Thursday, April 30, 2015

Joan Crawford Week: Mildred Pierce

Good day and welcome to Day 3 of Joan Crawford Week. Today I thought we should get away from the MGM years as those were more or less supporting roles and dammit we are gonna let the diva shine. So how about we head over to Warner Brothers to show off the film based on the 1941 novel Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain. With this flick, Crawford won the Academy Award for Best Actress in this film noir about a suffering back breaking mother and her horrific ungrateful brat of a daughter. This is Mildred Pierce.

So whiskey with your whiskey or just the double whiskey?

With a tiny bit of voice-over narrative, via Joan our movie opens in police interrogation after they discover the body of Mildred's second husband Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott of The Mask of Dimitrios, The Southerner, The Young One, It's Only Money and The Rogues) who utters the name Mildred just before death. The cops have a strong suspicion that Mildred's first husband Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett of Sahara, Dark Passage, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Perry Mason, Lassie and The Clones) is their culprit, snag him and sweat him under the lamp until he sung like a canary. Shocked at Bert's barbarism she cannot fathom why a man so kind and gentle would ever even think of committing murder.

From there we flashback to simpler times. With selling of pies and cakes all the while tending to the house and the children, Bert feels less of a man being unemployed and comes to terms that Mildred has made the kids her main concern and not him. Boo frickin' hoo. Divorced, Mildred has custody of her two daughters Veda (Ann Blyth of Brute Force, The Great Caruso, The King's Thief, Kismet, Slander and The Helen Morgan Story) a snotty 16 year old social climbing and aspiring pianist with visions of a greater status quo and Kay (Jo Ann Marlowe of Yankee Doodle Dandy, Dangerous Intruder, Man from Rainbow Valley, A Scandal in Paris, Little Iodine and The Strange Woman) a bit of a tomboy playing in the dirt. Mildred's main goals is to win Veda's affection by lavishing this unruly brat with worldly good and attention of which Veda spurns every chance she gets, pointing out how common her mother is to be working at a restaurant as a lowly waitress... Anyone else want to drop the little princess out on her ass?? Bert picks up the kids for a weekend visit when little Kay get pneumonia and dies. I'm sure Bert didn't cause that to happen.

Jeez, father backed over the cat and just tore off.

Sicken with grief and guilt, Mildred throws herself into work where she and her supervisor Ida (Eve Arden of The Eve Arden Show, Anatony of a Murder, The Red Skelton Hour, The Mothers-In-Law and In Name Only) work to build a better restaurant into a chain of them for across the country, a deal to insure a fleet of Mildred's making their ways all over the freeways. Veda refuses to give an inch from her mother and mocks her precious gifts. Will Mildred and Veda ever become the mother and daughter Mildred deserves? Will Veda "accidentally" be shoved into an industrial wood chipper? Will Bert meet an Ernie?

A few points on this movie now.

Shirley Temple was originally considered for the part of Veda Pierce. Interestingly enough, Joan Crawford was a waitress and a saleswoman supporting herself before her chorus days let alone her acting days.

Author James M. Cain sent Joan a signed first edition of the original novel, inscribed 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. Not too shabby, eh?

Pipe down sweet cheeks, the menfolk are talking.