation of the character to make her more glamorous. There were the inevitable arguments over shoulders, with Crawford tearfully (and not altogether truthfully) claiming her dowdy off-the-rack Sears dresses were unpadded. Curtiz started referring to her as "Phony Joanie" and "the rotten bitch," laying into her mercilessly in front of cast and crew. Crawford wanted the director fired and replaced "with a human being."
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Joan Crawford claimed that Michael Curtiz gained respect for her after she stood up to his "post-graduate course in humiliation," and she admitted that once they reached détente, "he started training me."
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In an interview with David Frost, Joan Crawford revealed that Michael Curtiz wanted Barbara Stanwyck to play Mildred Pierce but Joan won him over during a screen test with her co-star Ann Blyth.
Jack L. Warner originally wanted Vincent Sherman to direct the film but Jerry Wald held out for Michael Curtiz.
The film was made around the time Jack L. Warner asked the studio's cinematographers and art directors to "devise new means of cutting corners without losing any of the quality." Apparently there was concern that too much detail was being used in sets, which in turn, took more time to light and thus slowed up production. Despite this proclamation, the film suffered no loss of set detail. Beneath its noir lighting lay strikingly complex settings like the Beragon beach house. So essential to the plot that it opens the film, Beragon's home is a twisting maze of rooms and staircases that perfectly represent Grot's desire to build "menace into the sets."
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The U.S. Navy granted permission to film in Malibu despite wartime restrictions, but asked to be allowed to view all footage shot there.
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Among the many versions of the screenplay, William Faulkner''s rewrite differed significantly from the others. He wrote an elaborate voice-over narration and concentrated on Mildred's restaurant business, describing sleazy, underhanded business dealings. Veda is even more calculating and cold than she appears in the final film.
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Shot on stage 14 at Warner Bros. studios.
"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast 60 minute radio adaptations of the movie on June 6, 1949 and July 14, 1954 with Zachary Scott reprising his film role.
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Other than a brief appearance in Hollywood Canteen (1944), this film was the first that Joan Crawford made for Warner Bros.
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When filming began, Michael Curtiz mocked Joan Crawford's famous shoulder pads, and accused her of having her assistant alter the store bought clothes used for her costumes. By the time filming ended, however, she and Curtiz had become closer, and Crawford presented him with a pair of oversized shoulder pads as a gift.
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In September 1944, Ann Rutherford showed interest in the role of Veda Pierce.
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According to TCM's, Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie star, Rosalind Russell was asked to play Mildred and she turned it down.
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On the restaurant's opening night, the theater across the street is showing "Mr. Skeffington," another Warner Brothers film.
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When Bert takes Mildred to Wally's waterfront dive to see Veda perform "The Oceana Roll", Mildred is wearing a brooch shaped like a lobster.
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Bonita Granville, Virginia Weidler and Martha Vickers tested for the part of Veda.
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When Jack L. Warner proposed filming the novel, Joseph I. Breen of the MPPA wrote in a letter dated February 2, 1944, "...the story contains so many sordid and repellent elements that we feel the finished picture would not only be highly questionable from the standpoint of the Code, but would, likewise, meet with a great deal of difficulty in its release...." Breen went on to suggest that the story be dismissed from further consideration. The major changes made by the writers to conform to the Code involved the elimination of overt references to extra-marital sex and the blackening of Veda's character. "Monte's" murder was added by the screenwriters for dramatic purposes.
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The film's working title was House on the Sand.
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Jack Carson was also considered for the part of Monte.
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Because of script problems some of the film was improvised by the actors together with Michael Curtiz.
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Writer Catherine Turney was credited on some release prints, but chose to have her name removed.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Jerry Wald wanted Ralph Bellamy for the role of Bert. Donald Woods was also considered for the part and George Coulouris tested for it.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

The original novel had no murder in it. Veda ran off with Monty at the end. But, the success of Double Indemnity (1944), with its killing and flashbacks caused the screenplay to be altered.

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